How Much Water Do You Really Need?

By Max Stanley Chartrand, Ph.D. (Behavioral Medicine)


Simple, uncomplicated semi-dehydration is something seen more and more today in the U.S., especially in those over 60 years of age. Too often, one's list of health conditions and medications can almost be named just by knowing how much water one drinks per day.

Conversely, something as simple as increasing one's daily water intake may have dramatically positive effects toward reducing a number of health symptoms that are caused by long-term semi-dehydration. Some of these are: ADH-inspired sodium concentrations, high cellular acid levels, high blood pressure and excessive cholesterol.

Where the confusion comes in is in how much water one should drink daily. Some textbooks recommend a gallon per day. Others are silent on the subject. The chart to the right is a result of years of research on the topic. It is based on body weight and activity levels. However, actual amounts may vary according to individual body chemistry, medications, and certain health conditions.

As you'll note, the average adult needs about one gallon of water each day to maintain adequate blood volume, normal pH, and optimal kidney function. Instead, I would estimate that the average older adult drinks between 1 to 2 pints less than their body requires. This can set off a terrible chain reaction that can dramatically change a perfectly healthy individual into a medication-intensive patient. Let's review what happens when one drinks a mere 16 oz. less water daily than the body requires:

• Blood volume (BV) begins to fall, and in response the pituitary gland secretes Anti-Diuretic Hormone (ADH).
• ADH causes the kidneys to hold sodium (rather than excrete it) and blood pressure to rise (even in those who normally have low blood pressure).
• The doctor puts them on a diuretic (to offset ADH) to lower their blood pressure, often causing a collapse of their micro-circulatory system (cold feet & hands are a common side-effect of medicalizing a hydration issue).
• The body's cellular pH begins to fall below 7.35 (the slightly alkaline state that keeps good cells healthy & bad cells from growing). Below 7.0, comes acidosis.
• With acidosis, triglycerides rise, followed raised LDL and lower HDL levels for which anti-cholesterol statin drugs are then erroneously prescribed.
• After years of chronic semi-dehydration, arterio-sclerosis—evidenced by a type of calcium plaque on the eardrums—develops. (Cholesterol can only stick to calcium plaques on the blood vessels).
• Eventually, one finds themselves with a long list of medications (hypertension, acid reflux, osteoarthritis/ osteoporosis, cholesterol, and, in a growing number of cases, non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus II.

Now, when a dehydrated individual begins drinking the proper amount of water, what then? Well, the vicious cycle I've just described does not reverse over night. In fact, it requires about 3-4 weeks of adequate hydration before the pituitary gland stops secreting ADH.

When that happens, it takes another week or so for the body to rid itself of excess sodium. If one is taking a diuretic during these changes, blood pressure may fall quickly. It is incumbent to report any sudden changes in blood pressure to your doctor for possible adjustments.

As pH rises, cholesterol levels & acid reflux resolves. Continuing on medications for these conditions can result in muscle wasting, indigestion, freezing feet, and serious nutritional deficiencies. Medication side-effects should immediately be reported to one's physician.

Moreover, it's so vital to listen to one's body, giving it what it needs to maintain function and health, while avoiding substances that poison it, such as tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine. These substances not only cause the above-mentioned health problems, but also increased hearing problems, tinnitus (ringing of the ears), and, in some cases, chronic balance problems. The current societal trend of steadily increased caffeine intake is especially at root to a number of health issues, including dehydration, acidosis, insomnia, and adrenal depletion.

As a physician once noted, "Water is the cheapest medicine there is. It has no side-effects, and in sufficient quantity, it can often reduce the need for medication."