Water: What is it good for?

Taylor Swift, Image by © Fern/Splash News/Corbis
Taylor Swift, Image by © Fern/Splash News/Corbis


The other night I had, perhaps, the very worst dream of my life. My best friend went on vacation to some lovely resort, but I couldn’t go with her; stuck in the lab doing work, as goes the story of my life. So there she was, enjoying life by the pool with a drink in her hand, feet in the water, when guess who shows up? That’s right, Taylor Swift.  And of course, they immediately bond. Which is actually great; I now have access to my idol and can totally be friends with her, because we’re like the same person anyway! Flash to the bestie and the potential new bestie having some happy hour drinks, when I happen upon them. What luck! I’m so excited! The moment is here; cue the hyperventilation. Ok, smooth the hair, play it cool, remember to breathe.

“Hi Taylor! It’s so great to meet you!” I say (and since it’s dream world), like a totally normal and not crazy human. “Oh, hi,” she says. “It’s nice to meet you, too.” You know, with polite disinterest, or whatever. And they leave. Wait, what? What just happened? And in true dream logic, it was at that moment I knew. I just knew. She wasn’t interested in being my friend because I don’t drink enough water.

Let that sink in for a minute. (Dream) Taylor Swift wasn’t interested in being my friend because I didn’t drink enough every day. Seriously. And honestly, that traumatized me to the point where I drink at least a liter of water every day now. Like, I don’t let myself leave work until I’ve downed every last drop. I chose a liter fairly arbitrarily; it was the size of my (Smart)Water bottle that day 😛 But really, the general consensus is that you’re supposed to drink eight 8 oz. glasses a day, but I’ve also read that that number was fairly arbitrary, so one liter seemed like a good starting point.

I recently came across some articles recently (well, the articles aren’t recent) mentioning how the lovely Ms. Swift stays healthy, and one of the points that I was seriously failing at was drinking water. I think this whole unfortunate dream situation stemmed from the fact that at some point I realized I was drinking too much coffee (I mean, probably not possible) and not staying hydrated, and finally my brain had had enough and threatened me in the only way it knew I would respond.

My next step was to cover my shame by making it look like I was drinking water solely because I had thoroughly researched it and its benefits. And to do so, I had to thoroughly research it and its benefits. Basically, everyone knows that water is good for you. Everyone. It’s super important. So why am I telling you things you already know? Because I’m telling you things you DON’T already know! That is, I’d like to tell you exactly how water is good for you, by explaining all the cool things that happen when you drink water.

Let’s start at the beginning. What does it even mean to be thirsty? (Like for real, not for like Liam Hemsworth). It means you need more water. Thirst is what’s known as a motivated behavior; that is, something that creates a drive to perform an action that is necessary for survival. But how does your body alert you that you need more water? Surprisingly it’s not magic, but science.

In your body and your brain, you have sensors that monitor the concentration of certain solutes, like sodium chloride (salt), in your blood, as well as the amount of blood in your veins. When those things get too high or too low, respectively, they send a message to the hypothalamus, which then tells you to drink. The hypothalamus is a brain region involved in regulating almost all of the fundamental life processes (think body temperature, eating, drinking, sleeping, fighting, bonding, mating, you name it). All of this (and more!) in a region the size of an almond.

Back to thirst. There are a few specific regions within the hypothalamus that contain osmoreceptors. Osmoreceptors, like all other receptors in your body, receive circulating molecules and tell the cell how to respond appropriately. Think of the receptor as the lock 🔒, and the molecule as the key 🔑. When the key and lock fit together, the cell can respond. Osmoreceptors specifically track fluid levels, and are found  in places in your brain, which have super fun names like the Organum Vasculosum of the Lamina Terminalis and the Subfornical Organ and the Median Preoptic Nucleus, and when they receive signals saying you’re low on fluids, they spring to action.

These guys make a few calls to a couple of other regions in the hypothalamus, which then release a hormone called Vasopressin into your blood. Vasopressin signals to your body to conserve water, which is mainly done through the kidneys. The kidneys hold on to some of that water that was on its way to the bladder, and voila, you’re left with some really yellow pee and hopefully enough extra water that you don’t die 💀

Hold on, though; you still need to replace all that fluid you lost, not just survive on almost-maybe-enough-water. This is where the hormone Angiotensin II comes in. (That sounds like a really bad movie sequel, doesn’t it? Angiotensin II: The Hydrator, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson 💪💦). Angiotensin II (The Hydrator) is active in both your brain and your body, and contributes to you drinking water. Once you’ve had your fill, these hormones stop being produced.

So now, besides allowing me to continue surviving, wat-er (LOL, get it? Wat-er, What are? HA.) some of the other benefits of water? Drinking water helps to flush out toxins from your body, and particularly from your liver. You probably know (from college) that your liver is involved in catching all the things that aren’t so good for you & breaking them down. This toxin-rich goo is called bile, and is secreted into your intestines. By drinking enough water, you move all that bile out of your system completely and quickly.

Being fully hydrated is also great for your skin; dehydration damages your skin cells, and deprives them of vital vitamins and minerals. Your skin is your largest organ, and its job is to protect you from all the ickiness of the outside world, but you have to give it the correct tools. And just like the liver, skin accumulates toxins, and water flushes them out. And while this certainly isn’t a cure-all for beautiful skin, it’s an amazing start.

Isn’t it cool that all this is happening in your body right now?

Almost 70% of you is water and it’s basically the reason you function; it aids in digestion, blood circulation, transport of nutrients, vision, metabolism, and everything in between. Without it, none of these things could happen, and you would die. So yeah, it’s pretty important. It’s also good for your skin, your hair, your muscles, every single internal organ, and last but not least, your mind. Drinking water not only makes you look good, it makes you feel good, too 💁.

To try to encourage myself to develop a water habit, I’ve downloaded a helpful app called Coach.me, which helps you track your new habits (any of them, not just water!). I’ve only just downloaded it a few days ago, so I’m a newbie 🌱 I’ve heard really good things about it though; have any of you used this app and seen results?

Seriously though, since I’ve been drinking so much water I’ve noticed that my skin is so much clearer, I have way more energy because I’m not harboring toxins, *and* I totally have a shot at being friends with TSwift. So if for no other reasons than fear and vanity, at least I’m healthy.

And finally, you’ll find some of the articles I cited over on my Pinterest, so if you want to learn more, head on over there!


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