Nancy Lugo: Water makes waves in overall health

Nancy  Rudner

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Water is essential for life. Water, which makes up over half of your body and 75 percent of your muscles, plays a key role in almost every body function. Water boosts your immune system and helps you fight off microbial invaders. Water keeps your skin flexible, resilient and vibrant. Water helps your brain think clearly. Water is needed to help your body digest food and to carry out wastes. Water also helps your body lubricate and cushion your joints, and protect your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues. Water helps you sweat. Sweating is one of the body’s mechanism to cool down, even though it may not feel like the cooling function is working in the midday Florida sun.

Drinking water throughout the day can keep the body well-hydrated and feeling more satisfied. Many times we sense our body craving food when we really are thirsty. A cold glass of water can curb the appetite.

You are what you drink, and water is the best drink. You can’t beat the price of our local tap water. Calories and sugar: zero. In contrast, a 12-ounce can of soda is packed with 140 calories and 39 grams sugar. The sugar-free sweet drinks have artificial sweeteners that have their own drawbacks. Other drinks can be deceptive. Popular sports drinks, such as the one named after a popular Florida team, were designed for 48 minutes of intense offense and defense play in the heat, not for all day activity. They are also loaded with sugar or sugar substitutes as well as salt, which most of us do not need. You lose salt when you sweat, but most people get plenty of salt through prepared foods. Bottled teas may sound like a good alternative, but a typical 16-ounce bottle of sweet tea delivers more calories and salt than a can of soda, about 180 calories and 46 grams of sugar. In spite of advertisements about quenching your thirst, beer and other alcohol actually add to dehydration. All of this brings us back to the best drink of all, water. A wedge of lemon or lime in a glass of tap water can add a nice flavor.

When you are exercising in the Florida heat, it helps to start out well hydrated. The American Council on Fitness recommends you drink 20 ounces of water a few hours before exercising, 8 ounces a half hour before exercising, and 8 ounces every 20 minutes during your workout. It is important to drink before you get thirsty.

When you do not have enough fluid, your body naturally tries to preserve what you do have. Your urine may become more concentrated. If your urine is bright or dark yellow, you may be dehydrated. It should normally be almost clear.

When you don’t have enough water, the body protests. Dehydration can happen quickly in the summer heat or when you lose fluids from vomiting or diarrhea. Headaches, muscle cramps, thirst, dizziness, and lack of sweat are dehydration signs. Severe dehydration is a medical emergency, as it can lead to heat stroke as the body shuts down.

We have a strong village that keeps great water coming to you easily. Every day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, workers monitor and repair our water systems to keep clean water flowing to you and ensuring dirty water flows away without contaminating the clean water. Their constant vigilance keeps an array of waterborne diseases away. Fortunately, diseases such as giardia, hepatitis A, and amoebic dysentery are rare here because of the hard work of our water crews. Let’s toast, with our water glasses, to our local water crews.