Proponents of water cleanse methods and products say they flush toxins out of your system, but no scientific evidence supports the claims. However, experts recommend drinking plenty of water daily to maintain optimal hydration and health.
Authorities advise consuming 11.5 cups of fluid per day for women and 15.5 cups of fluid per day for men from beverages and food.
No Need for Water Cleanse
A host of cleanse methods, including water detox, are found on the market and the internet. They are popular among the natural health community, but the traditional medical community believes they aren't needed.
Science-Based Medicine, which presents the opinions of traditional health practitioners, asserts that the body has an amazingly complex system of detoxification. This involves the skin, liver, gastrointestinal system, kidneys and lymphatic system,
None of the premises underlying the cleanse claims have merit, adds SBM. While detox proponents contend that the liver and kidneys act like filters that require periodic cleansing, this isn’t the case. The liver is self-cleansing unless you have liver disease, so it doesn’t accumulate toxins. Likewise, unless the kidneys have a disorder, they excrete waste products into the urine.
Science doesn't back up the promises that detox removes toxins. Flushing your body with water beyond the recommended intake won’t produce cleansing.
Read more: Lemon Water Detox Diet
How Much Is Enough?
Although you’ve undoubtedly heard the advice to drink eight glasses of water per day, some people may need more and others may need less. Women should aim to get 11.5 cups, or 2.7 liters, of water per day from beverages and food, and men should get 15.5 cups, or 3.7 liters, of water per day, states the Mayo Clinic.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says, as a general rule, children and teenagers should drink six to eight glasses of water per day. They should also eat the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables because they have a high water content. For example, spinach and watermelon are nearly 100 percent water by weight, notes the Mayo Clinic.
Roughly 80 percent of a person’s water intake comes from water and other beverages, while 20 percent comes from food sources. Beverages like coffee, milk and soda are composed mostly of water; however, water is a low-calorie, healthy choice. Sugary beverages lead to weight gain and inflammation, and too much caffeine can make you nervous and affect your sleep, states Harvard.
Certain factors can increase the need for water. Since you lose more water through perspiration during exercise, drink before, during and after a workout, recommends the Mayo Clinic. Hot, humid weather or living at a high altitude will increase the need for water.
Certain health conditions, such as fever, vomiting, urinary tract stones and bladder infections, necessitate more fluid intake. Higher water consumption is also needed when you're pregnant or breastfeeding.
Drinking Too Much Water
Drinking too little water is much more common than drinking too much, but drinking too much can occur, notes the Mayo Clinic. People with a kidney disorder that hinders the excretion of water can experience hyponatremia, which is a lack of sodium due to diluted blood. This is a serious condition that is life-threatening.
Rarely, hyponatremia can happen in athletes that have drunk fluids copiously and lost much salt through perspiration, says the National Athletic Trainers’ Association. In these cases, the condition can also be fatal.
Harvard Health explains that the recommended water intake might be too much for people on medications that cause water retention. Medicines in this category include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, some antidepressants and opiate pain pills.
Signs of Dehydration
Drinking enough fluids will prevent the harmful effects of dehydration. Signs of mild to moderate dehydration include thirst; dry mouth; muscle cramps; headaches; little urination; dark yellow urine; and cool, dry skin, notes MedlinePlus.
Symptoms of severe dehydration are dry, shriveled skin; rapid heartbeat; dizziness; lightheadedness; confusion; rapid breathing; listlessness; and sunken eyes. The condition can also lead to shock and unconsciousness.
Read more: 8 Hydration Mistakes You’re Making and How to Fix Them
Treatment of dehydration involves sipping or drinking water or sports drinks that contain electrolytes, states MedlinePlus. No one who is dehydrated should take salt tablets because they can cause serious adverse effects.
Severe dehydration or a heat-related illness requires hospitalization. Such cases are medical emergencies that necessitate receiving fluids through a vein. Untreated dehydration can result in seizures, permanent brain damage and death, warns MedlinePlus.
If dehydration is treated quickly, the individual should recover without complications. In light of the dangers, unless the symptoms are mild, seek immediate medical attention.
Why Drink Enough Water?
Optimal health depends, in part, on drinking enough water. This is very important because water makes up more than two-thirds of your body weight, reports MedlinePlus. Every cell and organ in the body needs this dietary element that's essential for life.
Water has multiple functions, says Harvard Health. These include preventing constipation, aiding digestion and flushing bacteria from the bladder, as well as cushioning joints, stabilizing heartbeat and normalizing blood pressure. Water also regulates electrolytes, maintains body temperature, protects tissues and carries oxygen and nutrients to the cells.
You continuously lose water through perspiration, breathing, urination and having bowel movements, so you need to replenish your supply by drinking enough fluids and eating water-containing foods, notes the Mayo Clinic.
Water and Drug Tests
Some people who abuse drugs may try to flush the agents out of their system by drinking a gallon of water before a drug test. The American Addiction Centers reports that this method is often unsuccessful because the effort to dilute a urine sample is usually obvious to the tester.
Drinking approximately 1 liter of water will significantly dilute a urine sample if consumed 30 minutes to 1 hour before a drug test, notes the Wentworth Institute of Technology. Anyone who engages in this practice will likely be asked to retest. Measuring a urine component called creatine will show if the urine is too dilute to provide an accurate drug level.
- MedlinePlus: "Water in Diet"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "How Much Water Should You Drink?"
- Mayo Clinic: "Water: How Much Should You Drink Every Day?"
- National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine: "Dietary Reference Intakes: Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Water: How Much Do Kids Need?"
- National Athletic Trainers' Association: "Examining Exercise-Associated Hyponatremia"
- MedlinePlus: "Dehydration"
- Science-Based Medicine: "Detox: What 'They' Don’t Want You to Know"
- American Addiction Centers: "How Long Do Drugs Stay in Your System?"
Mary West is a former occupational therapist who began writing in 2009 when she authored the eBook, "Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies." She holds Bachelor of Science degrees in pharmacy and occupational therapy from the University of Louisiana at Monroe.