The funny thing about water and our consumption of it is we don’t realize we need it until our throats are so parched we’re desperate to drink anything to quench our thirst. You see, our minds are filled with so much clutter from our day-to-day lives that drinking the recommended daily servings of water doesn’t even register with us. We’ve got what believe are more important things on our minds like sports, taxes, bills, unpredictable weather patterns, and a plethora of other nonessential items to scroll through. Who has time to think about water?

But here’s the thing. Our bodies need water. We’re not talking a small sip you might take from a fountain. We mean our bodies NEED water. It’s about survival. Our body, as opposed to our mind, knows it needs water to function properly. It craves it like we might crave chocolate or ice cream, but in its case, that craving is vital to our existence. Most of us can live without a chocolate sundae, I hope.

Our bodies need far more water than we consume and much more than we might think. How could it not? Almost all life functions rely on it, which explains why about 65% of the human body is composed of this delicious, natural nectar. Water is as essential to life as the air we breathe. It’s utterly ridiculous to think anything different. It is the key component to having a body that functions as it should.

Now, when I say most of our bodily systems rely on water, I don’t mean a measly glass of it every now and then. In case you missed the message, water is a constant necessity. A continuous stream of it is essential to living a healthy life. Many people hear (read) this and nod their heads, signaling they understand how vital it is to our existence, but truth be told, none of us really appreciate its importance without a little education. The best way to educate a population is to be thorough, to explain down to the minute details why they should increase their water consumption to allow their bodies to do the jobs they were designed to do. With that being said, let me start a proper explanation that everyone can understand.

First and foremost, water is critical for the distribution of nutritional elements throughout our bodies and the maintenance of a healthy colon, the organ that rids the body of harmful toxins. In addition, the human body relies on water to purify the blood, improve circulation and reduce the risks of high blood pressure and cholesterol, stagnating diabetes. Water also helps the body remove toxins at the cellular level, alleviate stress on the liver and kidneys, recover from illnesses and reduce the risk of cancer. And for those moving up in age, water should be your best friend, because it lubricates joints, which aids in flexibility and reduces the symptoms of arthritis. It also helps prevent premature aging, reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s and helps maintain memory.

Another important function is the prevention of dehydration. Feeling thirsty is one thing but being dehydrated is another. Dehydration is beyond feeling thirsty. In fact, feeling thirsty is a sign that your body has already entered the early stages of dehydration. In such a state, the human body is not able to function properly, and the symptoms can be quite glaring. Some indicators especially if they are not isolated, are excessive thirst, fatigue, headache, dry mouth, little or no urination, muscle weakness and dizziness or lightheadedness. Lethargy, unconsciousness, sunken eyes, and/or the inability to drink properly are signs of severe dehydration and treatment should be sought immediately.

So, the question is, how much water does a person need to drink to make sure they’re meeting the recommended amount? A good rule of thumb is to take your weight in pounds and divide that number in half. That answer is the minimum recommended ounces of water you should drink on a daily basis. Remember, that’s a starting point, not the end all be all. For example, if you’re an athlete or highly active, have been ill, or suffer from allergies you may need to consume more to replenish the body and to help flush out toxins. A good indicator of the proper amount of water for your body is to gauge the color of your urine. If it’s very light (clear), that’s a sign that you may be overly hydrated (Yes, that’s a thing.). If your urine is dark, you’re not drinking enough water. The ideal, if you will, urine color should be similar to the color of hay or on the clearer side. Urine should never be dark.

Thirst is another indicator that you need to drink more water. If you’re thirsty, your body is telling you it already doesn’t have enough water to function properly. With all of this in mind, as you go about your day, be mindful of your water consumption. Get into the habit of carrying a water bottle with you everywhere you go. Pretty soon, it will be like second nature to drink water. So, drink up. Your body needs it.