Do we really need to stay hydrated?

by Dr. S. Russell Vester, MD 2. August 2013 14:37

Hydration. A word derived from the Greek root “hydro” which means “water.” We seem to be a nation obsessed with being hydrated or, more plainly, well-watered. Frankly, I never used the term until I was in medical school. Now you hear people talking about their state of hydration all the time. I can remember when people were just thirsty. Why is this? How does hydration relate to our cardiovascular health or our health in general? Does this obsession with being well-watered have any merit?

 

I’ll tell you what got me going on this topic. I was recently on vacation with my family. One of the days was grey with off and on drizzle. Not a great day for playing on the lake up in northern Wisconsin. As a result we decided to go on an excursion to see some nearby attractions. We piled into the van and headed off to see the not yet famous Potato River Falls.

The Potato River Falls are just a few mile south of the southern border of Lake Superior. To reach it, your final road is about two miles of gravel. There is a unisex/handicapped outhouse (is there any other kind?) at the small parking area. A reasonable set of wooden stairs (131 according to my children) leads down to the falls and then you need to climb down a fairly rough trail to reach the falls. The falls themselves are pretty cool. The water coming over them is clear but light brown from the large amount of iron it picks up from the mineral deposits of iron known to be in this area. During our short hike up and down the edge of the falls I came across exactly 4 pieces of litter, which I picked up. I’m going to resist getting going about what I think about people who litter. We’ll leave it at disgraceful. What was notable was that the litter I picked up consisted of one half empty 10 ounce bottle of “Bug Juice”, an empty 20 ounce bottle of Aquafina brand water, the label off an Ice Mountain bottle of water and the label off a bottle of Gatorade.

All the litter was from some type of liquid its original owner felt compelled to carry along with them during their visit to the falls edge. Now my family and I covered the falls pretty thoroughly and we were back in the van in about 45 minutes. When we got back we were a bit sweaty but we weren’t dying of thirst. We actually didn’t have anything to drink for another half hour or so until we stopped to buy gas.

So what motivated my fellow hikers to tote along some reservoir of liquid to help prevent them from falling over the clearly-feared precipice of dehydration? Clearly these folks feared dehydration more than what to me was the much greater risk of falling while climbing down to the falls edge where using two hands was certainly a benefit. From the point of view of our bodies’ health, do we really need to keep our circulating blood volume absolutely topped up all the time? My next blog will have the answer.

 

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