Drink Water: Sage Advice in Two Little Words

Drink water: It’s a common refrain, but do you know why those two little words combine to produce such good advice?

According to the online article Water and Your Body, water serves many critical purposes in the human body: It carries waste and toxins from the body, participates in critical chemical reactions, lubricates and cushions joints, serves as a “shock absorber” inside the eyes and spinal cord, aids in the body’s temperature regulation and maintains blood volume. Researchers suspect 75 percent of Americans have mild, chronic dehydration, believed to be a common cause of daytime fatigue.

Facts on Dehydration and Drinking Water

Person drinking water

  • Know How Much Water You Need on a Daily Basis
  • The old guideline of 8 glasses of water per day for adults is not far off. According to the Mayo Clinic, the Institute of Medicine determined men need about 13 cups (3 liters) and women need about 9 cups (2.2 liters) of water every day from all sources, including fluids contained in fruits and vegetables. Foods can provide about 20 percent of total water intake.
  • A guide to water requirements for children from the Institute of Medicine:


Age Range Adequate Daily Intake of Beverages
1 – 3 years about 4 cups
4 – 8 years about 5 cups
9 – 13 years about 8 cups for boys about 7 cups for girls
14 – 18 years about 11 cups for boys about 8 cups for girls
    • Raise your water intake…
      • When you exercise
      • In hot or humid weather, heated indoor air or high altitudes
      • If you are vomiting or having diarrhea
      • If you are pregnant or breast-feeding
  • Know the Common Causes of Dehydration1:
    • Diarrhea (This is especially common in the developing world where poor water quality results in waterborne disease.)
    • Vomiting
    • Exercise that induces sweating
    • Warm weather outdoor activities
    • Air travel (Low humidity cabin air can dry the skin and mucous membranes.)
  • Know the Warning Signs of Dehydration that Can Lead to Heat Exhaustion or Stroke
    • A body temperature over 102 degrees Fahrenheit or severe cramps in the abdomen, arms or legs
    • Dark yellow or odorous urine
    • Dry or sticky mouth
    • Excessive loss of fluid through vomiting, diarrhea or sweating
    • Fatigue
    • Thirst
    • Headache or light-headedness
    • Dry, warm skin

According to Water and Your Body, after oxygen, water is the human body’s most important need. It’s simple and healthful, so make it a habit: drink water!

Ralph Morris, MD, MPH, is a Physician and Preventive Medicine and Public Health official living in Bemidji, MN.

1NOTE: A person can become dehydrated not only from loss of water but also from the loss of electrolytes, salts and minerals needed for bodily functions. Sports drinks can help replace electrolytes.