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Published May 17, 2012, 11:30 PM

Water you thinking? What you may not realize about dehydration

FARGO - Stacy Bender had been drinking three cans of Coke a day, but she switched to water in April and is now off of her blood pressure medication, she said. Nathan Faleide quit drinking pop or concentrated sugar drinks three years ago and dropped 35 pounds, he said.

By: Tracy Frank, INFORUM

FARGO - Stacy Bender had been drinking three cans of Coke a day, but she switched to water in April and is now off of her blood pressure medication, she said.

Nathan Faleide quit drinking pop or concentrated sugar drinks three years ago and dropped 35 pounds, he said.

Sarah Jelinek sleeps better, feels better and her moods are better since giving up diet soda in favor of water, she said.

Matt Sargent lost 40 pounds, has more energy and doesn’t get sick anymore since replacing soft drinks and coffee with water, he said.

They’ve all found water makes quite the splash when it comes to living a healthier life.

The amount of water people need daily depends on several factors, including health status, environmental conditions and activity level, doctors says.

Doctors say women generally need 90 to 100 ounces of fluids a day, and men need 120 to 130 ounces.

Pregnant and nursing mothers also need to increase their fluid intake, says Dr. Kinsey Nelson, a family medicine physician with Essentia Health in Fargo and Essentia Health Clinic in Moorhead.

About 20 percent of a person’s fluid needs come from food, says Thayne Munce, associate director with the National Institute for Athletic Health & Performance at Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Nelson says most people tend to take in the bare minimum amount of fluids their bodies need.

“But as far as the ideal amount, probably the majority of my patients don’t drink enough fluids,” he says.

Water makes up about 60 percent of our body weight and every system in our bodies depends on water, according to Mayo Clinic. Water flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to our cells and protects body organs and tissues, Mayo’s website states.

You know you’re taking in enough fluids if you rarely feel thirsty and your urine is light yellow to almost colorless, Nelson said.

Mild dehydration can cause headaches and leave a person feeling tired, Munce said. If you lose more than 5 to 8 percent of your body’s water, critical functions can start to become impaired, he says.

“Water is critical for every single system within our bodies and almost every function of our body,” Munce says.

Severe enough dehydration can be fatal, he says.

Sargent of Fargo was feeling worn out and tired all the time and was about to see a doctor about it when he decided to switch from soft drinks and coffee to water following the advice of a friend on the Atkins diet.

“I also have a history of diabetes in the family,” he says. “My mom got it at age 40, and she wasn’t that big at about 120 pounds. I am 37 now and did not want help nature out.”

Even if people are getting enough fluids, they might not be drinking the right kinds, Nelson says.

“You’ll see people who are drinking six Diet Cokes or Cokes a day, and that’s really unhealthy,” he says. “That’s not the way you want to get your fluid intake.”

While it is possible to get adequate fluids from beverages like soda, it’s definitely not the best choice, doctors say.

“It’s a little bit slower to absorb and you get all the extra calories,” Munce says. “Some people are salt sensitive and having the added sodium that you get in pop or other types of fluids can make that issue worse.”

Studies have shown even people who drink calorie-free diet soda have higher rates of obesity and health issues like type 2 diabetes than those who just drink water, Nelson says.

“Just because a pop is diet doesn’t mean it’s OK,” he says.

Jelinek of Fargo used to drink four to six cans of pop a day, she says.

“I was addicted to Diet Sunkist. After realizing what drinking diet sodas can do to your body over the long term, I decided it was time to stop,” she says. “For me it was one of the best changes I have made in my life.”

She lost 10 pounds the first week she replaced soda with water, she says. Jelinek still drinks an occasional soft drink, but it’s never more than one or two a week, she says.

“I don’t miss it,” she says. “My wallet sure likes that I am not having to buy cases of soft drinks anymore.”

She also finds herself eating less and doesn’t crave sugar anymore, she says.

“I wish I would have done this a lot sooner,” Jelinek says.

Before canning the habit, Faleide of Fargo would also drink three to five sodas a day. He lost 35 pounds after replacing pop with water, he says.

“Considering half of my diet (consisted) of sugar, it shows how much weight you can lose by cutting out concentrated sugar drinks alone,” he said.

When he stopped drinking soda, he also found that he would eat smaller portions.

He feels better, is able to exercise harder and longer, and it’s a lot easier to fall asleep at night, he says.

“With all that sugar and caffeine, it would take me as long as an hour or more to fall asleep,” he says.

Drinking water can also decrease the chances of recurring urinary tract infections and help prevent kidney stone formation, Nelson says.

A few years ago Bender, who grew up in Grand Forks and now lives in Minneapolis, struggled with kidney stones. She says her doctor analyzed one and found it was made almost entirely of phosphorous – a chemical found in most soft drinks.

“His suggestion: No more Coke. Drink more water,” she says.

Check with your physician

There are some health conditions like congestive heart failure, and some kidney and liver diseases and endocrine disorders in which a person shouldn’t take in too many fluids, says Thayne Munce, associate director with the National Institute for Athletic Health & Performance at Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, S.D.

It is also possible to drink too much water. A condition called hyponatremia happens when you dilute your blood of electrolytes, particularly sodium, Munce says.

“That causes shifts of fluids throughout your body that are unwanted,” he says.

It’s a dangerous condition, but it’s also uncommon, Munce says.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526

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