Medical Misconception: Drink Eight Glasses of Water a Day

Each month, we weigh in on a health and wellness myth and explain the real cause behind the malady.

This month’s misconception: Drink eight glasses of water a day

It’s a common adage: individuals need eight glasses of water a day to stay healthy and hydrated.

There’s no question that water is important to the human body; in fact, more than half of the body is made up of water.

Our bodies need water to regulate our temperature, lubricate our joints, and to get rid of waste through urination, perspiration and bowel movements, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

But how did the eight glasses a day recommendation come about? A popular theory is that a U.S. Food and Nutrition Board suggestion from 1945 was misinterpreted and that figure has stuck through the years.

According to a 2004 report from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, most people meet their hydration needs by using thirst as their guide. The institute’s report recommended approximately 91 ounces (equaling about 11 cups) of total water for women and approximate 125 ounces (equaling about 16 cups) of water for men. This includes water from both beverages and foods.

Most fruits and vegetables are 80 to 90 percent water, so if you choose healthy foods more often, you may find that you are not as thirsty.

Getting enough water is important to prevent dehydration, which can cause minor symptoms, such as headaches or muscle cramps, to more serious symptoms, including shock, rapid heartbeat and dizziness.

Keep in mind that daily water needs vary from individual to individual, depending on their age, weight and medical conditions, among other variables. And our bodies need more water when we are in a hot environment, being more physically active, running a fever, or experiencing diarrhea or vomiting, according to the CDC.

Talk to your health care provider if you are concerned about your water intake.

Pam Xenakis is a registered dietitian at Carroll Hospital.

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