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Drinking Water Week: May 6-12, 2007
Submitted by LCDR Elaine Little, USPHS
Drinking Water Week is the first week of May. May represents the beginning of the warm months ahead and should serve as a reminder to drink more water! We can survive a month without food, but only about a week without water. Why? This is because water is essential to your body with almost every part of the body cell, tissue, and organ needing water to function. Without enough water, dehydration, ranging from mild to severe forms, can set in.
Why is hydration so important?

The following quote is taken from the Water Prayer in the “Mohawk Thanksgiving Address.” It reads:
    “We give thanks to all the water of the world for quenching our thirst and providing us with strength. Water is life. We know its power in many forms - waterfalls and rain, mists and streams, rivers and oceans. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to the spirit of water.”
According to the American Dietetic Association's (ADA) Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, the average adult loses about two and a half quarts or about 10 cups of water daily. This needs to be replaced to maintain your body's fluid balance.
Why do we need to stay hydrated?

There are some physical and lifestyle factors that make it more difficult to maintain adequate fluid balance and may give rise to chronic and mild forms of dehydration. These include: poor thirst mechanism; dissatisfaction with the taste of water; consumption of the natural diuretics such as caffeine and alcohol; participation in physical activity; and environmental conditions.

Many health experts agree that it is important for people to drink at least 8 cups of water each day, but may require more for adequate hydration. The average sedentary adult man must consume at least 2,900 mL (12 c) fluid per day, and the average sedentary adult woman at least 2,200 mL (9 c) fluid per day, in the form of non-caffeinated, nonalcoholic beverages, soups, and foods (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=9972188&dopt=Abstract).
How can I improve my water intake?

The ADA also offers these suggestions to increase fluid intake:

  • Take water breaks during the day instead of coffee breaks or keep a cup or bottle on your desk to drink throughout the day. 
  • Patronize vending machines that sell bottled water and skip the high calorie or sweetened beverages. 
  • Anytime you walk past a water fountain, take a drink. 
  • Alternate sparkling water and alcoholic drinks at parties or restaurants. 
  • Drink water before, after, and during physical activity.
  • Carry a bottle of water as you commute, work, and/or run errands.
  • Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink water; stay hydrated all day long!
What about hunger and thirst? Is it true that thirst can often be mistaken for hunger?

Yes. This is why many weight loss experts recommend drinking a glass of water before eating a meal or snack. If that satisfies you, then it was thirst. According to ADA, “recognizing “real” hunger for many people sends them searching for food, often before they need to eat. Feeling hungry at the start of a meal is good, but knowing when you could wait longer is also important.”

You may want ask yourself some of these basic questions before your next meal to help you better differentiate between hunger and thirst? 
  • Am I hungry? If you’re not sure, wait 20 minutes and ask again. 
  • When was the last time I ate? If it’s less than 3 hours, it may not be real hunger. 
  • When was the last time I drank some water? It may not be hunger, but really thirst you are feeling.
  • Could a small snack tide me over until the next meal? Try to have ready-to-eat fruit or vegetables on hand.
If you can’t recognize when you’re hungry, make a schedule. Eat small meals every 3 to 4 hours until you learn what actual hunger feels like. If you overeat at a meal, get back on track at the next one.

Thirst is clearly different from hunger. It is important to pay close attention to your surroundings and the environmental conditions. In dry climates, sweat evaporates rapidly and you may not notice that you are losing a lot of water and electrolytes, not to mention the physical work involved, all of which can contribute to dehydration. You may need to drink more than eight 8-ounce glasses every day especially if you spend lots of time outside.

Below are some practical suggestions to consider when it comes to fluid management:
  • Drink water! The best source for hydrating your body is just water.
  • Choose fruit juices, milk, or caffeine-free coffee or tea as secondary sources of hydration. Carrying a water bottle makes it easy to remember to drink. Alternating water and coffee in your mug is another way to meet your needs.  
  • Herbal teas, low-sugar soy beverages, and rice beverages are also good secondary sources to keeping our bodies well hydrated. Soups will add lots of water too; just remember that canned soups usually contain high amounts of sodium.
  • Many foods have a high water content, too. Here are some examples:
Food Percent of Water
Lettuce (half cup) 95
Watermelon (half cup) 92
Broccoli (half cup) 91
Grapefruit (half cup) 91
Milk (one cup) 89
Orange juice (three fourths cup) 88
Carrot (half cup) 87
Yogurt (one cup 85
Apple (one medium) 84
So how much should I drink? 
  • Women should drink nine 8-ounce servings 
  • Men should drink thirteen 8-ounce servings 
  • Limit caffeine to 400 mg per day 
  • Beverages should not be more than 10 to 15 percent of total daily calories 
Water and/or fluid requirements increases with a person’s body size as does calories. The larger the individual, the more fluid is required to keep one from getting dehydrated. More information is available on the ADA Web site at http://www.eatright.org/cps/rde/xchg/ada/hs.xsl/login_search_ENU_HTML.htm?dosearch=1&search=water+&x=17&y=7 and the “The Daily Healthy Beverage Guidelines” at http://www.lipton.com/tea_health/beverage_guide/index.asp
The series “Fit For Duty…Fit for Life!”, is a lifestyle-based column that has been provided by the USPHS Dietitian/Nutritionist PAC (D/N-PAC). If you have related topics of interest that you would like to learn more about in future articles, contact CAPT Jean Makie, USPHS, at jean.makie@fda.hhs.gov
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