Hydration may seem like a boring health tip, but it's a very important one. You may not realize that hydration has more health benefits than glowing skin and excellent digestive health; it's also great for many other organs and bodily functions.
"Water plays a large role in how our bodies function and the health of our metabolism," Nicole Lund, MS, RDN, a clinical nutritionist at NYU Langone’s Sports Performance Center, tells Bustle. "Hydration status can affect everything from temperature regulation and heart rate to digestion, muscle cramps, and cognitive function."
If you manage to keep a higher level of hydration for a week, you'll start to see real and tangible benefits, from your internal health to your muscular function and even your brain health.
What does that extra hydration look like, you ask? "Generally, healthy people should aim for 30-50 ounces of water, at consistent intervals throughout the day — not all at once," Dr. S. Adam Ramin MD, a urologist and medical director of Urology Cancer Specialists, tells Bustle. So if you glug a Mason jar's worth of water before you go to bed, you might quench your thirst, but you're not getting the maximum hydration your body craves.
If you're dehydrated, you'll likely know it pretty quickly — think, headaches, fatigue, and thirst — but hydration's benefits can be less obvious. Here's what you might find if you maintain excellent hydration levels for a week.
1. Your Kidneys Will Thank You
"You can think of water as the housekeeper of your kidneys," Dr. Ramin tells Bustle. "It helps them to remove waste from your bloodstream and take out the trash, in the form of urine. It also helps keep your blood vessels dilated, allowing them to nourish the kidneys with essential nutrients." Dehydration, he says, can lead to impaired kidney function and damage, and can also create kidney stones: "When urine is in concentrated form and the water intake isn’t enough to dilute it, stones can form." Hydration is a great stone-buster and also helps your kidneys to stay in excellent shape.
2. You'll Help Back Pain
You may not view your daily water intake as important to your bones, but it turns out it's pretty vital. "The muscles surrounding and benefitting our spines have an important job in how well they function," Dr. Neel Anand, a professor of orthopedic surgery and director of spine trauma at Cedars-Sinai Spine Center, tells Bustle. "Those muscles, especially after they've had a healthy dose of exercise, need care too. And the best care you can give them is hydration."
Part of the issue, he tells Bustle, is that if you don't hydrate throughout the day, you'll feel tired, particularly when you're doing exercise or intense physical activity. "When you’re fatigued, you’ll tend to slouch. This is setting you up for ... a potentially serious back injury. Plus, staying hydrated helps your joints and vertebrae stay lubricated, which is also important for injury prevention,” he says.
3. You'll Prevent UTIs
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are pretty common, but hydration can also seriously help with their prevention. "UTIs are the result of urine that has pooled in the bladder long enough to allow bacteria to grow," Dr. Ramin tells Bustle. "One surefire way to help reduce your risk of developing one is to empty the bladder more frequently. When you’re drinking an adequate amount of water, your bladder will tell you when it’s full and ready to be emptied by signaling the urge to urinate. Urinating consistently throughout the day can help flush your body of those harmful bacteria before they have a chance to become an infection."
If you have an overactive bladder and need to pee frequently, you may think restricting your hydration is a good way to help — but that actually causes problems, Dr. Ramin tells Bustle. "Not drinking enough can cause that over-concentration of urine in the bladder which can irritate the bladder — causing spasms or UTIs and making overactive symptoms worse," he says.
4. Your Exercise Performance Can Improve
Staying extra hydrated for as little as a week can help you make the most of your exercise routine. "Athletic performance can start to decline with as little as a 2 to 3% body weight loss from sweat," Lund tells Bustle. "Even in the early stages of dehydration, one can experience fatigue and diminished exercise capacity due to increased body temperature, increased respiration rate, increased pulse and increased perception of effort." Keeping your hydration levels high, however, can mean that you handle your morning jog like a boss.
5. So Will Your Mental Performance
Your brain needs hydration just as much as the rest of your body. "There is some evidence to show that being properly hydrated helps with mental clarity, memory improvement, elevated mood and increased energy," Lund tells Bustle. Research published in 2018 by the Physiological Society found that dehydration actually changes the shape of the brain, and alters the way in which brain function works — with effects on mental performance.
6. Your Sex Life Might Improve
Maintaining proper hydration levels is also important for other organs, including reproductive ones. "Being properly hydrated results in more efficient blood flow throughout the entire body," Dr. Ramin tells Bustle. "Being properly hydrated is essential in keeping the vagina lubricated during sex. Dehydration can reduce that lubrication which can result in painful intercourse." Better blood flow and more lubrication result in more arousal and better sex — a win-win.
7. It's Great For Your Joint Health
Hydration, Lund says, has been found to have very positive effects for joint health. Specifically, it helps with "lubrication of joints", the process with which the body helps cushion joints so bones don't come into contact and cause pain. Joints are cushioned by synovial fluid, and water is one of its main ingredients — so the more hydrated you are, the more lubricated and protected your joints are. That's a recipe for more pain-free exercise and movement.
A proper amount of hydration over the course of the day can help you flourish, internally and externally. Just make sure you don't overdo it, and don't drink so much that you feel ill; over-hydrating can cause you discomfort, as well.