Nina Radcliff

Many people underestimate the power of drinking water. Keeping hydrated by drinking enough water every day can have a huge effect on overall health. However, research shows that despite how crucial it is that people drink enough water, a significant amount of people are failing to drink proper levels of fluids each day.

About 70 percent of our body is comprised of water. It is present - and needed - in every organ, tissue and cell for them to function properly. We are swimming in it, both literally and figuratively. Water is essential to vital bodily functions: digestion, blood circulation and temperature regulation. And because we lose fluids from evaporation, sweating, breathing (17,280 breaths/day), fat-burning and urination, we need to replace these losses by drinking water.

Dr. Nina's What You Need to Know: about the benefits of drinking plenty of water.

Water, from the tap or a bottle, is the best source of fluid for the body.

On the other hand, beverages such as milk and juices are also decent sources of water, but beverages containing alcohol and caffeine, such as soft drinks, coffee and beer, are less than ideal because they have diuretic properties, meaning they cause the body to release water.

Here are some key factors about pure water to keep in mind:

• No calories: Water contains zero calories. Period. As a result, choosing water over a calorie-containing beverage equals fewer calories consumed. A can of soda contains about 140 calories; a glass of wine, 140 calories; 12 ounces of unsweetened orange juice, 160 calories; and 12 ounces of unsweetened apple juice, 170 calories. So the next time you want to quench a thirst, consider reaching for no-calorie water.

• Curbs appetite: Water fills up the stomach, leaving less room for an insatiable appetite. In a recent study in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, researchers found drinking more water is associated with decreased consumption of calories, sugar, and salt. Researchers interviewed 18,311 adults and found that those who drank 1 to 3 additional cups of water consumed between 69 and 206 fewer calories; 6 to 18 fewer grams of sugar; and 78 to 235 fewer milligrams of sodium.

• Prevents cravings from dehydration: Water is essential for a number of our body's chemical processes, including the release of glycogen - the main storage form of glucose - from the liver into the blood stream, where it can be used for fuel. As a result, our body sends signals to the brain to consume sweets because it cannot tap into its energy stores. So the next time you crave a sugar fix, consider reaching for a glass or two of water. You may not even want the sugary item after.

• Minimizes water weight: Bear with me as I explain how drinking more water can prevent water retention. When the body is dehydrated, it goes into panic mode and takes measures to hold on to every drop. It does so by storing water in extracellular spaces - meaning outside of cells. This results in bloating.

• Fights headaches: In a study in the Family Practice Journal, participants who frequently suffered from severe or mild headaches were asked to drink 1.5 liters of water a day for three months, in addition to their normal fluid intake. The researchers found that increased water consumption resulted in significant reductions in pain in most.

• The fountain of youth: Although drinking water cannot erase wrinkles, it may be able to slow the process. Dehydration causes cells to shrivel and makes wrinkles appear more prominent. Conversely, adequate hydration keeps skin cells plumped up.

• Fights kidney stones: As temperatures start warming up, the incidence of kidney stones increases. Dehydration is often the culprit behind those pesky stones that send over a million people each year to the emergency department due to severe pain.

• Keeps it moving: One of the most effective treatments for constipation is to drink more water. When dehydrated, the body does everything it can to conserve water. This includes absorbing water from stool before it passes out of the digestive tract. The stool becomes hard, and its transit time slows.

• Being properly hydrated may decrease the risk of stroke. In a study at Johns Hopkins University, researchers found 44 percent of patients who had a stroke due to a clot were also dehydrated. In addition, while the reason is unclear, they found that dehydration also worsened how a patient did in the long term.

• Improves concentration: The brain is about 80 percent to 85 percent water. Dehydration interferes with the brain's ability to function - from nerve transmission that is responsible for thinking, movement and memory to producing chemicals that are responsible for communication between brain cells.

The age-old question: How much water is enough? The answer is not simple, because the amount of water that should be drunk each day varies from person to person, depending on factors such as level of activity, weight, diet and surrounding temperature.

According to the Institute of Medicine, an estimated adequate intake for men is about 13 cups per day. For women, an adequate intake is about 9 cups. And while we often hear the directive: "Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day," which is close to the institute's recommendation for women, drinking "8 by 8" is an easy-to-remember amount that can help people get on the right track in terms of water consumption.

Are you getting enough water, every day? Take time - and take note - to ensure you are getting enough. If you find in the afternoon you have had very little water, I encourage you to set a timer or a smartphone reminder throughout your day. The overarching goal is to be properly hydrated every day. It can make a world of difference in your overall health. Articles don't change people - people do! Make a commitment today.

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