A seemingly rational approach to water is to drink when you are thirsty. However, significant thirst occurs after your body has already become dehydrated to some degree. The goal of proper hydration is achieved when you can get into the habit of chronically drinking water regularly enough and in large enough amounts that you never become distracted with overwhelming thirst.
If you ignore thirst often enough in your daily lifestyle, you will eventually lose the ability to be properly sensitive to varying levels of dehydration throughout your body. You may survive, but you will make just about every cellular task that your body must perform more difficult. Eventually, these cellular tasks will not be performed completely, resulting in the appearance of new diseases or the worsening of old diseases. Either through this ignoring of thirst or through the natural aging process, or both, the thirst mechanism is consistently seen to lessen and even fail as we become older. In fact, increasing age is directly associated with a steadily decreasing water content in the cells of the body. Such a steady decline in the cellular water content may well be a significant independent reason for the acceleration of the aging process.
Interestingly, the desire for salt in the food, which can indirectly affect one's state of hydration, may be induced prenatally by maternal dehydration. Crystal and Bernstein found that infants whose mothers experienced moderate to severe morning sickness along with moderate to severe vomiting during pregnancy craved salt more than infants whose mothers had not experienced morning sickness.1 Although the explanation for this phenomenon was not clear, it was hypothesized that the fluctuations in fluid and electrolyte balance resulting from the dehydration could be related to the activation of hormones that triggered the salt cravings. In any case, this study reinforces the concept that the mechanisms of thirst and dehydration are not as straightforward as we may think. Fur thermore, it appears that chronically stressing the body by drinking too little water can have far-reaching physiological effects.
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