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Should we really drink a gallon of water?

Driving to work in the morning, I often hear the recommendation to drink a gallon of water on the radio, and I want to shout NO, NO, NO. A gallon of water is too much unless you are a roofer in the Florida sun.

two roofers working on a lumber roof

Many people are under the impression water is harmless and good for you. Excess water may lead to hyponatremia, which is low sodium and can lead to fatigue, drowsiness, and even death. Have you ever wondered why they stopped having contests to see who can drink the most water? Exactly, they had contestants end up in the hospital.

Stress incontinence involves urine leakage during coughing, sneezing, and jumping. While it may seem similar to the effects of excessive fluid intake and incomplete bladder emptying, the latter situation results from bladder retention leading to an overflow of urine, requiring a distinctly different treatment approach. Typically, when the bladder holds about 500-600 ml (over 2 cups), nearly double the usual capacity for women, preventing leakage during sudden movements or when experiencing increased abdominal pressure becomes challenging.

There is a bigger problem, though; the person who has been forcing herself to drink large amounts of water has trained to ignore the urge to go to the bathroom. At a certain point, the bladder becomes so full it automatically eliminates, without any warning, and often at unmanageable times, such as in the middle of a store.

The daily fluid intake for the average woman should be approximately 2700 ml (91 ounces), which is about 11 and a half cups from all beverages and foods.

The 11-and-a-half cups include fluid from fruits and vegetables and all other foods. The truth is that liquids do not have to be pushed unless it is warm and we evaporate substantially or are physically active.

According to the Institute of Medicine, most healthy people adequately meet their daily hydration needs by letting thirst guide them. One exception to that rule is our senior population since the thirst guide also tends to be aging. So, for all over 80, remember a 6 oz glass of water (your bladder tolerating volume has also diminished) before breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

About 80 percent of people’s total water intake comes from drinking water and beverages; the other 20 percent is from food.

Drinking eight cups of fluid daily is close to the recommended amount since we will get more than 2 cups from our food. If you only drink water, you should drink up to eight glasses. Most of us will add fluid with some coffee or tea intake.

a glass of water with a blured background

Prolonged physical activity and heat exposure will increase water losses and may raise daily fluid needs. It is essential to note excessive amounts can be life-threatening or may ruin your bladder.

The eight glasses of water rule made famous by Weight Watchers makes some sense if drinking water replaces a higher calorie choice. In the popular press and on the radio, it has changed into, “You need to drink at least eight glasses of water,” or worse, drink a gallon, not counting all the other fluid sources.

I have found it very difficult to convince some women it will be better for their health to stop excessive water intake. “My doctor always tells me I am dehydrated.” Your labs are checked after an overnight fast, which does not imply you are usually dehydrated.

Remember, the eight cups include coffee, tea, and other beverages. If you are constantly thirsty, some lemon can be added to the water to make it less palatable, or you can drink carbonated water, making it more difficult to drink in large quantities.

Another argument I often hear is, ” It flushes everything out.” Exactly why would you want to drink so much? It inhibits the absorption of vitamins and minerals.

Some diseases make you want to drink more, such as diabetes mellitus (problems with insulin and sugar metabolism) and diabetes insipidus (lack of fluid concentrating ability). It is always essential to ensure that none of these diseases are the reason for the desire to take in excessive fluid.

No study proves you live longer and healthier if you push your water intake to the limit. You are making a healthier choice if you drink water instead of soda. Otherwise, stick to the recommendation of the Institute of Medicine and let thirst be your Guide.

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