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The Importance of Water

The Importance Of Water

We all know we should drink plenty of water, but do we do it? And just how much should you drink? Water is so critical for our health, and it’s especially important for anyone with digestive issues like IBS.

The average adult body is 50-65% water. There is variation between men and women (men’s bodies are approximately 60% water, and women’s bodies are approximately 55%), and the amount of water differs by body composition and fitness level. Lean tissue contains more water than fatty tissue. The water in the body is mostly in the intracellular fluid. It’s the liquid that plumps up each individual cell. About a third of the water in our bodies is extracellular – outside of the cells.

Water acts as an insulator, helping us regulate our internal body temperature. That’s why our bodies sweat when we get hot. The sweat on our skins evaporates to cool our body temperature back to normal. Water is also important to the metabolism of proteins and carbohydrates. Water is the primary component in saliva, which begins the digestive process in the mouth. Water is also used to flush waste products and toxins from our body, as our kidneys filter them out and produce urine. Water also acts as a lubricant in our joints and protects our brain, spinal cord and organs, acting as a shock absorber.

Dehydration

By the time you feel thirsty, your body has already lost around 2-3% of its water content. Dehydration can cause multiple problems in the body. Two of the first signs of dehydration are a decline in mental performance and in physical coordination, which occur around 1% dehydration. Mild dehydration can also drain your energy, making you feel tired.

How much is enough?

Water is naturally lost from the body through the breath, sweat, urine and bowel movements. A frequent recommendation is for adults to drink 8-10 eight ounce glasses of water a day. People who are exercising or out in the sun may need more water, and anyone who’s sick also needs extra water to help flush the body. Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding also need additional water, as water is the main component in amniotic fluid and breast milk. In general, if your urine is colorless or light yellow, you’re well-hydrated.

While it is possible to drink too much water (water intoxication that leads to a dilution of sodium called hyponatremia), this is rare and is most commonly seen in young infants or athletes. Water intoxication occurs when a dehydrated person drinks too much water too quickly without the needed electrolytes.

The importance of electrolytes

Electrolytes are minerals in the body that have an electric charge. They are found in the blood, urine, and other bodily fluids, and are naturally ingested through foods and fluids consumed. Electrolytes include sodium, calcium, potassium, chlorine, phosphate, and magnesium. Our bodies maintain the right balance of electrolytes to perform a number of cellular functions. Dehydration can cause an imbalance in electrolytes.

Water intake and IBS

People with IBS-D (predominantly diarrhea) may experience dehydration from frequent bouts of diarrhea and may need to drink extra fluids and electrolytes to keep their bodies hydrated. People with IBS-C (predominantly constipation) also need extra water to help the stool move through the intestines.

When you have diarrhea, drink at least 1 cup of liquid each time you have a bowel movement. In addition, eat some salty foods, like chips, popcorn, or pretzels. Sports drinks or other rehydration drinks can also help. Foods high in potassium, like bananas, potatoes, and fruit juices, can replenish lost electrolytes.

When you have constipation, drink more water and increase your fiber, such as fruits with the skin, whole grain products, and vegetables.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The IrritableBowelSyndrome.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Mayo Clinic. Accessed online on 2/2/17 at http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256
  2. MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Accessed online on 2/2/17 at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000121.htm.

Comments

  • Rann1950
    3 years ago

    Emily, this is great information. My colorectal doctor recently told me I should drink 64 oz of water a day for my IBS-D . YIKES was my first thought. I have increased my intake to at least 32-40 oz a day which is a lot of water for me. She also recommended increased fiber to help firm up stools. At my last appointment she prescribed Dicyclomine to help the cramping and spasms that go along with IBS-D. Dicyclomine causes constipation, which in turn requires more water intake. Seems a little bit of a merry-go-round in some respects.

  • Chris Hall moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Rann1950,

    “YIKES” would be my first thought, too! It’s great to hear that you’re upping your intake. It is unfortunate that some treatment options cause unwanted side effects. Many of our community members have commented on these types of cycles. I hope the increased water intake helps. Thanks for commenting!

    -Chris, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team Member

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