To quickly improve your overall health, drink more water!

clean clear cold drink
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If you’re like me, you probably don’t drink enough water. And we are not alone: Many Americans don’t drink enough water during the course of their day to stay healthy. 

Especially during the cold Minnesota winter, I tend to forget to stay properly hydrated. And honestly, as a surgeon, not drinking during the day means that I don’t have to “go” when I’m in surgery! It’s a win-win situation, right? WRONG.

Adequate hydration is essential for the health and proper functioning of your organs. For example, water lubricates and cushions your spine, and it also helps your kidneys and liver flush your system and remove waste. 

Dehydration can lead to an imbalance in the body’s electrolytes (such as sodium and potassium), which help carry electrical signals between cells. Electrolyte balance is kept stable by properly functioning kidneys, and this requires that there is always sufficient water in the body. 

The most common signs of dehydration include a dry mouth, dry skin, cracked lips, headaches, dizziness, constipation, high blood pressure, dark urine and much more. Severe dehydration can lead to seizures, muscle cramps, and even loss of consciousness and kidney failure.

So how much water do we need to drink daily? Of course, the answer varies based on your gender, but also depends on where you live, your age, your level of physical activity, your body size, and your medical condition. The general recommendation from the Institute of Medicine set the adequate water intake at 11 cups (91 ounces) a day for women, and 15 cups (125 ounces) a day for men

An easy rule of thumb to follow to make sure you drink enough water is to look at your urine. Dark yellow urine usually is a sign of dehydration, while pale yellow urine means that you are properly hydrated. 

In my quest to improve my overall health, I committed to drinking one gallon of water every single day for the past three months. That’s five 25-ounce water bottles a day! 

At first I thought there was no way I would be able to do this, but it got easier and now I sometimes catch myself drinking a bit more than one gallon without thinking about it. 

It usually takes between 21 and 60 days of continual practice to establish a new habit. Quite frankly, I have experienced so many benefits that I have decided to sustain this new behavior, and I hope to inspire you to drink more water too.

Five benefits of adequate hydration (and there are more)

  • Keeps you regular: My digestion is improved, and all this water in my gut helps to rid my body of solid waste. I feel so much better!
  • Makes your skin glow: I noticed I got many compliments on how smooth my skin looks since I committed to drinking more water! Remember, our skin is our largest organ and it is constantly exposed to toxins. Water helps flush these toxins out of our system. My skin isn’t itchy anymore, and I have been able to quit using lip balm because my lips don’t crack anymore.
  • Helps you drop a few extra pounds: My brain used to confuse thirst and hunger signals when I was dehydrated, tricking me into overeating. Not anymore! Drinking plenty of water has helped curb my cravings, and I have shed a few pounds without any extra effort!
  • Enhances brain function and boosts energy levels: I definitely noticed decreased fatigue, more focus and attention, and more mental clarity. That’s because water helps blood and oxygen flow more freely to my organs.
  • Lubricates your joints: Water helps hydrate the padding between our joints, making it easier to move around without pain.

Tips for staying hydrated

  • Start your day by drinking a glass of water before you sit down to eat breakfast.
  • Drink a glass of water with every meal to help suppress your appetite and avoid overeating.
  • Keep a log of your water intake (on paper, on your phone, or using an app) to challenge yourself to hit your goal.
  • Bring a large bottle of water with you everywhere you go and take sips throughout the day.
  • If you don’t like the taste of water, you can add zero-calorie, natural flavor packets to your water, or infuse it with cucumber or citrus fruit.

Certain medical conditions, such as heart failure and end-stage kidney disease, may require a restricted water intake to avoid fluid overload. Before you embark on this journey, it is best to talk to your doctor about personalized recommendations regarding your daily water intake.

Dr. Valerie Lemaine, M.D., M.P.H., is a top-ranked, board-certified plastic surgeon in private practice in Bloomington, MN. She received her M.D. from University of Montreal, Canada. She completed a reconstructive microsurgery fellowship at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Dr. Lemaine then accepted a staff position at the prestigious Mayo Clinic (Rochester, MN) where she taught, practiced and published clinical research. In 2018, she transitioned to private practice and joined Plastic Surgery Consultants and Minnesota Oncology.