Many people have started the summer with health goals. That is always a great idea; your health should be a top priority. What most patients have asked me is “What is one FREE thing I can do to improve my health this summer?”  In a word; WATER. Did you know that water is one of the 6 nutrient categories, along with proteins, carbs, lipids, vitamins and minerals? Our bodies are made up of 70-75% water and it is used in every body function all the way down to our cells. In fact our brain is closer to 80% water and requires 2 cups a day to function properly. Our lungs use another 2 cups a day, so if you are drinking less than 4 cups/day you may already be in trouble.  When we do not have enough water on a daily basis all our systems start to suffer. According to the medical literature, dehydration is one of the major accelerators to chronic disease. Side effects of dehydration can include headaches, muscle soreness and muscle wasting, electrolyte imbalance, swelling, and even increased body fat percentage. If you are lacking in water, your blood will be thicker and will increase the incidence of high blood pressure, cholesterol and heart disease.

“I drink lots of fruit juice, soda and milk, so that should be enough right?” Your body can get some water from your food and what you drink, but other liquids contain substances (e.g.  caffeine, sugar, solutes) that actually cause water loss in the body to accelerate.  Caffeine is a diuretic which will cause you to eliminate water. Soft drinks contain sugars that have unwanted side effects. Since 1971 soda consumption has more than doubled in this country. Research shows that one soda a day for a year will cause 15 pounds of fat to be stored around your waist. One 20-oz soda contains 17 teaspoons of sugar and over 250 calories. This is one contributor to our nation’s obesity epidemic. Diet soda is not the answer though. Studies have shown that subjects actually gain more weight when drinking diet drinks and the neurologic side effects from Aspartame are the number one food related complaint to the FDA.

“So what should I do?” Most health professionals suggest a minimum of 64-oz of water a day, but sometimes that is not enough. A  better measurement is half your body weight in ounces per day. Take your weight, divide it in half and that is how much water you should be drinking a day. Not only will increasing water help your health, but it can help in weight loss also. One group lost an average of 12lbs over a 10 week period by replacing all beverages with water and nothing else. So raise your glass to a new health goal this month, as long as it is water.