You’d think that most Americans would know to drink plenty of water throughout the day. But some estimates reveal that three-quarters of all Americans are dehydrated. In case you’re one of them, here are the benefits of drinking water.

Staying hydrated offers many benefits:

  1. It detoxifies the body. Water helps flush toxins out of organs, carries nutrients to cells and provides a moist environment for the ear, nose and throat, according to the Mayo Clinic. The kidneys and liver do a miraculous job of flushing out toxins, even if you’re dehydrated, but the Mayo Clinic also says that these two vital organs have a much easier job cleansing our systems if we are properly hydrated.
  2. It lubricates joints. According to the National Institutes of Health, cartilage, the slippery coating at the end of each bone, is comprised of 65 to 80 percent water. Synovial fluid keeps cartilage healthy, slick and smooth, properly cushioning joints if properly hydrated. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends drinking 6-8 glasses of water per day to possibly stave off osteoarthritis, the most common form of the joint disease known as arthritis.
  3. It can curb appetite. Could it be that of all the hundreds of diets and thousands of weight-loss books to hit the market, water is one of the most efficient appetite suppressants? At a meeting last year of the American Chemical Society, the results of a clinical trial was announced, confirming a long-standing belief—but surprisingly, never-before supported by research—that drinking two 8-ounce glasses of water before meals consumed 75-90 fewer calories per meal. That’s almost 300 fewer calories per day and 8,400 fewer calories per month. There are 3,500 calories in a pound of body fat. You do the math. Water can help with calorie control.
  4. It can help with mental well-being. One study, conducted by Tufts University researchers on college athletes, concluded that subjects who engaged in high-intensity aerobic exercise for at least an hour and did not properly hydrate, were more prone to feeling angry and depressed. The study’s lesson: our mood is sensitive to fluid balance.
  5. It can possibly prevent and heal headaches. Very little research exists to support the claim that staying hydrated can prevent headaches, as well as being able to reverse the effects of headache if a subject is dehydrated. But one small pilot study concluded that intensity and duration of headaches was reduced after increased water intake.
  6. It can prevent constipation. As reported in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, low fluid intake was a prime cause of constipation. The colon, the study mentions, is not only a storage house for waste matter, it also plays a major role in fluid and electrolyte absorption. Simply put, if you don’t drink enough water, your colon won’t absorb enough water to effectively pass your waste.
How much water should I drink?
Guidelines for the amount of water you should consume daily are inconclusive and controversial. The old standby ‘8x8’, or eight, eight-oz. glasses of water per day, is still a popular recommendation. But another school of thought suggests that most food we eat is comprised of water, so we don’t really need to drink at least eight glasses a day.

Considering that many Americans are going through life dehydrated, it would make sense to follow the ‘8x8’ rule, and then some. Individual traits, such as gender, weight, basal metabolic rate and activity level, all have a role in determining how much water one should drink.

Judd Handler is a health writer and lifestyle coach in Encinitas, California. He can be reached at CoachJudd@gmail.com.