Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Are You Drinking Enough Water? 4 Ways to Know

Everywhere you look, there is a different “magic” number of glasses of water you should be drinking: Is it six glasses per day or is it eight?

glass of water
How many glasses of water do you drink in a day?

It can be very confusing and hard to decide if you are drinking the right amount.

Also confusing is the misconception that we must drink a certain amount of water, when in fact we only need to consume the right amount of fluid to stay hydrated. A fluid is any liquid, including coffee, tea, milk, juice, water and other drinks, but it also includes foods that are mainly water, such as some fruits, vegetables and soups.

It is very important to be well-hydrated for our bodies to carry out our daily tasks. A person's fluid needs are affected by a number of different factors, so there is no "magic" amount that you should be taking in. There are, however, many ways to tell if you are properly hydrated:

  • Urine: Your urine should be clear or a very light yellow color. A dark yellow indicates dehydration, so you will need to drink more water. Also you should need to use the bathroom every couple of hours.
  • Stool: It should be easy to pass your stool. If you are straining a lot, this may be an indicator of dehydration. If you have consistently loose stools, this may be an indicator of overhydration. Your body may not be able to handle the amount of fluids you are taking in and it will not be absorbed.
  • Skin: Your skin is also a good indicator of hydration levels. If you pull up the skin on the back of your hand and let go, it should bounce back to its original position quickly. If not, you may be dehydrated. Also, dry skin or a dry mouth may be indicators of dehydration.
  • Thirst: If you are thirsty, you are in need of more fluids for sure. If you never have thirst, it is still important to take in fluids and use the other tools to help determine your hydration levels.

Use these tools to help you decide how much water is right for you. If you would like more detailed or personalized information, make an appointment with a registered dietitian at Bastyr Center for Natural Health by calling (206) 834-4100.

— Natalie Libby, dietetic intern, and Debra A. Boutin, MS, RD, chair and dietetic internship director, Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University.

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