Effects of Hydration: The Journey of Water Through Your Body

Woman drinking flask of water at lake
It takes 120 minutes for your body to fully absorb any water you’ve swallowed and the effects of hydration to crystalize. We follow the course of water’s journey through your body, tracing its pitstops and the gains it serves.

Is there anything more delicious than a drink of water when you’re parched? The water floods into your mouth, tickling your taste buds and moistening the back of your throat. The relief feels instantaneous; you can veritably feel the effects of hydration flood your body, any nagging traces of headaches dissipate, you feel lighter, focused, and refreshed.

But first, why do we need water?

Every single one of our vital organs contains between 65 to 85% water. Water is the pillar of smooth physiological functionality

Water is used to produce hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain and to absorb any shock. Having sufficiently moist lungs helps keep their mucosal linings thin, aiding their job of inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide. On average, we lose between half to one liter of water per day just by breathing. 

A well-hydrated heart pumps blood around your body more efficiently and increases muscle performance. When you’re dehydrated, the decrease in blood volume puts a strain on your heart. Heart palpitations are signs of it struggling to do its job.

To expunge the toxins that pollute our body, our liver needs to be flushed with water. Likewise, the kidneys use water to remove waste from your blood and dispel it as urine. 

Water brings essential nutrients around our bodies. Being well hydrated can give you a spring in your step. To fully understand what happens when you drink a glass of water, please fill up a glass to drink now and follow on its journey. 

Registering Hydration

The realization of thirst, which motivates you to grab a drink, is part of your body’s defense mechanism. This awareness is regulated by neural modulators in your brain attempting to assuage the perceived water deficit before a state of dehydration sets in. 

After the first initial gulps of water, your taste buds send a signal to your brain, letting it know that water is on its way to satiate your parched cells. That instant relief you feel from drinking is your brain registering the incoming hydration. This anticipatory reflex convinces you at the appropriate time that it’s had enough, preventing you from drinking more water than the body needs. 

The water is then swallowed and goes down the esophagus. 

Down the Rabbit Hole 

The esophagus is the small pipe that connects the mouth and the stomach. As the water travels downwards, the process of absorbing it into the bloodstream begins. The water then emerges into your stomach, flooding it like a cave. If you’re hungry, your body will absorb the water much faster than if you’ve just had a big meal. 

Onward it flows into the small intestine where up to 90% of absorption action occurs. Here, the water oozes through the walls lining your five-meter-long intestine. It moves towards cells throughout your body, thereby supplying cell membranes with hydration through the bloodstream, which will optimize their daily performance. For instance, when the brain cells are lacking in sufficient hydration, it can impair short-term memory and even visual-motor skills. 

Water in the large intestine

The water continues into the large intestine, also known as the colon, a critical hub for absorbing the remaining water, electrolytes, and key nutrients through osmosis. The tight junctions prevent any paracellular backflow of water and electrolytes.

Last Stop On The Downward Journey

Water travels to your kidneys via the bloodstream. 

Your kidneys require a substantial amount of water to perform their detoxification function. They not only remove waste from your body but also any extra fluid and acids produced by your cells. They maintain the right balance of water, sodium, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium in your blood. What they don’t need, they send to your bladder. How quickly it gets there depends on how well hydrated you are; if you’re plenty satiated, excess water gets to the bladder much quicker than if you’re dehydrated. 

On average only 20% of the water you drink makes it to the bladder. Your bladder can hold between 300-400mls of urine during the day and up to 800ml at night. 

Holding on or letting go

When your body inches towards dehydration, your kidneys preserve what water is left by concentrating your urine. This is what makes your pee a dark color when you’re lacking fluids. 

In moments of dehydration,  the pituitary gland which secretes the hormone vasopressin, or, the antidiuretic hormone, into the bloodstream. When it reaches the kidneys, it reminds them to expel less water. 

Does Water Have An Exit Strategy?

After your body has absorbed sufficient water, the rest is expelled; either through the kidneys via urine, the skin via sweat, the large intestine as stool, and the mouth via droplets in the breath. When you can see your breath on a cold winter day, you’re observing the departure of the water you drank earlier. 

All these details of water’s journey through your body should encourage you to stay well hydrated. The general rule of thumb is that adults should consume up to 2.5 liters of water daily, or more precisely, 30 ml per kilogram of body weight or 0.46 fl oz per lbs. 

By Natalia Kvitkova — Apr 20, 2021
The information contained in this article is provided for educational and informational purposes only, and should not be construed as health or nutritional advice.

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