5 Most Surprising Reasons to Drink Water

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Of all the food and beverage choices you face every day, what's calorie-free, virtually cost-free, and, oh yes, essential to keeping you alive? Plain ol' water. But those aren't the only reasons to drink it.

"Water drives basic body performance," says Beth Reardon, director of nutrition for Duke Integrative Medicine, part of the Duke University Health System. "All of the systems in the body require water for proper functioning, and so do 90 percent of all chemical reactions in the body."

Here are five surprising reasons to quench your thirst with water:

1. It will help you de-stress.

Why: Being sure to sip water throughout a stressful day can soothe stress-induced symptoms as diverse as headaches, tense muscles, fuzzy thinking, a pounding heart, and low energy. That's because stress taxes all your basic body systems -- and when you're dehydrated, the effects are magnified.

Given that more than half your body weight is water, Reardon says, "just a 2-percent reduction in hydration has a dramatic impact on energy levels and cognitive function." And dehydration further raises levels of cortisol -- the "stress hormone."

Water won't wash your stressors away. But it can provide you with more energy, ease tension, slow breathing, and reduce the strain on your heart.

Water-drinking tip: "Eight by eight -- eight 8-ounce glasses a day -- is a good general rule of thumb," Reardon says, "but it's a myth that's the magic amount for everyone, because there are so many variables." The "right" amount for you depends on factors including your age, your activity level, your health level, medications you're taking, and the weather. So how do you know if you're drinking enough? Follow your thirst, and know that you're on the right track if you have straw-colored urine, Reardon says.

2. You'll lose weight.

Why: In a 2010 study of adults aged 55 to 75, drinking two 8-ounce glasses of water before meals was associated with almost four pounds more weight loss in 12 weeks than in a control group who ate a similar diet but didn't have the pre-meal H20. Participants drank an average of 1.5 cups of water a day before the study.

In part, the Virginia Tech researchers say, water is filling, so you feel fuller and eat less. An earlier study found those who drink water before meals consume an average of 75 fewer calories per meal. (Make that twice a day over a year, and that could add up to 14 pounds!) The Virginia Tech scientists also believe the water drinkers began swapping this zero-calorie beverage for sodas and other caloric beverages.

What's more, when you're well hydrated, your body is working closer to maximum efficiency -- enhancing aspects of weight loss, like digestion and muscle function, when you exercise.

Water-drinking tip: For variety's sake, try flavoring your water. Drop some fruit into a pitcher and let it sit a few minutes -- lemons, oranges, watermelon, and berries all work well. Or let an herbal or flavored green tea bag steep in unheated water to accent the taste.

More reasons to drink water

3. You'll be less apt to get sick.

Why: Hydration keeps your mucus membranes in top working order -- they're gatekeepers to the natural defense system that helps keep out germs such as cold and flu viruses. When these tissues dry out, germs can more easily penetrate to the nasopharynx, where the nasal passages and mouth meet. And if you catch a bug anyway, the severity of your illness is more likely to be lower if you've been drinking a lot of water.

Water is an especially smart health move when you're traveling. Most commercial planes fly at elevations between 30,000 and 35,000 feet, where humidity is 10 percent or lower. That means you're breathing dry air in a tight space filled with germs from dozens of people. Water keeps your mucus membranes moist -- and your defenses high -- even in that challenging situation.

Water-drinking tip: Bring an empty water bottle with you to the airport that you can fill for free once you're past security. Or buy the biggest bottle you can right before you board, and aim to finish it by flight's end. Don't hesitate to ask the flight attendant for refills while you're in the air.

4. You'll be more comfortable.

Why: It doesn't matter if the water you sip is hot or ice-cold. The act of drinking it will keep you warmer on a cold day -- and cool you off on a hot one.

"Your internal thermostat works better when you're well hydrated," Duke nutritionist Beth Reardon says. "Water helps regulate body temperature."

The body's temperature-regulating system, governed by the hypothalamus in the brain, is constantly picking up information that allows it to make adjustments to maintain a fairly steady core temperature. Hot sun? You'll sweat to cool down. Hatless in snow? The hypothalamus will know you're losing heat through your head and work to produce extra energy, such as shivering.

But these mechanisms work less well if you're dehydrated "“ and dehydration is a common risk for people of all ages, in winter as well as summer. In cold weather, for example, you lose water vapor through your breath. And many people tend to drink less water in cold weather because they don't think they need it as much as on hot, sunny days.

Water-drinking tip: Start by swapping out one soda, cup of coffee, or high-calorie hot chocolate a day with an equal amount of water. Carry a bottle of water with you all day long as a visual reminder to pause and sip. Sip more when you're physically active, whether in water, snow, or any weather condition.

5. It will help regulate your blood pressure.

Why: In 2010, the American Red Cross discovered that when blood donors were given 16 ounces of water to drink before giving blood, there was a 20 percent drop in fainting after the procedure. That was an important finding for them, given that many of those who faint then chalk blood donation up as a bad experience and never return to give again.

It's not entirely clear what mechanism is at work. But the Red Cross was inspired to conduct a study after researchers at Vanderbilt University noticed that drinking water activated the sympathetic nervous system -- related to the "fight or flight" system that makes you more alert, elevates blood pressure momentarily, and boosts energy. Fainting after donating blood is often connected to a drop in blood pressure, and they theorized that the water would counter that effect.

(Not drinking enough water on a regular basis can also raise blood pressure. That's because dehydration causes blood vessels to constrict as the body strives to conserve water that it loses through perspiration, urination, and breathing. When blood vessels constrict, however, the heart pumps harder, bringing blood pressure up.)

Water-drinking tip: Start your day with a glass of water for a simple energy boost that remedies any dehydration that may have occurred overnight. Keep a filled glass or bottle on your nightstand or an empty one next to the bathroom sink.

10 months ago, said...

Absolutely a reinforcement of what we all have read and know but somehow or another do not follow! I'm getting a bottle of water out now before bedtime to remind me to drink more H2O every day! Thx so much for the very clear explanation of why we need water and how to satisfy our need ! Absolutely a reinforcement of what we all have read and know but somehow or another do not follow! I'm getting a bottle of water out now before bedtime
 to remind me to drink more H2O every day! Thx so much for the very clear explanation of why we need water and how to satisfy our need !
 Hide

10 months ago, said...

My Yoga teacher suggested Smart Water because It contains Magnesium and Potassium, so does essentia but neither bottle says how much. I called "essentia " and they told me right away (not much). When I called Smart Water they refused to tell me and said it was just added for flavor which can't be since Potassium tastes terrible! They said it was a trade secret when I insisted; the man I was speaking to said he was just an assistant and didn't know all the answers! So get me someone who does!... Show more My Yoga teacher suggested Smart Water because It contains Magnesium and Potassium, so does essentia but neither bottle says how much. I called "essentia " and they told me right away (not much). When I called Smart Water they refused to tell me and said it was just added for flavor which can't be since Potassium tastes terrible! They said it was a trade secret when I insisted; the man I was speaking to said he was just an assistant and didn't know all the answers! So get me someone who does! I am not buying Smart Water again, since I already take extra Potassium and Magnesium in tablet form and I don't buy anything when the producer won't tell me what and how much is in the product! Hide

10 months ago, said...

Very helpful. Rena Very helpful.
 
 Rena Hide

about 1 year ago, said...

Reading these comments I thought to myself: obviously common sense should prevail here, as in anything else. Crystal Light is good, because it is water based and you make a drink from the powder mix. But of course you want to make sure there is the sugar free type, or at least use a healthy sweetener. I find this really encourages me to drink. I'm going on 67 and people still step in close to me, 'get in my face' and then admire my skin. I like to think the reason - is lots of water. We... Show more Reading these comments I thought to myself: obviously common sense should prevail here, as in anything else. Crystal Light is good, because it is water based and you make a drink from the powder mix. But of course you want to make sure there is the sugar free type, or at least use a healthy sweetener. I find this really encourages me to drink. I'm going on 67 and people still step in close to me, 'get in my face' and then admire my skin. I like to think the reason - is lots of water. We also buy bottled water, and Ric will leave the bottle on the kitchen counter. Not only can we grab it as we walk by, and knock back a sip, it is a visible reminder to DO that, whenever I see it there! Hide

about 1 year ago, said...

The whole article was helpful, especially the 2010 weight loss study. The whole article was helpful, especially the 2010 weight loss study. Hide

about 1 year ago, said...

Does drinking Crystal Light, green tea, all day and night count for water intake?? Does drinking Crystal Light, green tea, all day and night count for water intake?? Hide

about 1 year ago, said...

Americans simply don't drink enough water! "Flavoring" water with slices of orange or lemon or lime can really make a difference for people who can't abide "plain" water. And putting 1/3 teaspoon of cane sugar (not a sugar-free substitute!) plus a slice of citrus in water makes a far better drink than that "extra" cup of coffee. Americans simply don't drink enough water! "Flavoring" water with slices of orange or lemon or lime can really make a difference for people who can't abide "plain" water. And putting 1/3 teaspoon of cane sugar (not a sugar-free substitute!) plus a slice of citrus in water makes a far better drink than that "extra" cup of coffee.
 
 Hide

about 1 year ago, said...

8 cups? Seems feasible during a summer days with some outdoor activity/exercise but who actually follows this guideline. Last month it was an article referring to 12oz/day is sufficient. Generally speaking I agree, the more the better, but that was before the onset of enlarged prostrate. 8 cups? Seems feasible during a summer days with some outdoor activity/exercise but who actually follows this guideline. Last month it was an article referring to 12oz/day is sufficient. Generally speaking I agree, the more the better, but that was before the onset of enlarged prostrate. Hide

about 1 year ago, said...

Ty Robert Hartley Ty Robert Hartley Hide

about 1 year ago, said...

My experience disproves everything in this article. My experience disproves everything in this article. Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

1. WATER covers around 70% of the Earth’s surface - The human adult body is consisted around 70% of water! Coincidence? 2. Living tree consists of around 80% of water – Approximately 80% of human brain tissue is made of water! Another coincidence? 3. Without water, the Earth would look like the moon! Conclusion: We live on a WATER PLANET & We are all WATER BEINGS! WATER = LIFE! 1. WATER covers around 70% of the Earth’s surface - The human adult body is consisted around 70% of water! Coincidence? 2. Living tree consists of around 80% of water – Approximately 80% of human brain tissue is made of water! Another coincidence? 3. Without water, the Earth would look like the moon! Conclusion: We live on a WATER PLANET & We are all WATER BEINGS! WATER = LIFE! Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

Some of the reasons to drink water were actually quite surprising....particularly about stress and its effect on blood pressure. I am going to share this with some friends, clients and family members. Thank you.. Some of the reasons to drink water were actually quite surprising....particularly about stress and its effect on blood pressure. I am going to share this with some friends, clients and family members. Thank you.. Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

After years as a "Coca-cola head", I managed to wean myself off the stuff. Ric and I drink a wonderful no-sugar punch with artificial sweetener. I love it, and can't get enough. I often will drink plain water with just a splash of lemon, or make some sun-tea (oolong), and have that. If you can get off soda for good, it's the BEST thing you can do for your body - not to mention your kidneys. After years as a "Coca-cola head", I managed to wean myself off the stuff. Ric and I drink a wonderful no-sugar punch with artificial sweetener. I love it, and can't get enough. I often will drink plain water with just a splash of lemon, or make some sun-tea (oolong), and have that. If you can get off soda for good, it's the BEST thing you can do for your body - not to mention your kidneys. Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

There are so many "harmful" liquids out there: diet sodas, over-sugared soft drinks, "fruit" juices that are 2% fruit juice! etc. etc. Switch one - or two- of those a day to water! There are so many "harmful" liquids out there: diet sodas, over-sugared soft drinks, "fruit" juices that are 2% fruit juice! etc. etc. Switch one - or two- of those a day to water! Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

Definitely! Learned a lot--thank you! Definitely! Learned a lot--thank you! Hide

over 1 year ago, said...

I wasn't aware that drinking water can help me control my blood pressure. Water is about all I drink (2 cups of coffee is my only other beverage), but I certainly can drink more and see if it helps! I wasn't aware that drinking water can help me control my blood pressure. Water is about all I drink (2 cups of coffee is my only other beverage), but I certainly can drink more and see if it helps! Hide

over 2 years ago, said...

All my life water has always been my main drink of choice. Been trying to get my husband to drink more water, especially because he experiences weakened muscles, severe dry skin, and digestion issues. Thanks you for sharing these tips. Hopefully he listen to you. My question is, is water also helpful in preserving youthful appearance in our skin? My husband is 64 and looks a lot older. Thank you, All my life water has always been my main drink of choice. Been trying to get my husband to drink more water, especially because he experiences weakened muscles, severe dry skin, and digestion issues. Thanks you for sharing these tips. Hopefully he listen to you. My question is, is water also helpful in preserving youthful appearance in our skin? My husband is 64 and looks a lot older. Thank you, Hide

over 2 years ago, said...

My life has become a balancing act. In 2008, I had prostate surgery. In the process of removing the prostate, they remove the sphincter muscle at the base of the bladder, since this is one of the places close to the prostate where the cancer can most easily spread. Because I have little control of urination with the sphincter absent, the more water I drink, the more water I drain into my incontinence underwear. The entire process is a time consuming and messy one all around with lots of... Show more My life has become a balancing act. In 2008, I had prostate surgery. In the process of removing the prostate, they remove the sphincter muscle at the base of the bladder, since this is one of the places close to the prostate where the cancer can most easily spread. Because I have little control of urination with the sphincter absent, the more water I drink, the more water I drain into my incontinence underwear. The entire process is a time consuming and messy one all around with lots of plastic pants to change into, and to dispose of. In more than 5 years, I haven't found a good way to balance everything. Robert C. Visconti Hide

over 2 years ago, said...

It taught me new reasons to drink water in addition to the water I already use. It taught me new reasons to drink water in addition to the water I already use. Hide

over 2 years ago, said...

that we do have natural way to weight lose that we do have natural way to weight lose Hide

over 2 years ago, said...

What are the chances that I'd come across two articles in the same day, from respected sources, that both have good information but one definite conflict. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/27/lemon-germs-wedges-restaurants_n_4659168.html?ncid=edlinkushpmg00000008 What are the chances that I'd come across two articles in the same day, from respected sources, that both have good information but one definite conflict. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/27/lemon-germs-wedges-restaurants_n_4659168.html?ncid=edlinkushpmg00000008 Hide

over 2 years ago, said...

I have a bicycle water bottle beside my bed and sip through out the night whenever I wake and cant sleep. I have a bicycle water bottle beside my bed and sip through out the night whenever I wake and cant sleep. Hide

over 2 years ago, said...

I doubt medical research would support these claims. I doubt medical research would support these claims. Hide

over 3 years ago, said...

I hated water growing up!!!, but once i hit my late 40s i could not get enough of it, I can drink up to as much as 3 to 4 bottles at night. I hated water growing up!!!, but once i hit my late 40s i could not get enough of it, I can drink up to as much as 3 to 4 bottles at night. Hide

over 3 years ago, said...

I drink around one liter of water every morning when i wake up. i eat breakfast one hour later and drink another half liter water. What do you think of my practice? I drink around one liter of water every morning when i wake up. i eat breakfast one hour later and drink another half liter water. What do you think of my practice? Hide

over 3 years ago, said...

Oh yes.....thanks a lot Oh yes.....thanks a lot Hide

over 3 years ago, said...

Thanks for all the useful info. I especially will try drinking 2 glasses of water before my meals. Hopefully I will take in less calories at a sitting. I have a comment about sipping a liquid - I started drinking tea during the morning hours because I thought coffee would stain my teeth more and then I started getting indigestion so I went back to tea. I'll try water and see what if anything that does. Thanks for all the useful info. I especially will try drinking 2 glasses of water before my meals. Hopefully I will take in less calories at a sitting. I have a comment about sipping a liquid - I started drinking tea during the morning hours because I thought coffee would stain my teeth more and then I started getting indigestion so I went back to tea. I'll try water and see what if anything that does. Hide