Water is one of the most important nutrients in our body. It makes up approximately 70 percent of our muscles, and about 75 percent of our brains. Our bodies use water as well as expending it. Basic fluid intake replaces the fluids, which are required to perform our normal bodily functions. Just in everyday breathing alone we lose about two cups of water. Water is vital to everything from properly maintaining the digestive track to maintaining a healthy nervous system.

Our bodies require a certain amount of fluid intake on a daily basis. The minimum is about equal to four 8-ounce glasses of water. Although this will vary depending on activity and age, most active persons need two to three times this basic amount.

If our body sense's low levels of water, the kidneys will conserve the water instead of excreting it. The result of this is darker color urine. Which means we are not allowing the body to properly rid itself of toxins and other waste.

If we take in less or lose more fluid than is needed, the end result is dehydration. Dehydration is a condition in which the body or certain body tissues suffer from lack of water. Some symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth and tongue, apathy and a lack of energy, and muscle cramping. Dehydration can lead to constipation and bloating.

Small decreases in fluid don't usually cause problems, and in most cases, goes completely unnoticed. There are three levels of dehydration: Mild, symptoms include thirst, dry lips and slightly dry mouth membranes. Moderate, symptoms include very dry mouth membranes, sunken eyes and the skin does not bounce back quickly when pinched. And Severe dehydration symptoms include all signs of moderate dehydration, cold hands and feet, rapid, weak pulse and rapid breathing.

If you are feeling thirsty then you are already slightly dehydrated. It is the body's first warning sign of needing water. If left untreated, dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. These symptoms include: fatigue, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, headache, rapid shallow breathing, high temperatures, rapid heart beat, and decreased alertness or complete loss of consciousness.

On hot humid days, an active person can become dehydrated in just 15 minutes. If you experience any of the symptoms above, stop the activity and rest in a cool area. Then drink fluids to replenish the water lost.

Tissue dehydration may occur in dry climates and during the winter heating season. Extremely dry air causes the rapid evaporation of water from the skin and from the mucous linings of the respiratory system.

Many people do not take in the required amount of water. Or they drink liquids that are prone to dehydrate the body even more, like caffeine drinks. Over time the lack of proper water intake can lead to problems in the body's basic functions.

If you are feeling thirsty, it is best to try to take smaller amounts of water periodically, as opposed to drinking a lot all at once. If you try to drink a large amount of water, your kidneys will simply flush the excess fluid. To help ensure that you take in the proper amount of water per day, try pouring the liquid you need to drink into a picture or bottle and make sure that by the end of the day, it's gone.

If you are someone who doesn't like the taste of water as much as other drinks then add a lemon or orange to it for extra flavor.

Just remember that water is essential in maintaining a healthy you.

This article is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical conditions. You should promptly seek professional medical advice if you have any concern about your health or physical condition, and you should always consult your physician before following the recommendations presented here.


© Melt Magazine 2004