We've all heard the old adages: If you go out with a wet head, you'll catch a cold. Coffee stunts your growth. Drink eight glasses of water a day.
Most of these "old wives tales"—including the first two—are just myths. However, our bodies do need water. But how much? And how do we get it?
Not everyone likes water (guilty). And not everyone feels thirsty enough to drink that much water (guilty again). Some people can't stomach nearly two liters of water a day or will have to live in the bathroom if they drink that much (guess who?).
There's no solid proof that we all must drink eight glasses of water a day.
If drinking more water is one of your resolutions but you're like me, don't worry. You can still get your hydration, and your body won't suffer.
How it all began
Back in the 19th century, alternative practitioners known as "hydropathists" touted water for its power to cure any ailment. The idea spread throughout Europe, Australia and the United States.
Fast forward to 1945, when the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences in the US published its guidelines, recommending a daily consumption of 2,500 milliliters of liquid for the average male. However, this was without any solid scientific guidelines. It was more or less an abstract number. (For more on that, click here.)
The truths of water
Whether or not you like drinking water, hydration is important for the health of our body—essential for proper kidney and other bodily functions. Among them:
- It helps lubricate the joints (after all, cartilage, which is found in the joints and disks of the spine, is about 80 percent water).
- It helps your digestive system, moving food through the bowel. Inadequate hydration can lead to constipation.
- Water helps flush the body of waste, through sweating, urine and feces.
- It helps your body form saliva and mucus, and delivers oxygen throughout the body.
- Drinking water may help prevent the recurrence of kidney stones in people who have previously had them.
The myths of water
- It can help you lose weight. Partly true because it helps you feel full, but you must also eat a sensible diet. Find out about The Best Teas to Drink for Weight Loss.
- It keeps your skin hydrated.
- If you're thirsty, you're already dehydrated.
What you can drink instead
If you think your wardrobe is not complete without a cool water bottle in your hand, there are plenty of other ways to get hydrated.
Coffee and tea both count toward our overall water intake. Same goes for liquids like milk, soups and broth, as well as juices, sports drinks and soda (but those are high in sugar, so you're not doing yourself any favors by drinking them). You can also try flavored waters or sparkling waters (flavored or not) or flavor your own water with lemon, lime, mint, cucumbers or other favorite flavors.
Many foods are also high in water content. Yes, those count toward hydration, too. Among those that get high marks: watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, peaches, apples, oranges, grapefruits, cabbage, celery, lettuce, zucchini, cucumbers and tomatoes. Check out our list of Top 10 Hydrating Foods.
Can you drink too much water?
Yes, you can. Overhydrating can cause your body's sodium and electrolyte levels to plunge, because you're essentially peeing them out. Known as hyponatremia, it can lead to hospitalization—or, in extreme cases, even death.
While you may not know anyone it's happened to, it can happen, so know the symptoms (many of which are symptoms of dehydration, too). They include nausea and vomiting, headache, confusion and irritability.
The bottom line? Many experts say to listen to your body and drink when you feel thirsty.