Are you Drinking Enough Water? The 8X8 Myth

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Have you had your 8 glasses of water today? Well, you can put that bottle down and save yourself another trip to the restroom. You probably DO get enough to drink.

Unfortunately, an offhand statement, possibly even by a doctor, has grown into an oft-quoted and universally-believed “rule”: drink eight 8-ounce bottles of water every day – whether you’re thirsty or not – or you will become dehydrated. It probably went something like “you should drink enough water to stay healthy.” From there, it blossomed further; Most Americans are chronically dehydrated. Dehydration is a common cause of memory problems. Water can cure cancer… the list goes on. And somewhere along the way, the 8X8 part popped up, causing people to start toting plastic bottles along with them wherever they go, trying gamely to gulp down enough each day to hold off all sorts of health problems.

Not surprisingly, the places where you are most likely to find this “fact” is in advertisements for… wait for it… bottled water.

Yes, water is good for you, and not only good, but necessary. But you don’t need to be, well – swimming in it – to benefit. You probably drink enough. If you rarely feel thirsty, you – ahem – visit the lavatory regularly, and your urine is colorless or slightly yellow, you aren’t dehydrated. (Of course, if you’re concerned that you might be dehydrated, talk to a doctor.)

In a report by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, people get enough water from all beverages and foods, not just water. About 80 percent of people’s total water comes from drinking water and beverages (including caffeinated beverages ) and the other 20 percent comes from food. The study added that people who are physically active and those who live in hot climates need more water. These people tend to get enough water… because they’re more thirsty. The conclusion is, people get enough water from normal drinking behavior.

The Centers for disease Control and Prevention urge people to drink adequate water, but don’t name an amount. “Under normal conditions, most people can drink enough fluids to meet their water needs.” They do say that it’s better to get your fluid from non-sugared sources. Limit your intake of fruit drinks, sugared sports drinks, and sugared soft drinks and sodas. Caffeine is okay, too. just realize that you’ll want to drink more to make up for it. The only exception is if you’re drinking alcohol. More than one drink can cause noticeable dehydration, according to doctors.

So, where did this myth come from? Well… no one knows, actually. According to Snopes.com, “some say the number was derived from fluid intake measurements taken decades ago among hospital patients on IVs; others say it’s … a convenient reference point, especially for those who are prone to dehydration, such as many elderly people.” It might even be an estimate of the absolute minimum a World War II soldier needed each day while in combat. Wow. I haven’t worked as hard as a WWII soldier recently, especially considering the gear they had to schlep around. Believe it or not, though, medical experts still quote this amount, without knowing its source. It’s even found on mayo clinic.com.

Is it possible to drink TOO MUCH water? Not likely. If you manage to drink your “8X8” in the course of the day, it shouldn’t hurt you. You’ll just see a lot more of the inside of the restroom. But it can be done. It’s called hyponatremia, or water intoxication A California woman recently died after a (water) drinking contest. She was hoping to “hold her wee” to win the prize, a Wii video game. Of course, such an event is the exception, not the rule.

So, relax. Don’t feel bad if you were taken in by this myth. Most people believe it; even some doctors. Just go get a glass of water… if you’re thirsty.

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