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How much water should you drink?
By:Mairlyn Smith

Staying hydrated during the hot, hazy days of August is an important habit to get into, but how much water do we really need to drink every day?

There really isn't a simple answer. How much water you need depends on many factors, including your overall health, how active you are and where you live.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a healthy adult living in a temperate climate needs approximately 8 to 9 cups (2 to 2.2 L) of water through food and beverages per day.
Food usually makes up about 20 per cent of your total fluid intake so consuming a little more than 8 cups
(2 L) per day will typically replace the amount of water you lose on a daily basis.

Factors like weather, how much you exercise, your age and whether you are breast-feeding all affect the amount of fluids you require.

Water makes up about 60 per cent of your body weight. It's needed to flush toxins, carry vital nutrients to your cells, regulate your body temperature, blood pressure and heart function, and it is your body's lubricant - cushioning your joints and your spinal cord.

When you become dehydrated your body doesn't have enough water to carry out these functions. The earliest symptoms of dehydration can include:

A mild to throbbing headache
Muscle cramping
Flushed skin
Dry mouth and eyes
Loss of appetite and nausea
Without replacing necessary liquids, you can also experience difficulty swallowing, severe muscle cramps, loss of coordination and become delirious.

We lose water daily through breathing, perspiration, urine and bowel movements. You need to replenish your water supply daily by consuming beverages and foods that contain water.

Don't rely on your level of thirst for prompts to drink water. Some people have a skewed thirst mechanism. The elderly, small children and people with either a compromised immune system or who are ill, may not feel thirsty until they are at a critical level of dehydration.

The more you sweat the more water you need. Hot weather, humidity and higher altitudes affect your hydration levels. If you are playing a sport, exercising or working in the heat, add additional water to your day.

The rule of thumb is to add an extra 1.5 to 2.5 cups (400-600 ml) of water for short bouts of outdoor exercise or work and more for longer ones. To replace sodium lost through sweat the Mayo Clinic recommends a sports drink.

Health conditions like bladder infections, a fever, vomiting or diarrhea all affect your hydration levels, especially in the hot summer months. Call you doctor for advice.

Women who are breast feeding require more water as well. The Institute of Medicine recommends pregnant women drink 10 cups (2.3 L) of fluids daily and women who are breastfeeding consume approximately 13 cups (3.1 L) of fluids a day.

Water is by far the best fluid to hydrate your body. Although coffee is a liquid, it can contribute to dehydration, along with alcohol, because both cause you to lose fluids through increased urination.

Replace liquids lost from alcohol with water. Beverages like milk and 100 per cent juice help you rehydrate, as does watermelon.

If counting how many glasses of water you drink everyday isn't your style, check your urine. A hydrated, healthy adult or child should produce colourless or slightly yellow urine. Although certain vitamin supplements can produce dark yellow urine, this colour is usually an indication of dehydration.

It is possible to drink too much water. Water intoxication or hyponatremia, dilutes your blood, causing sodium levels to drop. Your body's water level rises and your cells begin to swell. Endurance athletes, such as marathon runners, who drink large amounts of water, can experience this. The symptoms can be mild to severe and can include nausea, vomiting, headache, confusion, spams, seizures and coma.

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