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     Volume 4 Issue 56 | July 29, 2005 |

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The Sweetest Drink

Drinking plenty of water is vital for health. Do you drink enough?

If you drink a lot of coffee and soda or if you only drink when you're thirsty, the answer is probably no.

According to Shannon Tolbert, a registered dietitian with Wellmont Health System, the average person needs between eight and 11 cups of water every day, and coffee and soda don't count toward your daily quota.

"You really want to pay attention and make sure that you're not getting caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, because they do have a dehydration effect," Tolbert. "They act like a natural diuretic. So you're losing the benefit of the liquid because it's actually causing you to lose water because of the diuretic effect that it has on your body."

Tolbert said intake of caffeinated beverages should be limited to one or two drinks per day. If you have trouble limiting your intake that much, try drinking an equal amount of water for every serving of soda or coffee you drink.

Dehydration can easily sneak up on people because the early warning signs are not always clear. Thirst is not a good indicator of when you should be drinking, said Greg Cross, director of outpatient rehabilitation services for Wellmont Holston Valley Medical Center.

"If you wait until you're thirsty, you've waited too long," Cross said.

"Some of the early signs of dehydration include headache and fatigue," said Tolbert. "You may have a loss of appetite, your skin may look flushed, you might feel light-headed, and you might have a dry mouth or your eyes may feel dry.

"If you have headaches and often feel kind of tired, you may want to try water and see if that may alleviate some of those symptoms."

Because our bodies are made up mostly of water, we depend on an ample supply for many of our body functions, says Tolbert.

"Any chemical reaction that our body does requires water," she says. "It helps regulate body temperature. It removes waste from the body. It also moisturizes the skin, so that helps your complexion. A lot of people like to hear things like that.

"It carries nutrients like oxygen and glucose to the cells and gives you energy, and it can also help your body burn fat more efficiently because you're getting those body processes moving and metabolizing those things."

Water can play a role in weight loss, Tolbert said, because in addition to helping cells burn fat more efficiently, drinking water can help curb your appetite as well.

"If you feel hungry, get a glass of water and see if you're not just thirsty," said Tolbert.

Joints like the knees and spine depend on water for proper functioning, and drinking plenty of water can help your body fight off infections. Proper hydration can even play a part in preventing cancer.

"There was one study that showed that people who consumed a lot of fluid had a decreased risk of bladder, prostate, kidney and testicular cancers," Tolbert said.

It's especially important to pay attention to hydration levels during the summer, when people are spending more time outdoors and exercising more, Tolbert said.

"You want to make sure that you're getting enough fluids when you exercise. Before you exercise you need to try to get plenty of water throughout the day. Two hours before exercise, you should drink about 4 to 8 ounces of fluid - that's about a cup," Tolbert said. "And then drink another 4 to 8 ounces of fluid about one hour before you exercise."

"When they're outside working in the yard, a lot of people don't really think about dehydration, but that's where we see a lot of heatstrokes and things like that," Tolbert said. "Even if you're just out at the lake, you're outside, and the heat and the sun will make you sweat, and you're losing fluids that way, so you need to make sure that you're getting your fluids back in."

Tolbert said the standard water requirement is eight to nine 8-ounce cups per day for women and 10 to 11 cups for men, but everyone requires more water during exercise and in hot weather.

"A lot of people will actually weigh themselves before they exercise and then they'll re-weigh themselves afterward. If you've lost a pound of weight, you need to drink about 16 to 20 ounces of fluid for each pound that you lost during exercise," Tolbert said.

Source: Waterprofessionals.com

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