The Importance of Hydration for Wellbeing - Two glasses of water on table

The Importance of Hydration for Wellbeing

Kristen Peairs
December 27, 2022
November 28, 2022

This blog post was written by Kristen Peairs, Nutritionist and Meditation Guru at Nivati. You can see more of their content on the Nivat platform and on the Nivati blog. If you want to learn more about Nivati, click here

While you may know that hydration is important, do you know why it’s important? I didn’t. Not really. Quite a bit of reading and research later, I can say I am now saturated with knowledge about the importance of hydration for health. 

Here’s what I learned about hydration for health.

The human body is about 60% water. All body functions are facilitated by fluids. These fluids are primarily composed of water. Nutrients travel to and from cells through fluid. Waste products leave cells and travel out of the body through fluids. The whole body maintains metabolic balance for optimal functioning through the medium of fluid.

When the body does not have adequate fluid, it becomes dehydrated. In simple terms, when there is not enough fluid in the body, the body has a harder time doing everything from moving nutrients to removing toxins to thinking clearly. 

The degrees and consequences of dehydration vary. Severe dehydration can lead to death. In summary, staying hydrated is very important for maintaining optimal health.

Is drinking water good for mental health?

Optimal health includes mental health. Hydration is important for mental health. In her book, “This is Your Brain on Food,” Uma Naidoo, MD, cites that “some of her patients experience worsening anxiety or even full-blown panic attacks when they become dehydrated.” It makes sense that if the body becomes dehydrated, thoughts and feelings will also be affected. After all, the brain is, on average, 73% water. Research on hydration for mental health is still in its infancy. Some studies show a decline in short-term memory, visual perception, and mood regulation with dehydration. Others do not. It’s important to pay attention to your own experience with hydration. Run your own experiments. When you are feeling anxious, moody, or unfocused, take a moment to reflect on how much you have or have not been hydrating. If you haven’t been hydrating, reach toward a source of hydration and notice what shifts.

Is water the only way to stay hydrated?

No. While most people think of drinking water to maintain hydration, fluid from fruits, vegetables, meat, juice, coffee, soda pop, and milk, are also valuable for satiating a thirsty body.

However, just because fluid is present in what we consume doesn’t mean that we will become optimally hydrated. We also need glucose and electrolytes. Glucose is a simple form of sugar. Our bodies need glucose in order to absorb the fluid and the electrolytes. Electrolytes are ions. These ions carry a positive or negative charge which help our bodies maintain internal equilibrium. Sodium, calcium, potassium, chloride, phosphate, and magnesium are all electrolytes. Hydration status and electrolyte concentration go hand in hand. In a healthy body, an excess of fluid or electrolytes is excreted through the urine. 

When is hydration especially important?

Hydration is especially important when we are sick, pregnant, physically active, and/or living in an extreme climate. In these situations, sweating is frequently present. With sweating, both fluids and electrolytes leave the body, and therefore, need replacedreplacing. In these cases, drinking a fluid that contains electrolytes is essential. Also, remember glucose is helpful for optimal fluid and electrolyte absorption, so a fluid that contains glucose and electrolytes is best in physically stressful situations.

What are the best electrolyte-containing fluids?

Fluids that naturally contain a little glucose, as well as electrolytes, are the most hydrating. 

Fruits and vegetables naturally contain glucose and electrolytes. 

  1. For optimizing everyday hydration, water that contains a few fruit and/or veggie slices can be a step up from drinking plain water. 
  2. For times of stress from illness, activity, or climate, coconut water is an excellent choice. 

What about sports drinks? 

In general, sports drinks are filled with unnecessary ingredients. If you want to drink a sports drink, choose drinks that have glucose (up to about 21 g/20 oz fluid) along with the electrolytes. Avoid sports drinks that contain caffeine, colors, fake sugars, preservatives, and artificial flavors. 

How to make your own electrolyte drink.

You can make your own sports drink very easily. Mix 12 oz water with 1/8 tsp salt and 8 oz fruit juice. That’s it. You can adjust the salt and juice ratios to suit your taste and hydration needs.

Are additional electrolytes always necessary?

No, additional electrolytes in the fluids we consume are not always necessary. When we’re eating a diet well-balanced with fruits, veggies, and a variety of other foods and not under stress due to illness, pregnancy, activity, or environmental extremes, we have plenty of available glucose, potassium, and salt already in our bodies. In these cases, plain old water is perfectly good for adequate hydration.

Doesn’t being thirsty tell us when we need to drink?

Not always. When we are thirsty, we definitely should drink, however, sometimes we become distracted with life and miss when our bodies send thirst signals. Other times, if we are very young (like children), we may not recognize what the sensation of thirst is. If we are very old, we may not drink due to cognitive decline or health issues that make going to the bathroom physically uncomfortable. 

How much fluid do we really need?

The amount of fluid we need varies according to body type, health status, activity level, and climate

An easy way to know if we are consuming enough fluid is to look at the color of our urine. 

The urine of a well-hydrated person will be nearly clear or pale yellow. The more dehydrated the person, the darker in color the urine will be.

For a very general numerical idea of how much fluid to consume, The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined the amount of fluid to we need to drink each day is

  • About 12 cups for men
  • About 8 cups for women

These numbers account for the 20% of fluid we consume through eating. Notice that height, weight, activity level, climate, and health status are not accounted for in these recommendations. These numbers provide a very general baseline that we can use as a place to start figuring out our own unique fluid needs.

Learning about your body’s needs for hydration is a journey. It will take trial and error. As long as you’re focusing on it, in time, you will arrive at where you need to be.


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Kristen Peairs
Kristen Peairs
Kristen Peairs is a Registered Dietitian, Licensed Massage Therapist, and Professional Educator. Throughout her 20-year career, she has worked with many people suffering from a diversity of chronic health conditions. Understanding how food affects the brain and the whole body has been a key factor in the success of her healing strategies. At Nivati, she has researched, written, and filmed over 100 health and wellness videos for their content library. Kristen is currently writing a cookbook for people living with food allergies and intolerances.