Time to wet your whistle 

Published 11:58 am Tuesday, May 30, 2023

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Spring has arrived, the plant life is in full bloom, and I’m in my glory working in my flower garden. But, while we are still experiencing cooler days, short waves of early summer weather are teasing us. And on the warmer days, I found myself needing additional hydration.

Hydration is critical for our health, but during the warmer months, it becomes hypercritical.

On average, sixty percent of our body is water. Body size, shape, muscle and fat affect the percentage of water in our bodies. Our brain and kidney maintain the highest amount of water at eighty to eighty-five percent; as you’ve guessed, our teeth (ten percent) and bones (twenty-five percent) have the lowest water content. Water is critical for protecting our spinal cord and organs and for joint lubrication. 

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Water is essential for nearly every bodily function, including:


  • temperature regulation
  • balances hormones and neurotransmitters
  • oxygen delivery
  • cellular function
  • waste removal
  • eye, mouth, and nose moisture
  • saliva creation
  • minerals and nutrients breakdown and absorption


We lose eight to twelve cups of water daily through sweat, respiration, and waste elimination. Men need fifteen cups, or more of fluid a day, while women need a minimum of eleven cups. Twenty percent of our daily fluid intake comes from food. Hot weather, exercise, high-fiber diets, high altitude, and consumption of alcohol and caffeine all increase our need for additional water.

Water is the most important “nutrient” in the body. And we must drink enough water daily to support all our functions and improve our health. For example, adequate water consumption improves physical performance and brain function and may prevent headaches. In addition, sufficient hydration minimizes constipation, may help to treat kidney stones, and can aid in weight loss.

Healthcare providers recommend that we begin daily by drinking water and encourage us to approach half of our daily fluid intake by midday. Carry a water bottle for quick access to water when you need to drink. Be mindful to select water over sweetened beverages. Consider infusing water with lemon, cucumber, coconut, watermelon, mint, blackberries, kiwi, or other natural plant-based foods to give water a flavor.

Dehydration happens when your water intake is not high enough to support body demands and is a state where the balance of salts, electrolytes, and ions tilt toward depletion. The depletion of elements is dangerous because the movement of water molecules through the cellular membrane is life-critical and pulls elements like sodium and potassium.

Extreme dehydration causes serious complications that include:


  • kidney failure
  • brain swelling
  • seizures
  • coma and death


Anyone is at risk for dehydration, but infants, toddlers, and older adults are at a higher risk because of their inability to express their needs. So if you’re a caretaker of people in one of these groups, offer them drinks frequently. 

Symptoms of dehydration include dark (apple juice) colored urine, high heart rate, loss of appetite, swollen feet, muscle cramps, heat intolerance or chills, dizziness, thirst, confusion, and muscle fatigue. Side effects of severe dehydration include diarrhea, vomiting, fever, heat injury, and more. Many people undergoing cancer treatment find staying hydrated a challenge. Several cancer centers recommend drinking infused water to keep you hydrated during treatments. But you’ll be hooked once you make infused water a habit. 

If you have a healthcare topic of interest or want to learn more about St. Luke’s Hospital, send me a note at Michelle.Fortune@slhnc.org. Also, please follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, or visit our website at StLukesNC.org.