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Posted January 16, 2023 by Manveen Mann, MD
When it comes to hydration, it’s a simple rule: Drink eight glasses of water each day, right? Wrong. There is a lot of misinformation surrounding hydration, including this common myth, which can make it difficult to distinguish fact from fiction.
Water is essential for healthy bodies, as we are made up mostly of water. Getting enough water enables our bodies to regulate body temperature, keep joints lubricated, prevent infection, deliver nutrients to cells and keep organ systems functioning properly.
But, there is no one-size-fits-all rule when it comes to hydration. We all come in different shapes, sizes, ages and activity levels — not to mention the various climates we live in — so it makes sense our hydration requirements differ, too.
A good rule of thumb to determine if you’re hydrated is to check the color and volume of your urine. If it’s pale yellow or even clear, and you’re heading to the bathroom once every few hours, you’re likely hydrated. However, if your urine is dark yellow or even brownish, you could be dehydrated.
Summa Health debunks 7 common myths to get to the truth about hydration so you can take the necessary steps for optimal health — and avoid dangerous complications that can come from dehydration.
Myth: Drink 8 glasses of water each day.
As previously mentioned, hydration needs are different for everyone. Instead, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined adequate daily water intake should be about 125 ounces (3.7 liters) for men and 91 ounces (2.7 liters) for women from all food sources — including both liquids and solid foods.
Myth: Liquid is the only way to rehydrate.
While drinking plenty of water each day is a healthy habit, it’s not the only way to rehydrate. In fact, about 20 percent of your fluids come from foods you eat. Soups, juicy fruits, such as strawberries, cantaloupe and watermelon, and veggies, including spinach, kale, cucumbers and celery, all have high water content that will boost your daily fluid intake.
Beware, however, foods high in sodium, such as packaged foods and salty snacks, can have the opposite effect. When salt circulates in the blood, the body responds by drawing water out of cells to balance things out, causing dehydration.
Myth: If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.
The fact is thirst does not always correlate with dehydration. Some medical conditions, such as diabetes, or side effects from medications can make you thirsty without your body actually being dehydrated. Even something as simple as eating spicy foods can make you thirstier than normal.
But if you’re thirsty, listen to your body. It’s telling you to drink water, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re already dehydrated. Your water deficit can be trivial.
Myth: You can’t overhydrate.
Surprisingly, it is possible to overhydrate and drink more than your body can flush out. It’s a condition called hyponatremia, where sodium levels in the body become dangerously low. Symptoms of hyponatremia include confusion, nausea, headaches and convulsions. People with underlying conditions, such as congestive heart or kidney failure, as well as endurance or extreme athletes, are at a higher risk for this condition.
Myth: Coffee is dehydrating.
For a long time, medical experts believed coffee acted as a diuretic and caused dehydration. But in recent years, several studies have shown caffeinated beverages consumed in moderation provide the same hydration as non-caffeinated drinks. So go ahead, count your morning cup of joe toward your daily fluid intake.
Myth: Sports drinks are a great way to rehydrate after exercise.
It depends. Sports drinks contain large amounts of sugar, artificial additives and calories. For this reason, water is the best way to rehydrate after exercise. Plus, you can flavor it with natural ingredients, such as lemon, cucumber, mint or berries.
However, if you engage in long, strenuous activity for 60 minutes or more, fortified sports drinks are a good option to help replenish the fluid and electrolytes your body loses through perspiration. However, water and a salty snack, like peanuts, is a good option, too.
Myth: The best way to rehydrate is to drink water.
In most cases, yes, drinking water can remedy dehydration if you have mild symptoms, such as dry mouth, fatigue, headaches or muscle cramps.
However, if you’re experiencing moderate to severe dehydration symptoms, such as confusion, severe muscle cramps, low blood pressure or mobility problems, immediate medical attention is necessary. You may require IV fluids or short-term dialysis, in extreme cases.If you’re wondering what healthy hydration means for you, talk to your doctor about appropriate daily fluid intake for your body and lifestyle. Your primary care provider can review your medical history, health conditions and medications you’re taking to help determine what’s right for you. To schedule an appointment with a Summa Health primary care provider, call 800.237.8662 or visit summahealth.org/primarycare..