The funny thing about water is that we don’t really think about it until we’re thirsty. Our minds are on other things—sports, taxes, Coca-Cola, the weather. But our bodies? They think about water more than we could ever comprehend. And how could they not? Almost all life functions rely on it, which explains why about 65% of the human body is composed of it. Water is as essential to life as the air we breathe and it’s ridiculous to think of it in any other way.

Now when I said that most of our bodily systems rely on water, I didn’t mean a glass of it every now and then. Water is a constant necessity, and a constant stream of it is essential to living a healthy life. Many people hear this and nod their heads, signaling that they understand, but honestly, I don’t think they do. The best way to educate a population is to be thorough, to explain exactly why they should do what needs to be done, which is what I intend to do now.

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 a 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? Various sources recommend different amounts. A good rule to follow is to take your weight in pounds and divide that number in half, giving you the number of ounces to drink on a daily basis. That’s a starting point. For example, if you’re active, have been ill, or suffer from allergies you might need to consume more. A good indicator of the proper amount of water for your body is the color of your urine. If your urine is very light, you might be consuming too much water. If your urine is on the dark side, you most likely need to drink more. Thirst is another indicator that you need to drink more water. If you’re thirsty, your body is telling you that it already doesn’t have enough water to function properly. So, drink water throughout the day, every day. It’s good for you.

By Andres Portillo