I have yet read another story in the newspaper of a death from dehydration, not enough water in the body.  Word must get out: water, it does a body good. Another report from George Washington University Hospital has reported an increased number of patients coming to the hospital with hyperthermia. The body is too hot.  An elevated body temperature can cause organ failure and death in a short period of time. Staying adequately hydrated is so important when it’s hot.  It is also important on a daily basis. A few years ago, on a hot, humid day, I took care of a cyclist who undertook a twenty mile ride. Unfortunately, he became dehydrated, developed hyperthermia to 105 degrees and developed multi-organ failure.

Not getting enough water to regulate the temperature and other bodily functions is serious business. With up to seventy percent of the body water, it only makes sense that we should stay hydrated. All the cells depend on water. The metabolism depends on water. Without this important substance, the kidneys can fail. Muscles can break down. The blood pressure can drop.  The blood becomes more viscous; thicker. The metabolism of medications change and the list goes on and on.

Recently, the media reported on a couple who were hiking in Utah to a beautiful place with limited access, and evidently they died from hyperthermia and dehydration. I read reports regularly about the importance of water. Years ago, water was the main beverage of choice, but now (with all sorts of other alternatives), sometimes the importance of good ole H2O is forgotten. Now, more than ever, I want the proper amount of water to part of your health equation. Water not only treats disease but the appropriate amount can prevent disease.

When I asked a patient yesterday in the office if he was drinking enough water, he told me he drank plenty of sweet tea and coffee. I explained that these substances are not the same as water in hydrating the system. I asked him if he took a shower everyday and he said, “yes”. Getting enough water is like taking a shower on the inside. Think of it like putting gas–and not kerosene–in your engine. The bottom line is to ask yourself, “Am I hydrated?”

How much water is enough? Here are some general guidelines for a healthy person. For those with medical conditions like heart failure and kidney disease, one needs to check with your provider. For someone otherwise healthy, take you weight and divide by two. This is approximately how many ounces you need just to keep going at baseline. If you are exerting or are in high temperatures, more will be needed. Two hundred pounds needs a baseline of 100 ounces. A standard water bottle has 20 ounces. Another way to evaluate your hydration is to look at your urine, if it is clear you are probably hydrated. If you are not making urine, you need to drink. I know this sounds so basic, but I would not be writing about this if it were not important and vital to not only the health of America, but the health of the world. They tell me that the word for water in Africa is “life”.

Hydration is for everyone. I recently saw an elderly woman in the hospital who was in renal failure needing dialysis because of a high potassium level. She was sick. She quit eating and drinking but kept taking her fluid pill which she was given for swelling in her legs from poor veins. Guess what? She became severely dehydrated and went into renal failure. The kidneys quit working and the potassium built up in her body. This was life threatening. She was fortunate. Many others are not.

Water or lack of water contributes to lack of energy and memory problems, as water is a key brain ingredient. Once again, lack of water can cause muscle cramps, the blood to become thicker, and low blood pressure which effects the entire body. In medical school I remember being told over and over to check the volume status of your patient.

What about long-term, low grade dehydration that you might not even be aware of? It is estimated that 60-70% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Well this can put a body in a state of low-grade stress. The body responds by making the stress chemicals. After all, chronic dehydration is a stressor. This stress and the resulting chemical reaction are great if you have a tiger chasing you, but not so good day in and day out 24/7 over a course of years. Stress over time will lead to symptoms.

Then there is living water, the spiritual water that comes from a relationship with our Lord. I want you to ask yourself everyday, “ Have I had a drink of the living water?” Water, water is available to us. We need a commercial that goes something like this, Water, is does a body good. Living water heals the soul.