The body is amazing in how it works and connects together. While you may give little thought to your water intake and how it relates to your spine, not getting enough water may cause more damage than you think.

Staying hydrated offers many benefits to your body, inside and out. Studies have shown, however, that up to 75% of Americans are in a chronic state of dehydration.

Your body needs water for just about every function, from burning fat, to digestion and absorption of nutrients, to flushing toxins through sweat, urine, and bowel movements.

Not having enough water can also take a toll on your back. There is a disc located between every two vertebrae in your spine. The disc is designed to provide cushioning, absorb shock or trauma, and allow your spine to move. When you don’t drink enough water, those discs are unable to hold the weight of your body because they begin to shrink.

Drinking the proper amount of water each day provides the discs with enough hydration to protect your spine and support your body weight and movement.

Proper hydration makes exercise easier and more effective. Among other things, water keeps muscles and joints lubricated so you can work out more comfortably and longer. Not drinking enough water can also affect athletic performance and/or cause muscle cramping, especially during the hot days of summer.

Signs you are not drinking enough water

One way to see if you’re drinking enough is to check the bowl after you urinate. Your urine should be light to clear and have little to no odor. The darker your urine, the more dehydrated you are. Other signs may be:
  • Chronic bad breath
  • Fatigue/Tiredness
  • Frequent illness
  • Constipation
  • Poor skin health
  • Sugar cravings
  • Decreased urine output/urinary tract infections
  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Moodiness

You meet your need for water not only through drinking water, but also through other beverages and the food you eat. One recommendation, from The National Academies of Sciences, recommends that women consume approximately 91 ounces (2.7 liters) of water from all foods and beverages in a day, and that men take in approximately 125 ounces (3.7 liters).

If you’re only drinking when you feel thirsty, your body is likely already entering a phase of dehydration. Make staying well-hydrated one of your new healthy habits. Spread your water intake throughout the day, and don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink.

Here are some suggestions to help you drink more

  • Drink water with each meal
  • Carry a reusable water bottle with you
  • Keep a glass of water at your desk
  • Flavor plain water with water enhancers like fresh mint, lemon, and cucumber.
  • Eat more water-rich foods such as soups, vegetables like lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes.
  • Drink as soon as you wake up
  • Drink before, during, and after exercise
  • Remind yourself to drink more water—stick a note on your computer, set an alarm on your phone, etc.
  • Prepare and freeze water bottles the night before so you’ll have ice cold water to drink throughout the day
  • Try carbonated water or calorie/sugar-free flavored seltzers

Drinking water is not a magic cure, but it can certainly be a simple, inexpensive, and helpful part of your health and wellness plan.