Testing the Waters of Hydration

Drink at least eight glasses of water a day for ultimate hydration. Fact or myth? If you’re not thirsty, you’re not dehydrated. Fact or myth? With so much free-flowing advice about keeping our bodies hydrated daily, it’s no wonder many of us are confused about just how much liquid we actually need to stay healthy. 

Did you know that your body is made of two-thirds water? Roughly 83% of your lungs are water, 79% of your muscles and 73% of your brain and heart. To maintain a healthy fluid balance in your body, it is vital for you to drink enough liquids every day. On average, you lose about two to three quarts of water daily through sweating, breathing and eliminating waste. 

Hydration is the process of replenishing the body fluids you lose. Medical studies for decades have recommended varying amounts of water intake for us, but no one formula fits everyone. 

Health Benefits of Staying Hydrated

Your body relies on water to survive. Your every cell, tissue and organ needs water to keep running properly. Water is essential to help your body:

  • Remove wastes through urination, bowel movements and perspiration
  • Regulate your body temperature
  • Keep your blood pressure normal
  • Deliver oxygen and nutrients to cells
  • Maintain organ function
  • Cushion and lubricate joints
  • Prevent infections
  • Boost cognition and mood
  • Sleep well

Symptoms of Dehydration 

Since my work as a doctor focuses on patients 65 years old and up, I tend to see more people dehydrated in this age group. Not having adequate hydration can lead to dizziness or feeling lightheaded or faint. Another side effect of dehydration can be what we medically call orthostasis, when you stand up too quickly and get dizzy. Lacking water intake can contribute to constipation and bladder irritation that may be mistaken for a bladder infection. 

Other common signs of dehydration include:

  • Headache
  • Dry mouth and/or dry cough
  • Fatigue
  • Faster heart rate but lower blood pressure
  • Flushed skin
  • Muscle cramps
  • Heat intolerance or chills

With more severe dehydration, you can get an electrolyte imbalance of essential minerals (potassium, sodium, magnesium, etc.) in your body that help transfer electrical signals between your cells and tissues. This imbalance can cause confusion, delirium and seizures. Repeated or prolonged dehydration, such as when you have bouts of diarrhea, vomiting or excessive sweating, can lead to developing kidney stones and even kidney failure. If you take diuretics (water pills) to lower your blood pressure, this medication can cause you to urinate more frequently and lead to dehydration. 

Best Ways to Hydrate

Water is your best source for hydration. The common recommendation for daily water consumption is 64 ounces. I like to explain to my patients that 64 ounces is about the same as two liters. Or if you drink bottled water, each bottle is about 16 ounces or 500 ml, and you would need to drink at least four of these bottles a day. Other people prefer to drink their water from large travel drinkware or a measured gallon water bottle throughout the day. 

If you drink beverages including milk, juice and herbal teas, these are better choices than choosing caffeinated or sugar-sweetened drinks. Go easy on the energy and sports drinks that typically contain loads of added sugar and calories. Seltzer water, water flavored with citrus fruit or even fruit juices diluted with water are other occasional options to supplement your water intake. 

Eating fruits and vegetables that are high in water content such as watermelon, pineapple, cucumbers and spinach or consuming soup or broth can in addition help with your fluid needs. About 20% of your daily fluid intake comes from consuming foods.

The 64 ounces is a basic recommendation, so if you’re a more active individual, you may need more than that. If you have a medical condition such as a propensity for kidney stones or bladder infections, your doctor may advise you consume a larger quantity of fluid. High heat and humidity can make you sweat more so you need to drink additional fluids. If you travel to tropical areas or even high altitudes, your body will need extra hydration support. 

Also, there are hydration precautions with certain medical conditions. For example, someone with congestive heart failure or kidney disease may require less fluid. It is always important to discuss hydration levels for your individual health with your doctor.

Checking Hydration Needs 

Do not rely on thirst to tell you if you are dehydrated. Your fluid levels can decrease quite a bit before you realize you are thirsty. Checking the color of your urine is a better way to tell if you’re drinking enough. If your urine is clear or pale in color, you are likely well-hydrated. Since some medications and vitamin supplements can cause darker urine, a better indicator of dehydration is your volume of urine output. With sufficient water intake, you should be going to the bathroom once every few hours. 

We see with age that people might not need as high amounts of water compared to other points in their life. But seniors tend to consume less water in general and sometimes disease and possible cognitive issues can put older individuals at higher risk for dehydration. Seniors themselves need to stay aware of their daily hydration or their caregivers need to be very intentional about offering fluids, and enjoyable ones, to get older adults to drink more. 

Medical Intervention for Dehydration

For a normally healthy person, one of the first signs of dehydration is feeling thirsty. But if the body is not responding to the regular sensation of thirst, then dehydration can take hold. If a person has dizziness, a racing heart, dry mouth or low blood pressure, these are some signs that the person may need medical intervention. 

At think our extensive team of healthcare providers can thoroughly examine and render medical aid to someone with possible dehydration. Our walk-in clinic can quickly assess if a patient needs hydration care. Our doctors can seamlessly order lab work done right in the think building. We can also prescribe a saline solution with an electrolyte balance that matches a person’s blood. Our think infusion center can administer these IV fluids to individuals who need hydration replenishment. 

I always appreciate seeing someone really perk up after getting the medical hydration treatment. And, if there’s anything emergent going on or the patient doesn’t improve with the fluid, we can send the patient on to a higher level of care.

No matter your age, it is important to see your physician at least once a year as a checkpoint to discuss any symptoms you may be experiencing, look at risk factors for inadequate hydration and talk about your health overall. With hydration, every ounce of fluid prevention is worth every drop to keeping you fit and enjoying your life. 


Think Whole Person Healthcare is dedicated to keeping you healthy through preventative care and treatment for a wide range of medical conditions. From the dizzy spells to the persistent pain, our physicians, advanced practice providers and specialists are committed to you and your family’s lifelong health and well-being. 

Our walk-in clinic treats anyone, even those who are not a think patient or do not have a primary care provider currently. To learn more about our comprehensive healthcare services, visit our Services page online and choose your own think medical professionals by visiting our Meet Your Doctor page. 

We help you stay healthy. Give us a call at 402.506.9000. 

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