I have no doubt that as we get older the balance between our need for water and our physical thirst for water changes. However, there is an interesting paradox about thirst and hydration as we age. The truth is that the older we get, the less thirsty we feel. Furthermore, the less water an older person drinks, the less thirsty they become. Thus, creating a dangerous downward cycle leaving them open to significant risk and complications associated with dehydration.
If you also consider that the vast majority of our population is over the age of 40 and have an increased burden placed on their liver and kidneys by taking some form of medication daily, it's not too difficult to see why hydration is so important. Toss drinking a bit too much alcohol into the mix and it triples the reasons why staying vigilant on our water intake becomes so important as we age.
Water is the number one nutrient required to sustain all healthy life.
Nutrition researchers at the University of North Carolina summed it up perfectly with this quote: "Water is essential to life. Water represents a critical nutrient whose absence will be lethal within days."
In other words, you maybe be able to survive long periods of time without food but remove water from the equation, and that timeline get shortened significantly.
Signs of dehydration:
Because we've already identified the paradox of diminishing thirst as we age, there’s a good chance that we have become quite dehydrated by the time we actually “feel” thirsty. So it is important to watch for physical signs of dehydration prior to the sensation of thirst such as; a dry and sticky mouth, muscle weakness, headaches, sleepiness or unexplained feelings of fatigue.
How can drinking water help you?
Water is essential for brain function. As the main component of the human body, water is vital. It hydrates every cell and every organ including the brain. While water itself can't solve the effects of physical and cognitive decline associated with aging, it is necessary for proper function of the whole body including the brain.
Water provides intestinal comfort. While certain medications are known to impede healthy bowel movement and increase the risk of constipation, proper hydration aids in the process of elimination. It aids in digestion and clears the way (pardon the pun) for fiber to do its job of reducing the chances of developing hemorrhoids or worse: colon cancer.
Helps in heart health. Statistical studies concluded that adequate water intake has a strong protective association against fatal coronary artery disease for both men and women. While research doesn't show that flooding your body with water actually improve blood viscosity (think ‘blood thinners’), the fact that your heart is muscular tissue and that all muscles perform better when adequately hydrated makes drinking water a must for heart health as we age.
Water aids in weight loss. Yes, you read that right! Not only will drinking a cup or two of water just before eating help quell your hunger and reduce calorie intake, but maintaining proper hydration can actually improve your body's overall ability to shed weight.
The mechanism on how hydration affect weight loss is complicated, but essentially it allows the liver and kidneys to both function unencumbered. Although both are designed to remove toxins from your body, the liver also plays a role in metabolizing fats. When your body experiences dehydration, priority is placed on removing toxins from your body.
Makes sense, right? Your survival depends a lot more on removing toxins from your blood stream than burning calories. As a result, the metabolism of fat is placed on hold until proper hydration is restored.
So how much water should you drink? Well, a good rule of thumb is about a cup of water for every 20 pounds of body weight. That means at least six cups of water a day if you weigh around 120lbs. ***However, if you are under any type of medication or are on dialysis, I strongly recommend you speak with your physician first before making any changes to your water intake.
"You're not sick; you're thirsty..." Dr. Batmanghelidj
The above quote is from a physician sometimes referred to as "Dr. Batman" who became a celebrity in the health world during the 1980s and 1990s for his unusual story and work with water.
Dr. Batmanghelidj (pronounced Batman-gey-lij) studied the effects of water (or lack of it) in the human body for more than twenty-five years before his death in 2004.
Often referred to as “Dr. Batman” because Americans couldn’t pronounce his name, he championed the healing benefits of water in lectures and books. He believed that chronic dehydration contributes to many of today’s serious illnesses, such as heart disease, asthma, hypertension, lupus, and multiple sclerosis. He often said that a chronic lack of water caused the body to cry out in pain, and pointed to arthritis and joint pain as an example.
“If you have chronic pain in the spine, hands, or legs, that means those joints are thirsting for water,” he said. “You are not drinking enough water. The pain is due to dehydrated joints, plus wear and tear, and the inability of the cartilage to repair the damage.”
His interest in water went back to his native Iran where the London-trained physician was jailed as a political prisoner from 1979 to 1982. When fellow prisoners asked him to help another man suffering from an acute peptic ulcer attack, all he had to offer was water. He gave the man two glasses of water. To his surprise, the prisoner’s pain vanished in minutes. During the next two years as one of the prison’s doctors, he researched and applied the use of water for treating people under stress. A clinical report describing his treatment of more than three thousand peptic ulcer cases with water appeared in a 1983 issue of the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology.
After his release from prison, he found his way to the United States and devoted his full-time attention to researching, writing, and lecturing about dehydration-related health problems. Part of his lasting legacy is a wonderful book I highly recommend reading: Your Body’s Many Cries for Water (available through www.watercure.com).