Do Americans Drink Enough Water?I frequently read that 75 percent of Americans do not drink enough water. Even the CIGNA Behavioral web site authors referenced this statement by B. Levine, Hydration 101: The Case for Drinking Enough Water. This same website claimed that dehydration was a major cause of headaches. My clinical experience confirms that many of my patients with headaches are also not drinking adequate amounts of water.
I don't know if 75 percent is the exact percentage of Americans who don't drink enough water, but I am certain that many of my patients are not properly hydrated. People perceive that they are too busy to drink water. They don't want to waste time with the very normal process of urination. And some people hate the taste of water.
In other words, many individuals consider the frequent consumption of water to be a real headache. Thirst is not usually the first symptom or the only symptom of dehydration; other symptoms include:
- Dry mouth
- Rapid heartbeat
- Dry, flushed skin
- Muscle cramps, and myofascial pain.
What many of us don't realize is that dehydration is one of the causes of frequent headaches, even in children. The International Life Sciences Institute published an excellent monograph, Hydration: Fluids for Life, which states: Children, and especially infants and toddlers, are at greater risk of dehydration than adults. Dehydration in children is not only serious, but can be life-threatening.
The very respected Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research acknowledged inadequate hydration as a cause of headaches in children in "Headaches and kids: More common -- and complicated -- than you think." Mary Cooper S.R.D., a community dietitian at the Leeds Schools, wrote an article in The School Nutrition Action Group Newsletter's called, "Good Hydration - Hype or a Neglected Area?" She researched the fluid requirements, shared the Leeds experience, suggested actions, and offered standards and guidance. She stated that the effects of poor hydration range in the short term from thirst and headaches, continence problems and constipation to concerns of urinary tract infections, renal stones and renal disease in the longer term. I commend this initiative to encourage drinking more water as a Healthy Schools Standard. If children are encouraged to increase their water intake, they are more likely to enjoy a healthy childhood and possibly continue to drink enough water as adults.
I have encountered a number of adult patients complaining of headaches who reported drinking less water than they should. To make it worse the majority of their fluid replacement involved the consumption of coffee. As an example, a 59-year-old male claimed to drink about 24 ounces of water per day. This was a big man weighing 210 pounds. Normally, I would suggest a man of this size to drink at least 80 ounces of water. He mentioned that most of his water came from drinking coffee. I cringed and wondered what prevented him from suffering with kidney stones. He then stated that he has been experiencing pain in his kidneys. Now I am wondering whether people suffer headaches from too much caffeine or too little water?
I suggested to the patient that he drink more water. He was advised that he should reduce his coffee intake and implement a life style change that would include drinking 100 ounces of water per day. It was stressed that he should drink no more than three to four ounces at a time repetitively throughout the day and into the early evening.