Cartilage, found in joints and the disks of the spine, contains around 80 percent water. Long-term dehydration can reduce the joints’ shock-absorbing ability, leading to joint pain.
2. It forms saliva and mucus
Saliva helps us digest our food and keeps the mouth, nose, and eyes moist. This prevents friction and damage. Drinking water also keeps the mouth clean. Consumed instead of sweetened beverages, it can also reduce tooth decay.
3. It delivers oxygen throughout the body
Blood is more than 90 percent water, and blood carries oxygen to different parts of the body.
4. It boosts skin health and beauty
With dehydration, the skin can become more vulnerable to skin disorders and premature wrinkling.
5. It cushions the brain, spinal cord, and other sensitive tissues
Dehydration can affect brain structure and function. It is also involved in the production of hormones and neurotransmitters. Prolonged dehydration can lead to problems with thinking and reasoning.
6. It regulates body temperature
Water that is stored in the middle layers of the skin comes to the skin’s surface as sweat when the body heats up. As it evaporates, it cools the body. In sport.
Some scientists have suggested thatTrusted Source when there is too little water in the body, heat storage increases and the individual is less able to tolerate heat strain.
Having a lot of water in the body may reduce physical strain if heat stress occurs during exercise. However, more research is needed into these effects.
7, The digestive system depends on it
The bowel needs water to work properly. Dehydration can lead to digestive problems, constipation, and an overly acidic stomach. This increases the risk of heartburn and stomach ulcers.
8. It flushes body waste
Water is needed in the processes of sweating and removal of urine and feces.
9. It helps maintain blood pressure
A lack of water can cause blood to become thicker, increasing blood pressure.
10. The airways need it
When dehydrated, airways are restricted by the body in an effort to minimize water loss. This can make asthma and allergies worse.
11. It makes minerals and nutrients accessible
These dissolve in water, which makes it possible for them to reach different parts of the body.
12. It prevents kidney damage
The kidneys regulate fluid in the body. Insufficient water can lead to kidney stones and other problems.
13. It boosts performance during exercise
Some scientists have proposed that consuming more water might enhance performance during strenuous activity.
More research is needed to confirm this, but one review found that dehydration reduces performance in activities lasting longer than 30 minutes.
14. Weight loss
Water may also help with weight loss, if it is consumed instead of sweetened juices and sodas. “Preloading” with water before meals can help prevent overeating by creating a sense of fullness.
15. It reduces the chance of a hangover
When partying, unsweetened soda water with ice and lemon alternated with alcoholic drinks can help prevent overconsumption of alcohol.
If infections spread to the upper urinary tract, including the kidneys, permanent damage can result. Sudden, or acute, kidney infections can be life-threatening, particularly if septicemia occurs.
Drinking plenty of water is a simple way to reduce the risk of developing a UTI and to help treat an existing UTI.
Kidney stones interfere with how the kidneys work. When present, can complicate UTIs. These complicated UTIs tend to require longer periods of antibiotics to treat them, typically lasting 7 to 14 days.
The leading cause of kidney stones is a lack of water. People who report them often do not drink the recommended daily amount of water. Kidney stones may also increase the risk of chronic kidney disease.
In November 2014, the American College of Physicians issued new guidelinesTrusted Source for people who have previously developed kidney stones. The guidelines state that increasing fluid intake to enable 2 liters of urination a day could decrease the risk of stone recurrence by at least half with no side effects.
Dehydration happens if we use and lose more water than the body takes in. It can lead to an imbalance in the body’s electrolytes. Electrolytes, such as potassium, phosphate, and sodium, help carry electrical signals between cells. The kidneys keep the levels of electrolytes in the body stable when they function properly.
When the kidneys are unable to maintain a balance in the levels of electrolytes, these electrical signals become mixed up. This can lead to seizures, involving involuntary muscle movements and loss of consciousness.
When asked for their secret to flawless skin, many celebrities — including Jennifer Aniston, Gabrielle Union, and Beyoncé — claim that it has to do with their water intake. And although scientific research has established that hydration is a crucial part of maintaining overall health, you may be wondering: Can you really hydrate your way to healthy skin?
The Potential Link Between Drinking Water and Improving Skin
Although you’ve probably heard that swigging H2O can give you glowing, clear skin, robust scientific evidence behind this notion is lacking. One small study published in 2015 in Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology did suggest a relationship between hydration and skin health, though. Specifically, researchers found that in individuals with low daily water consumption — that is, those who were dehydrated to begin with — increasing water intake had a positive effect on skin appearance and helped maintain skin hydration levels.
But, the study notes, if you’re already well hydrated, drinking to a point beyond a balanced level of hydration may not have any additional impact. “Excessive hydration is unlikely to benefit the skin,” says Kathleen C. Suozzi, MD, director of aesthetic dermatology at Yale Medicine and assistant professor at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut. The skin is “hydrated” from the inside out by pulling fluid from the capillary blood flow in the skin, she explains, but if there isn’t enough water to pull from — say, if you’re dehydrated — skin can effectively dry out.
All the same, dermatologists including Dr. Suozzi say it makes sense to feature water in your healthy-skin routine.
“Skin hydration is a reflection of total-body hydration,” Suozzi says. “If a person is dehydrated, there is less water being transferred to the skin from the circulation.”
Debra Jaliman, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, adds that getting enough water can improve blood flow in the skin and body. She notes that the body’s cells and tissues are mostly comprised of water. “It’s important to stay hydrated,” adds Dr. Jaliman, who is also an assistant professor of dermatology Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and author of the book, Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist. “If you feel thirsty, that’s your body asking for water. Drink enough water throughout the day that your body doesn’t get a chance to feel dehydrated.”
Beyoncé and Union claim a gallon of water a day keeps skin dryness away (and, as Suozzi points out, maybe you’ve spotted those huge water bottles on Instagram that seem to promote “super hydration”). But drinking this much water is likely unnecessary.
Suozzi says about 13 cups of water for men and 9 cups of water for women represents adequate fluid intake, as outlined by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. But “if a person has a lot of transepidermal water loss from sweat or heat, then this requirement increases,” she points out. Transepidermal water loss refers to water lost through the skin.
Other dietary factors, such as caffeinated beverages or water-rich foods, can also influence the body’s hydration levels. Generally, though, you want to aim for the aforementioned net intake, give or take a glass or two.
Drinking too much water may result in water intoxication, a rare effect, per a past article. When there is too much water in the body, salts and electrolytes become too diluted, causing a condition called hyponatremia, Medline Plus notes. “Excessive fluid intake can put a strain on the kidneys, which is the body’s filtration organ,” Suozzi says.
To improve your body’s hydration levels (and thus your skin’s), follow these expert-backed strategies.
Eat Your Water
When it comes to crushing your hydration goals, it can help to add foods high in water to your plate. (Not sure where to start? Try cucumbers, celery, zucchini, watermelon, strawberries and cauliflower, per the Cleveland Clinic.)
Limit Alcohol and Sweets
“Alcohol dehydrates your body and skin,” Jaliman says. This can make the skin look more wrinkled and dry. Many mixed drinks that contain alcohol are also loaded with sugar, which she notes will also “wreak havoc” on your skin. “People shouldn’t indulge in too many sugary sweets,” she notes, explaining that sugar stiffens collagen via a process called glycation, which ages the skin. “Too much sugar flares inflammation if you’re prone to inflammatory skin conditions such as psoriasis and can lead to inflammation. It can aggravate conditions such as acne, rosacea, and eczema.”
“When topical products called humectants are applied to the skin, they can be absorbed and pull in water,” Suozzi explains. Hyaluronic acid, a common skin-care ingredient, is one example of a humectant. Suozzi adds that emollients like creams and ointments help retain moisture by reducing fluid loss in the protective outermost layer of the skin.
Exfoliate Your Skin
It might sound counterintuitive, but the process “gets rid of dead skin and allows skin-care products to penetrate more efficiently,” Jaliman explains. “Many think it can leave your skin too dry, but that’s only when someone exfoliates too often, which can end up irritating your skin.” The American Academy of Dermatology notes that red, irritated skin after exfoliation may suggest overexfoliation. Work with your dermatologist to identify the right type and frequency of exfoliation for your skin.
Add a Serum
Post-exfoliation, using a good serum will also help with the hydration process. She suggests trying Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair, a “great serum” boasting three active ingredients: retinol, hyaluronic acid, and glycerin. “The hyaluronic acid plumps the skin,” she explains. “It’s super hydrating and has anti-aging properties. It’s a natural humectant. Glycerin really moisturizes the skin. This serum is great for mature skin.”
Hydrate Your Air
A humidifier effectively boosts moisture to the air, so “adding a humidifier to your home is also a great idea to add more hydration to the skin,” suggests Jaliman. “As the air becomes drier and cooler, your skin will need more moisture, because the dry air sucks the moisture out of your skin,” she explains. “Anytime you add moisture to dry air it will benefit your skin and for some help alleviate other issues such as allergies.”
Optimize Your Shower Routine
Nazanin Saedi, MD, the director of the Jefferson Laser Surgery and Cosmetic Dermatology Center in Philadelphia, suggests avoiding hot showers or washing your face with hot water, as the heat “absorbs the moisture from your skin.” Lukewarm water is ideal for skin.
Finally, when you apply your products can impact skin hydration levels. “Moisturize right after coming out of the shower,” Dr. Saedi suggests. After getting out, lightly pat skin dry with your towel and apply a thick layer to increase absorption, she advises.
If you aren’t maintaining proper hydration levels, drinking more water may be beneficial to your skin health. But if you are already drinking the recommended daily amount of water and are sufficiently hydrated, drinking additional H2O likely won’t improve the health or appearance of your skin.
That said, incorporating hydration into your skin-care routine, via exfoliation and infusing a serum with effective ingredients directly after, could have a positive effect on your skin. Additionally, you can help your skin stay hydrated by avoiding contact with hot water, upping your intake of water-rich foods, and potentially using a humidifier in your home.
And a final note: If you have further questions, consider visiting a dermatologist to get specific recommendations based on your skin’s needs.
Our rivers, reservoirs, lakes, and seas are drowning in chemicals, waste, plastic, and other pollutants. Here’s why―and what you can do to help.
British poet W. H. Auden once noted, “Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.” Yet while we all know water is crucial for life, we trash it anyway. Some 80 percent of the world’s wastewater is dumped—largely untreated—back into the environment, polluting rivers, lakes, and oceans.
This widespread problem of water pollution is jeopardizing our health. Unsafe water kills more people each year than war and all other forms of violence combined. Meanwhile, our drinkable water sources are finite: Less than 1 percent of the earth’s freshwater is actually accessible to us. Without action, the challenges will only increase by 2050, when global demand for freshwater is expected to be one-third greater than it is now.
Sip a glass of cool, clear water as you read this, and you may think water pollution is a problem . . . somewhere else. But while most Americans have access to safe drinking water, potentially harmful contaminants—from arsenic to copper to lead—have been found in the tap water of every single state in the nation.
Still, we’re not hopeless against the threat to clean water. To better understand the problem and what we can do about it, here’s an overview of what water pollution is, what causes it, and how we can protect ourselves.
What Is Water Pollution?
Water pollution occurs when harmful substances—often chemicals or microorganisms—contaminate a stream, river, lake, ocean, aquifer, or other body of water, degrading water quality and rendering it toxic to humans or the environment.
What Are the Causes of Water Pollution?
Water is uniquely vulnerable to pollution. Known as a “universal solvent,” water is able to dissolve more substances than any other liquid on earth. It’s the reason we have Kool-Aid and brilliant blue waterfalls. It’s also why water is so easily polluted. Toxic substances from farms, towns, and factories readily dissolve into and mix with it, causing water pollution.
Categories of Water Pollution
When rain falls and seeps deep into the earth, filling the cracks, crevices, and porous spaces of an aquifer (basically an underground storehouse of water), it becomes groundwater—one of our least visible but most important natural resources. Nearly 40 percent of Americans rely on groundwater, pumped to the earth’s surface, for drinking water. For some folks in rural areas, it’s their only freshwater source. Groundwater gets polluted when contaminants—from pesticides and fertilizers to waste leached from landfills and septic systems—make their way into an aquifer, rendering it unsafe for human use. Ridding groundwater of contaminants can be difficult to impossible, as well as costly. Once polluted, an aquifer may be unusable for decades, or even thousands of years. Groundwater can also spread contamination far from the original polluting source as it seeps into streams, lakes, and oceans.
Covering about 70 percent of the earth, surface water is what fills our oceans, lakes, rivers, and all those other blue bits on the world map. Surface water from freshwater sources (that is, from sources other than the ocean) accounts for more than 60 percent of the water delivered to American homes. But a significant pool of that water is in peril. According to the most recent surveys on national water quality from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, nearly half of our rivers and streams and more than one-third of our lakes are polluted and unfit for swimming, fishing, and drinking. Nutrient pollution, which includes nitrates and phosphates, is the leading type of contamination in these freshwater sources. While plants and animals need these nutrients to grow, they have become a major pollutant due to farm waste and fertilizer runoff. Municipal and industrial waste discharges contribute their fair share of toxins as well. There’s also all the random junk that industry and individuals dump directly into waterways.
Eighty percent of ocean pollution (also called marine pollution) originates on land—whether along the coast or far inland. Contaminants such as chemicals, nutrients, and heavy metals are carried from farms, factories, and cities by streams and rivers into our bays and estuaries; from there they travel out to sea. Meanwhile, marine debris—particularly plastic—is blown in by the wind or washed in via storm drains and sewers. Our seas are also sometimes spoiled by oil spills and leaks—big and small—and are consistently soaking up carbon pollution from the air. The ocean absorbs as much as a quarter of man-made carbon emissions.
When contamination originates from a single source, it’s called point source pollution. Examples include wastewater (also called effluent) discharged legally or illegally by a manufacturer, oil refinery, or wastewater treatment facility, as well as contamination from leaking septic systems, chemical and oil spills, and illegal dumping. The EPA regulates point source pollution by establishing limits on what can be discharged by a facility directly into a body of water. While point source pollution originates from a specific place, it can affect miles of waterways and ocean.
Nonpoint source pollution is contamination derived from diffuse sources. These may include agricultural or stormwater runoff or debris blown into waterways from land. Nonpoint source pollution is the leading cause of water pollution in U.S. waters, but it’s difficult to regulate, since there’s no single, identifiable culprit.
It goes without saying that water pollution can’t be contained by a line on a map. Transboundary pollution is the result of contaminated water from one country spilling into the waters of another. Contamination can result from a disaster—like an oil spill—or the slow, downriver creep of industrial, agricultural, or municipal discharge.
The Most Common Types of Water Contamination
Not only is the agricultural sector the biggest consumer of global freshwater resources, with farming and livestock production using about 70 percent of the earth’s surface water supplies, but it’s also a serious water polluter. Around the world, agriculture is the leading cause of water degradation. In the United States, agricultural pollution is the top source of contamination in rivers and streams, the second-biggest source in wetlands, and the third main source in lakes. It’s also a major contributor of contamination to estuaries and groundwater. Every time it rains, fertilizers, pesticides, and animal waste from farms and livestock operations wash nutrients and pathogens—such bacteria and viruses—into our waterways. Nutrient pollution, caused by excess nitrogen and phosphorus in water or air, is the number-one threat to water quality worldwide and can cause algal blooms, a toxic soup of blue-green algae that can be harmful to people and wildlife.
Sewage and wastewater
Used water is wastewater. It comes from our sinks, showers, and toilets (think sewage) and from commercial, industrial, and agricultural activities (think metals, solvents, and toxic sludge). The term also includes stormwater runoff, which occurs when rainfall carries road salts, oil, grease, chemicals, and debris from impermeable surfaces into our waterways
Big spills may dominate headlines, but consumers account for the vast majority of oil pollution in our seas, including oil and gasoline that drips from millions of cars and trucks every day. Moreover, nearly half of the estimated 1 million tons of oil that makes its way into marine environments each year comes not from tanker spills but from land-based sources such as factories, farms, and cities. At sea, tanker spills account for about 10 percent of the oil in waters around the world, while regular operations of the shipping industry—through both legal and illegal discharges—contribute about one-third. Oil is also naturally released from under the ocean floor through fractures known as seeps.
Radioactive waste is any pollution that emits radiation beyond what is naturally released by the environment. It’s generated by uranium mining, nuclear power plants, and the production and testing of military weapons, as well as by universities and hospitals that use radioactive materials for research and medicine. Radioactive waste can persist in the environment for thousands of years, making disposal a major challenge. Consider the decommissioned Hanford nuclear weapons production site in Washington, where the cleanup of 56 million gallons of radioactive waste is expected to cost more than $100 billion and last through 2060. Accidentally released or improperly disposed of contaminants threaten groundwater, surface water, and marine resources.
What Are the Effects of Water Pollution?
On human health
To put it bluntly: Water pollution kills. In fact, it caused 1.8 million deaths in 2015, according to a study published in The Lancet. Contaminated water can also make you ill. Every year, unsafe water sickens about 1 billion people. And low-income communities are disproportionately at risk because their homes are often closest to the most polluting industries.
Waterborne pathogens, in the form of disease-causing bacteria and viruses from human and animal waste, are a major cause of illness from contaminated drinking water. Diseases spread by unsafe water include cholera, giardia, and typhoid. Even in wealthy nations, accidental or illegal releases from sewage treatment facilities, as well as runoff from farms and urban areas, contribute harmful pathogens to waterways. Thousands of people across the United States are sickened every year by Legionnaires’ disease (a severe form of pneumonia contracted from water sources like cooling towers and piped water), with cases cropping up from California’s Disneyland to Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
Meanwhile, the plight of residents in Flint, Michigan—where cost-cutting measures and aging water infrastructure created the recent lead contamination crisis—offers a stark look at how dangerous chemical and other industrial pollutants in our water can be. The problem goes far beyond Flint and involves much more than lead, as a wide range of chemical pollutants—from heavy metals such as arsenic and mercury to pesticides and nitrate fertilizers—are getting into our water supplies. Once they’re ingested, these toxins can cause a host of health issues, from cancer to hormone disruption to altered brain function. Children and pregnant women are particularly at risk.
Even swimming can pose a risk. Every year, 3.5 million Americans contract health issues such as skin rashes, pinkeye, respiratory infections, and hepatitis from sewage-laden coastal waters, according to EPA estimates.
On the environment
In order to thrive, healthy ecosystems rely on a complex web of animals, plants, bacteria, and fungi—all of which interact, directly or indirectly, with each other. Harm to any of these organisms can create a chain effect, imperiling entire aquatic environments.
When water pollution causes an algal bloom in a lake or marine environment, the proliferation of newly introduced nutrients stimulates plant and algae growth, which in turn reduces oxygen levels in the water. This dearth of oxygen, known as eutrophication, suffocates plants and animals and can create “dead zones,” where waters are essentially devoid of life. In certain cases, these harmful algal blooms can also produce neurotoxins that affect wildlife, from whales to sea turtles.
Chemicals and heavy metals from industrial and municipal wastewater contaminate waterways as well. These contaminants are toxic to aquatic life—most often reducing an organism’s life span and ability to reproduce—and make their way up the food chain as predator eats prey. That’s how tuna and other big fish accumulate high quantities of toxins, such as mercury.
Marine ecosystems are also threatened by marine debris, which can strangle, suffocate, and starve animals. Much of this solid debris, such as plastic bags and soda cans, gets swept into sewers and storm drains and eventually out to sea, turning our oceans into trash soup and sometimes consolidating to form floating garbage patches. Discarded fishing gear and other types of debris are responsible for harming more than 200 different species of marine life.
Meanwhile, ocean acidification is making it tougher for shellfish and coral to survive. Though they absorb about a quarter of the carbon pollution created each year by burning fossil fuels, oceans are becoming more acidic. This process makes it harder for shellfish and other species to build shells and may impact the nervous systems of sharks, clownfish, and other marine life.
What Can You Do to Prevent Water Pollution?
With your actions
It’s easy to tsk-tsk the oil company with a leaking tanker, but we’re all accountable to some degree for today’s water pollution problem. Fortunately, there are some simple ways you can prevent water contamination or at least limit your contribution to it:
One of the most effective ways to stand up for our waters is to speak out in support of the Clean Water Rule, which clarifies the Clean Water Act’s scope and protects the drinking water of one in three Americans.
You know you need water to survive, and you feel better when you drink it regularly. But what’s really at play in the body when you sip H2O?
In short, a lot.
Believe it or not, your body weight is about 60 percent water, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Your body uses water in all its cells, organs, and tissues to help regulate temperature and maintain other bodily functions. Because your body loses water through breathing, sweating, and digestion, it’s important to rehydrate by drinking fluids and eating foods that contain water.
The amount of water you need depends on a variety of factors, according to the Mayo Clinic: The climate you live in, how physically active you are, and whether you’re experiencing an illness or have any other health problems all affect recommended intake.
Here are the reasons why water is such a powerful element when it comes to your health.
1. Water Protects Your Tissues, Spinal Cord, and Joints
Water does more than just quench your thirst and regulate your body’s temperature; it keeps the tissues in your body moist, according to the Mayo Clinic Health System. You know how it feels when your eyes, nose, or mouth gets dry? Keeping your body hydrated helps it retain optimum levels of moisture in these sensitive areas, as well as in the blood, bones, and brain. In addition, water helps protect the spinal cord, and it acts as a lubricant and cushion for your joints.
2. Water Helps Your Body Remove Waste
Adequate water intake enables your body to excrete waste through perspiration, urination, and defecation. Water helps your kidneys remove waste from your blood and keep the blood vessels that run to your kidneys open and filter them out, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Water is also important for helping prevent constipation, points out the University of Rochester Medical Center. However, as research notes, there is no evidence to prove that increasing your fluid intake will cure constipation.
Water is important for healthy digestion. As the Mayo Clinic explains, water helps break down the food you eat, allowing its nutrients to be absorbed by your body. After you drink, both your small and large intestines absorb water, which moves into your bloodstream and is also used to break down nutrients. As your large intestine absorbs water, stool changes from liquid to solid, according to the National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Water is also necessary to help you digest soluble fiber, per MedlinePlus. With the help of water, this fiber turns to gel and slows digestion.
4. Water Prevents You From Becoming Dehydrated
Your body loses fluids when you engage in vigorous exercise, sweat in high heat, or come down with a fever or contract an illness that causes vomiting or diarrhea, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you’re losing fluids for any of these reasons, it’s important to increase your fluid intake so that you can restore your body’s natural hydration level. Your doctor may also recommend that you drink more fluids to help treat other health conditions, like bladder infections and urinary tract stones. If you’re pregnant or nursing, you may want to consult with your physician about your fluid intake because your body will be using more fluids than usual, especially if you’re breastfeeding.
Ever feel foggy headed? Take a sip of water. Research shows that dehydration is a drag to memory, attention, and energy, per a small study on adult men from China published in June 2019 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. It’s no wonder, considering H2O makes up 75 percent of the brain, the authors point out. One reason for that foggy-headed feeling? “Adequate electrolyte balance is vital to keeping your body functioning optimally. Low electrolytes can cause issues including muscle weakness, fatigue, and confusion,” says Gabrielle Lyon, DO, a functional medicine physician in New York City.
6. Water Keeps Your Cardiovascular System Healthy
Water is a huge part of your blood. (For instance, plasma — the pale yellow liquid portion of your blood — is about 90 percent water, notes Britannica.) If you become dehydrated, your blood becomes more concentrated, which can lead to an imbalance of the electrolyte minerals it contains (sodium and potassium, for example), says Susan Blum, MD, founder of the Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, New York. These electrolytes are necessary for proper muscle and heart function. “Dehydration can also lead to lower blood volume, and thus blood pressure, so you may feel light-headed or woozy standing up,” she says.
It may be plain, but it’s powerful. In a study of more than 18,300 American adults, people who drank just 1 percent more water a day ate fewer calories and less saturated fat, sugar, sodium, and cholesterol, according to a study published in February 2016 in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. Water may help fill you up, especially if you drink it before eating a meal, a notion that was backed up in a small study of 15 young, healthy participants that was published in October 2018 in Clinical Nutrition Research.