How Can You Know That You’re Drinking Enough Water?

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Dr. Mercola

Throughout each day, your body loses water through your urine and sweat glands—even when you’re not purposely working up a sweat. As a result, you have to constantly replenish this fluid, and soft drinks do not count toward this requirement…Both coffee and soda are high in caffeine, which acts as a diuretic that will dehydrate you. Worse yet, sodas, fruit juices, and other sweetened beverages are primary sources of fructose, which will only deteriorate your health.Ditto for artificially sweetened beverages. So the key is to drink pure water. But just how much water do you need each day? While an oft-repeated guideline says you should drink eight glasses of water a day, this may be too much for some, and not enough for others.Your water requirement can also vary wildly from day to day depending on a number of factors, such as your activity level and weather conditions.Fortunately, your body is equipped with a mechanism that tells you when you need to replenish your water supply. It’s called thirst. And there’s also a simple way to gauge whether or not you need to drink more water even though you may not be feeling thirsty.

How to Read the Signs for Your Body’s Water Needs

Once your body has lost between one to two percent of its total water content, it will signal its needs by making you feel thirsty. Using thirst as a guide to how much water you need to drink is a good way to ensure your individual needs are met, day-by-day.However, by the time your thirst mechanism kicks in you may already be a bit dehydrated. Most studies show that about 2/3 of us are dehydrated and need to drink more water.This is particularly true for the elderly. Therefore, it’s also wise to learn some of the other, more subtle, signals your body sends, indicating you need to drink more water. As noted in the featured article,1 this includes:


  • Fatigue and/or mood swings
  • Hunger even though you’ve recently eaten
  • Back or joint ache
  • Dull, dry skin and/or pronounced wrinkles
  • Infrequent urination; dark, concentrated urine, and/or constipation

The Color of Your Urine Is an Important Marker

Besides listening to your thirst, a good rule of thumb is to look at the color of your urine. You should be drinking enough water to turn your urine a light-colored yellow.Dark-colored urine is a sign that your kidneys are retaining fluids in order to maintain your bodily functions, which includes detoxification. As a result, your urine will seem highly concentrated and dark in color. You may also urinate less frequently, for the same reason.Since your thirst mechanism tends to become less efficient with age, older adults need to pay more careful attention to the color of their urine to ensure adequate water intake.Bear in mind that riboflavin (vitamin B2, which is also found in most multi-vitamins) will turn your urine a bright, almost fluorescent yellow. So if you’re taking supplements containing B2, it may be more difficult to judge by the color of your urine.Frequency of urination can also be used to judge your water intake. A healthy person urinates on average about seven or eight times a day. If your urine is scant or if you haven’t urinated in several hours, that too is an indication that you’re not drinking enough.

Symptoms of Chronic Dehydration

The primary symptoms of dehydration are: thirst, dry skin, dark colored urine, and fatigue. But there are also a number of commonly overlooked symptoms that may suggest you’re suffering from more or less chronic dehydration. Such symptoms include:

  • Digestive disturbances such as heartburn and constipation
  • Confusion and/or anxiety
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Premature aging
  • High cholesterol

Dehydration Is a Common Problem Among the Elderly

According to recent research, one in five seniors does not get enough water on a daily basis. Among those who do not have a caretaker, that number is even higher—one in four. And seniors with dementia are six times more likely to be dehydrated.Dehydration also tends to be more common among people taking more medication. According to BBC News:2

“A 2013 analysis of death certificates by the [UK] Office for National Statistics had shown that 1,158 care home residents suffered dehydration-related deaths between 2003 and 2012.But Dr. [Lee] Hooper said those figures were not clear-cut as patients often stopped eating or drinking towards the end of life. She also stressed that while care homes could sometimes do better, it was important to point out that identifying dehydration and solving its causes was complex.’The reasons older people do not drink enough are that as we age we lose our sense of thirst so they may not be thirsty. [Or they] decide not to drink because of continence issues, because they don’t have as much social contact or because of frailty or forgetfulness.’”

Why I Do Not Recommend Bottled Water

While drinking water will help flush out toxins, the more unfiltered water you drink, the more pollutants you’re consuming… Most tap water contains an array of harmful contaminants, including disinfection byproducts, chemicals, radiation, heavy metals, and pharmaceutical drugs. Additionally, be careful about bathing in unfiltered water as you can easily absorb more toxins by breathing in a hot shower than you can by drinking tap water all day long.Last year, federal scientists reported3 finding traces of 18 unregulated contaminants in one-third of the water samples collected from 25 municipal utilities across the US, including perfluorinated compounds like PFOA.  So besides making sure you’re drinking enough, another very important consideration is the type of water you drink.Many instinctively reach for bottled water, but there are many reasons to avoid this option. Drinking from plastic water bottles can pose serious health risks from industrial chemicals like bisphenol-A and bisphenol-S (BPA/BPS), as well as phthalates, which leach from the plastic itself into the contents of the bottle. BPA and BPS are estrogen-mimicking chemicals linked to reproductive defects, learning and behavioral problems, immune dysfunction, and prostate and breast cancer. Phthalates are also endocrine disruptors, and have been linked to a wide range of developmental and reproductive effects, as well as liver cancer.Bottled water also costs about 1,900 times the price of regular tap water, and may or may not have received any additional treatment. Studies have shown that 40 percent of bottled water is actually regular tap water with possibly no additional filtering treatment. While the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires large public water supplies to test for contaminants several times a day, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires private bottlers to test for contaminants only once a week, once a year, or once every four years, depending on the contaminant.One independent test4 performed by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in 2011 revealed 38 low-level contaminants in bottled water. Each of the 10 tested brands contained an average of eight chemicals. Disinfection byproducts (DBPs), caffeine, Tylenol, nitrate, industrial chemicals, arsenic, and bacteria were all detected. Fluoride is also usually present in both tap water and filtered bottled water…

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