Eat right and exercise: these are widely known as two pillars of good health. Added to those are getting quality sleep and maintaining low stress levels—as well as keeping the body hydrated. Up to 60 percent of your physical makeup is water. It nourishes every cell. It is also crucial for preventing many common conditions, including inflammation. So, daily hydration does much more than ward off thirst.
Inflammation is defined as the body’s reaction to potential harm. It is an immune system response to invaders such as bacteria, viruses, toxins, or traumatic injury. There are two types of inflammation: acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is a reaction to an immediate threat, such as the prick of a thorn or a bump to the elbow that results in pain, swelling, and other short-term symptoms. Chronic inflammation, however, is longer lasting and can be caused by anything from allergies to a poor diet to autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis. It can also lead to serious health issues.
Doctors have turned to antioxidants, steroids, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen as the gold standard for addressing inflammation. But there is growing evidence of another easy treatment: water. Staying hydrated may be one of the best ways to prevent and treat chronic inflammation. Much like water escorts waste out of the body, if also aids in flushing out toxins and other irritants, thus decreasing the body’s immune response.
Arthritis sufferers will be glad to know that hydration is especially beneficial in easing joint pain. The body uses water to produce the fluid that lubricates joints. When water is in short supply elsewhere internally, it is routed away from the joints, leaving toxins behind. These toxins can then build up in the surrounding tissue and cause a range of symptoms, including pain and swelling.
Evidence is also building that chronic inflammation may be a factor in heart disease and stroke. When plaque builds up in blood vessels, the body views it as a foreign invader. To protect the rest of the vessel, it creates blood clots. Clots that block an artery to the heart can lead to a heart attack. Clots that block an artery to the brain can cause a stroke.
Seniors are at particular risk for dehydration, as it is believed the body becomes less sensitive to thirst signals as it ages. In addition, many of the early signs of dehydration—such as fatigue, dizziness, dry mouth, and muscle cramps—are often attributed to other conditions or confused with side effects from medication. showed that 37 percent of those 65 or older admitted to emergency rooms showed signs of dehydration.
Prevent Inflammation: Tips to Stay Hydrated
While water needs vary from person to person, the generally agreed-upon amount is eight 8-ounce glasses per day. And it doesn’t have to be plain water. The water content in milk, juice, and herbal teas counts toward the daily goal. Eating foods with high water content can also help, such as cucumbers, celery, lettuce, strawberries, and of course, watermelon. Here’s what else you can do:
- Sip fluid throughout the day, whether or not you feel thirsty.
- Carry a refillable water bottle wherever you go.
- Drink a glass of water before every meal and first thing upon waking.
- Consider flavoring your water with fresh fruit or herbs.
Cumberland Village recognizes that many factors contribute to good health. Diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management, as well as proper hydration, all help you to maintain a strong body and keep inflammation at bay. So, grab a water bottle and drink to your health!