Athletic or not, we all need water—and plenty of it. Your body on water is far more resilient than your body without it; hydration affects how our body works in daily activities, how prone it is to injury, and how well it recovers from injury.
Water facilitates hundreds of critical functions in the body, many of which are essential for maintaining good muscle tone, joint mobility, and even managing pain. Specifically in the musculoskeletal system, water helps:
- transport nutrients and oxygen in the bloodstream (which muscles need to properly contract and recover).
- flush out waste and toxins (which plays a role in reducing muscle soreness).
- lubricate and reduce friction in the joints.
- facilitate muscle contraction.
Dehydrated muscles and joints are prone to:
- Cramps: resulting from imbalances in the electrolytes needed for muscle contraction.
- Cartilage wear and tear: joints aren’t receiving nutrients needed for maintenance and repair after injury.
- Friction in the joints: dehydration can deprive your cartilage of the water it needs to maintain cushion, which can lead to achy or “creaking” joints and osteoarthritis (OA).
- Pain: dehydrated muscle tissue can’t flush out waste products or toxins that build up from exertion, injury or other stress.
Are you dehydrated?
Dehydration means your body lacks the water required to function. You can become dehydrated if you don’t replace fluids lost through exercise, from exposure to the elements, or from vomiting/diarrhea. Excessive caffeine consumption leads to dehydration.
Your daily water requirement depends on age, gender, activity level, body composition, health status, and climate. The color of your urine isn’t an accurate guide since certain foods, supplements, and medications change urine color. To ensure sufficient water intake, drink one-half (1/2) of your body weight in ounces. Example: If you weigh 130 pounds, drink 65 ounces of water each day.
Dehydration can quickly become a life-threatening emergency. Signs include:
- Mild Dehydration: dry mouth, irritability, headaches and muscle cramps.
- Moderate Dehydration: dizziness, clumsy, exhausted, racing heartbeat. You may be unable to urinate, stand, or focus your eyes.
- Severe Dehydration: the function of vital organs is impaired. Without water, you will enter a coma and die.
Sweeter Ways to Get Hydrated
Sugary sports drinks are actually not your friend when it comes to effective hydration. Here are a few more ideas to get you excited about hydrating:
- Nuts for Coconut. Coconut water is rich in natural electrolytes. While not scientifically proven, theoretically it can boost hydration and you may enjoy the flavor more than plain water.
- Infuse It! Add fresh or frozen slices of orange, lemon, or lime to your water. Try frozen berries or melon; also try cucumber, mint, ginger or parsley.
- Get Fizzy. Bubbly (carbonated) spring water hits the spot on a hot day. Choose varieties without added sweetener.
- Go Herbal. Iced or hot, caffeine-free and herbal teas count toward your water intake and support healthy hydration.
- Fruit & Veg Up! Many fruits and veggies have a high water and nutrient content: cantaloupe, honeydew, strawberries, watermelon, pineapple, peaches, cucumber, lettuce and celery.
For more ideas on hydrating to support a healthy body, be sure to talk with your holistic health practitioner.
Making sure you get enough water is one of the many nature therapy practices which makes up the field of EcoMedicine. EcoMedicine maintains that your personal medical health and the health of your environment are two sides of the same coin. As you use nature to lower your blood pressure, assuage your anxiety, prevent and treat myopia, for example, you can also improve your surroundings, and make progress against climate change.
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