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Why is water vital for life - understanding the body's need for water

How much water should you drink? Should you drink water even if you are not thirsty? How do you tell you are drinking enough water? Find answers to all these questions and more in this article. Educate yourself on water, man's basic requirement.

Water or H2O is two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. I think everyone who has been to school must remember this basic chemistry formula. Another little fact that I can recall from my school days is of water being the most abundant substance in our body. If memory serves me right then water accounts to approximately 60% of our body weight. Imagine more than half of our body weight is the result of water! Is that not amazing?

If you think about it, the human body can be without water for only a few days. In stark contrast, we can be without food for weeks at a stretch. Though water is devoid of calories and nutrients, yet we need to constantly replenish it, because it is vital for our existence. A loss of just 10% of water from our body can lead to severe dehydration, and a loss of 15-20% can be fatal.

Why is water vital for us

Water is vital to effectively all body functions. It is necessary for the digestion, absorption and transportation of nutrients, as well as for the elimination of the waste that's generated. It's essential for maintaining the body's temperature and also for a host of other chemical processes that go through the body.

Water forms a protective shield for the cells in the body. The amniotic fluid that keeps a developing foetus secure has its base in water. It is required for the production of body tissues. Blood and body secretions such as the gastric juices, saliva and tears, besides fluids that lubricate the joints and organs have water as a base. It is what keeps our skin supple, smooth and soft.

As we grow older our body begins to dry. It no longer has the same amount of water as when we are young. An infant, for instance, gets 80% of its body weight from water compared to someone in their sixties who has just 50% of it as body weight. This is why older people suffer from stiffened joints, reduced saliva secretion and wrinkled skin. The body begins storing less water, and it reflects in different ways.

How much water should we drink?

Most people get their fluids from plain water, juice, buttermilk, tea and coffee etcetera. But did you know that there is a substantial amount of water in the food we eat? Vegetables and fruits are good sources of water. Watermelon and cucumber are 95% water. Surprisingly egg, fish, meat and even bread have water in them.

An average adult must consume a minimum of eight glasses of water a day; this is roughly two litres of fluids. A good way to know whether you are getting enough water is by checking the colour of your urine. The desired colour is pale – anything darker is a sign that you need to drink more water.

The two-litre advice is a general recommendation; individual requirements may vary depending on a number of factors. You'll need more water in the summer months or if you play a sport. Your water requirement increases when you have a cold or a fever. Pregnant women need more water to meet the increased demand that pregnancy puts on them - the blood vessels expand, there is the amniotic fluid and there are the needs of the foetus. Women who choose to breastfeed their babies need to increase their fluid intake because breast milk is roughly 85% water.

As a rule of the thumb, our water intake should be the same as the amount that is excreted. A number of factors influence this balance. Diuretic medicine or any other medication that causes excessive urination increases our fluid requirement. Interestingly, drinking excessive cups of coffee and tea can have a diuretic effect too, and the water loss must be replenished. Foods that have excess salt leave us dehydrated as the extra salt disrupts the fluid balance in the body. Ajinomoto or Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) has the same dehydrating effect.

Older people feel less thirsty, but this does not mean they require less water. Their water requirement remains the same. Hence, they should drink water often, despite not being thirsty. They must keep sipping water throughout the day because their body will need that water.

Also, note that when it's too humid or too hot or during an intense workout your body may be slow to react to the loss of water. Your body might signal thirst much after it has lost water. And by the time you begin to feel thirsty, you might have already lost a considerable amount of water and become dehydrated. Remember, water loss is not through urination alone, you also lose water when you perspire. Keep this in mind while carrying out physical activities that put a strain on you and make you sweat. Increase your water intake in hot and humid water, as also in severe winter.

The bottom line is to drink fluids as often as you can, without feeling thirsty. If your drink more than the body needs your kidneys will kick in and expel the surplus, by increasing the volume of the urine. In case the kidneys cannot handle the excess water intake, the same gets absorbed by the cells.

Understanding the sources of water

Sourcing something as ordinary as water is a dilemma for most urbanites. Drinking water should be fresh and clean. But, which is its best source. We have blind faith in the purity of bottled water. Most people believe that all bottled water is mineral water. That's not true. Bottled water is nothing but ordinary water packaged in a sealed bottle and sold for a price. Walk into a departmental store and the range of bottled water will take you be a surprise. You'll find an array of packaged bottles from imported spring water to ordinary water, probably sourced from a corporation tap. Read the details on the package, so you can identify the source.

Here is a broad range of packaged water that you can find on display in these stores –

  • Carbonated water: This is natural water with added carbonation. Think tonic water and soda
  • Spring water: This water is sourced from natural springs, usually underground ones. The water must have the same properties as it did when it was procured. The water is supposed to be unpolluted and healthy
  • Mineral water: This is also spring water, but it must contain specific amounts of minerals per litre, usually 500mg/litre
  • Drinking water: This water's source can be anything, but know that it is usually distilled and deionised and is made safe for drinking. It could have been bottled at a Reverse Osmosis (RO) plant. This water is also marketed as deionised water, distilled water and reverse osmosis water

Always check the date of packaging or best before dates when buying packaged water. This will tell you how fresh the water is and how safe it is to drink. Bottled water can contain bacteria, which can further contaminate water that's been in a bottle too long, especially in a storehouse without central air conditioning.

Is tap water safe for drinking

There is no way of answering this question since many variables affect different corporation water sources. It is best that you play it safe and purify your water either through boiling or using one of the commercially available water purifying gadgets.

Final word

It is important that you drink ample water to meet your body's requirement. Drink more water when you lose water. Drink water each time you urinate. Drink water without being thirsty. And finally drink clean and pure water, because contaminated water can make you sick.

Article by Juana
Juana is a freelance writer, with years of experience, creating content for varied online portals. She holds a degree in English Literature and has worked as a teacher and as a soft skill trainer. An avid reader, she writes on a variety of topics ranging from health, travel, education and personality development.

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Author: Umesh29 Apr 2017 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 3

How much water we need is a question many people ask and this article has very nicely explained and depicted the whole thing in a common man's language.

It is correct that we require a lot of water on a daily basis but what are the correct timings for the intakes. As per our ayurvedic philosophy, first thing do be done early in the morning is to gulp down 2-3 glasses of water. It also says that we must not take lot of water with food but should rather wait 10-15 minutes after food and then only take water. These are the things prescribed and many people are following them to reap the health benefits.

Author: Juana30 Apr 2017 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 4

Studies show that drinking water before going to bed is beneficial as well. It helps clean the body of toxins and prevents the formation of kidney stones. Clearing the bladders at night flushes out toxins which would otherwise remain in the body as we sleep.

Experts recommend that water should also be had in the middle of the night when the bladders are emptied. This ensures that the water levels in the body remain at an optimum level.

This therapy is especially beneficial for individuals who have kidney stones or those who are susceptible to kidney stones.

Author: Umesh01 May 2017 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 0

Thanks for your quick response as well as for furnishing the additional data for timings of water intake for proper regulation of body parts.

Author: K Mohan02 May 2017 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 3

Irrespective of knowing the benefits of water, I used to drink more than in my house and I like so. Even elders at home during my childhood used to tell us that we should drink so much water when we walk it must give movements and sound inside the stomach. What they mean to say that drinking more water is good for health as it can mitigate immediate hungry when something under preparation, water can clean toxic waste in our body by drinking it before and after getting up from the bed and water maintains the digestive power of food what we intake and thus water cannot be discarded for no reason.

Author: Juana05 May 2017 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 5


I honestly have never heard of water giving movement and sound inside stomach when walking. However, it does sometimes make a sound when it is gulped down, in a rush.

Your elders inculcated in you, the habit of drinking water. Subconsciously, you are aware of its many benefits.

Considering 50% of our body weight comes from water, we must realise its significance. I drink more water or fluids in the summer months and during the monsoon when the temperatures are high or the weather humid. The body loses a lot of water in both these conditions.

We should replenish the water, before the body signals thirst. By the time we feel the need to drink water the body would have lost a lot of its reserves. Sipping water throughout the day is the best way to fight water loss.

Author: Swati Sarnobat18 Dec 2017 Member Level: Gold   Points : 1

Useful article! Always drink a little water after every hour instead of drinking two to three glasses at a time. Drink steadily and do not gulp water. But do not drink before meals.

Author: Juana02 Jan 2018 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 2

Yes, it is important to drink a cup of water, or so, every hour, to help replenish the water that the body keeps losing. We lose water as we exhale. We lose water through perspiration. We lose water through urination and bowel movement. It is important that this vital fluid is replaced almost immediately, to prevent dehydration.

Varying theories abound regarding when it is appropriate to drink water and when it's inappropriate. While some believe that water should not be had before or during a meal, many others believe that drinking water can actually aid in digestion.

Author: Venkiteswaran07 Jan 2018 Member Level: Gold   Points : 3

Children learn the importance of water from the rhyme 'Machali Jal ki raani hai'..
But this article nicely explains about water and its various aspects with respect to our body and daily living.
A chemist knows that water is a universal solvent. In India water is considered as holy and blessing by nature or God. So it was never allowed to 'sell' water. However the modern trade ,mentality has made water a commercial item. Probably the easiest and maximum profit is now made by bottled water selling companies. It is a cruel irony that the essential item which nature gives in bounty free to all the living things on Earth is cornered by human and then made a commercial item to satisfy his greed by even depriving it to all other living things who also have a rightful share.

Let us resolve to save and conserve water.

Author: Juana19 Jan 2018 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 4


You brought out another aspect and an equally important one at that. Yes, indeed, water is crucial for all living creatures.

I agree that nature gives us ample water, but not everyone has access to it. Rivers and other water bodies are not close to human dwellings. Yes, the ones with a business acumen saw a golden opportunity and went for the kill – setting up water purifying, bottling and packaging plants.

Let's not forget that they ensure the water they supply is safe to drink - they make it potable. They deliver it to our doorstep, adding convenience and that gives them every right to put a price on it.

Our water bodies are unclean, even the groundwater is saline and unfit for consumption, in a number of places. We contaminate the environment. To that effect, I think all of us are guilty. Are we really doing our bit towards water conservation?

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