By DR. VICTOR S. SIERPINA

While there is a debate about the health benefits of red or white wine, which I will cover in next week’s column, there is no debate among health care experts about the benefits of water. In fact, most of us don’t take in enough.

I recently picked up a copy of a complimentary journal called Bay Area Health and Wellness. It is free by calling 832-323-3020 or you can get if online at www.txhwmagazines.com. It’s user-friendly, evidence-based, and a practical source for health information.

An article called Sip on This! by Darlene Staheli, a health coach, particularly intrigued me. Reading it while sweating between sets on the weight machines, I realized I was thirsty. Off to the water fountain for a much-needed rehydration.
We all need a regular, abundant supply of water to keep our tissues and organs moistened and optimally functioning, to remove waste, to replace fluids lost in respiration and sweat. A rough guideline is to drink at least a ½ ounce of water for each pound of our body weight daily. According to the Institute of Medicine, an adequate liquid intake for men is roughly 13 cups a day and about 9 cups for women. Drinking when you feel thirsty and drinking beverages with meals is good common sense and will usually be a good start. Exercising vigorously obviously increases our need for fluids.

Certain health conditions can affect how much fluid you need. For example, children who have a cold must mouth breath and lose extra fluid so need more fluids. Some people with heart, kidney or endocrine problems may need to restrict fluid. Certain medications like diuretics can alter fluid status and intake needs to be monitored in conjunction with your physician.

Not all fluids are equal. Caffeinated products and alcoholic beverages may increase dehydration. Sweetened soft drinks and even the low calorie sugar free ones may leave you wanting more sweets but not more free fluids. Consider a drink of water instead of a snack or soft drink when hungry. It takes the edge off with no calories.

Besides drinking plain old water, how else can you get this essential H2O into your system? In Staheli’s article, she suggested something that is easy and inexpensive, “Spa Water.” Add sliced fruit or vegetables to water for flavor that you have seen in spas and nice hotels. Kids love this stuff and it is low calorie. Consider combining sliced lemons, oranges, or limes, cucumber/mint leaves/lemon, strawberries/pineapple, and raspberries/mint leaves. Add variety by using sparkling water.

Remember that fresh fruits and veggies are a delicious, healthy source of lots of water. Keep you and your family supplied with delights like watermelon, citrus fruits, grapes, apples, berries, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, celery, broccoli, and spinach.

To help you remember to drink more water, keep a glass or bottle in easy reach at home or at work. It is essential to your good health. As a comic once quipped, “Humans are over 70 percent water. That means we are all just inches from drowning!”

Dr. Victor S. Sierpina is the WD and Laura Nell Nicholson Family Professor of Integrative Medicine and Professor of Family Medicine at UTMB.