Water is an important natural resource, a vital nutrient necessary for human survival. We lose water each day through urine, sweat, respiration, and feces making it extremely important to replenish your internal water on a daily basis. It is important to consume enough water to maintain the proper function of your organs and overall health.­­­

The adage of consuming 8 glasses of water each day, may not hold up in recent scientific studies; one’s daily requirement for water is unique. Some populations such as the elderly, lactating women and children are more susceptible to dehydration. Your hydration needs will depend on your alcohol and caffeine intake; environmental conditions; physical activity level and current state of health.

The Dangers of Dehydration

The World Health Organization describes dehydration as an adverse consequence of inadequate water intake. A 10% loss in body water is life threatening. Other known symptoms of dehydration of varying degrees include headache, dry mouth, poor concentration, and difficulty regulating your body temperature. Heat stroke and exhaustion are major health risks in the summer months, especially for children and adults over the age of 65 who have a difficult time adjusting to temperature changes. Dehydration is cumulative. Therefore, to prevent heat related illnesses, prepare your body by maintaining good water intake on the days leading up to your outdoor summer activities. Seek shade or an air conditioned environment on hot, humid days and stay hydrated with cool water while limiting the diuretic effects of alcohol and caffeine.

How Much Water is Enough?

The amount of water you should consume is a point of confusion for many as there are a multitude of factors that determine an individual’s water needs. In my practice, I help patients estimate how much water to consume on a daily basis in a number of ways. First, I measure body weight in pounds and divide this number in half. This is an estimation of the amount of water in ounces required for consumption in one day. For example, a healthy 128 pound woman needs 64 ounces or approximately 8 cups per day. Secondly, I look at dietary sources of water coming from food and other beverages. For example, if the 128 pound woman above consumed 1 cup of non-caffeinated tea per day it would count as water.

Signs of Dehydration

It is important to look for signs of dehydration which are arguably more important than any calculation. For example, acute illnesses and environmental changes may increase or decrease your water needs from day-to-day. By late afternoon, the colour of your urine stream should be clear or a light yellow colour; an important sign that you’ve had enough water. Conversely, if your urine is dark, this is a hallmark sign that you are dehydrated. I also check skin turgor to assess for dehydration in my patients; you can try this at home. First, pinch the skin on the back of your hand between two fingers for a few seconds so that the skin is tented up. Your skin should quickly snap back into its normal position. If your skin remains elevated, you are most likely dehydrated. An overall decrease in urine output, dry mouth and thirst are also signs of dehydration.

When to Make the Switch: Water Vs. Sport Beverages

The current recommendation for rehydration during exercise is to drink 1 cup of water every 20 minutes. However, I often get the question about when it is appropriate to hydrate using an electrolyte replacement or sports drink over just plain water. Sports drinks are not always necessary; however, there are some specific situations where a sports beverage is warranted such as heavy physical activity lasting for more than 1 hour or exercise in warm weather. In these cases a natural electrolyte replacement is essential to help replace the electrolytes lost through sweat, which will help you to rehydrate faster. However, beware of sports drinks that are loaded with sugar, artificial sweeteners and food colouring. Read your labels and opt for a beverage that contains less than 10 grams of sugar per serving.

Summer is here and now you have all the necessary tools to stay hydrated while enjoying your outdoor activities. Drink up!

Editors note: If you’re having trouble drinking enough water and want to add a little flavor to your glass, try these great water infusion recipes from the Bell Lifestyle Kitchen!

About the Author

Dr. Olivia Rose graduated from the University of Guelph with a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Nutritional and Nutraceutical Sciences and in 2006, she graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine.

In addition to her private practice, Dr. Rose is the director of Fertility Acupuncture Services, a mobile service that brings acupuncture to couples undergoing in vitro fertilization and intrauterine insemination at Toronto fertility clinics. Her special areas of interest include infertility; children and teen health; stress management; weight loss; heart disease; digestive and immune health; skin rejuvenation and pain management. She is a birth doula and has additional training in cosmetic acupuncture and needle-less therapies for skin rejuvenation and joint pain.

Dr. Rose is a sought-after lecturer for community organizations; a freelance writer and mentor to new graduates. She has been interviewed by various media outlets including Global Toronto’s, “The Morning Show”, “News at Noon” and “News Hour”. In her free time, she unplugs at the spa and she enjoys spending quality time with her husband, son and tea-cup Yorkie. For more information on Dr. Rose's practice and special events, please visit -