Here’s how a typical conversation with a patient goes:

Me: So, how much water do you drink?

Patient: Um, likely not enough. Maybe 4 glasses?

Me: Why do you say that’s not enough?

Patient: It seems low.

Me: As compared to?

Patient: Well, I don’t know. Aren’t we supposed to drink 8 glasses?

Me: I used to say half your body weight in ounces. But what I’ve come to understand is that the 8 glasses or body weight adages are a good start but incomplete. Everyone has their own formula.

Patient: I drink the brown water, does that count? Ha, just kidding! Are you saying that 4 glasses might be enough?

Me: Maybe. The only way to know how much water you need on any given day is to experiment. Pay attention to the signs your body gives you about needing hydration. And, yes, the brown water, I’m assuming you mean coffee, doesn’t count. And actually, you’ll need to account for that as caffeine can dehydrate the body — so you’ll need more water if you drink coffee. And, if you’re exercising regularly, you’ll likely need even more.

Patient: I could use my Fitbit to track my intake…

Me: Yes, having a monitor is good. You can also use your phone to set reminders. But I’d like you to first notice from your own body when you need water. Sound good?

Patient: Sure. I’m game.

Me: Do you know the signs of dehydration?

Patient: Um, thirst?

Me: Correct! It’s the classic sign. Thirst is your body’s way of sounding an alarm. But other signs include:

Headaches. …
Trouble concentrating. …
Dark urine. …
Dry skin. …
Constipation. …
Dizziness. …
Fatigue. …
Joint pain. …

And, sometimes we confuse being hungry for being thirsty. My practice is to drink a glass of water before I eat as a way to see if I’m misinterpreting thirst for hunger.

Patient: I’m so busy that I forget to drink.

Me: That’s pretty common. The way to tap back into your body and its signals is to begin to observe what your body is doing to become more aware. You can use your phone to remind you to hydrate but the key is to learn your own signals and then follow it.

It’s easy to depend on Fitbits or phones and bypass our own signals. After all, YOU are the best Fitbit ever designed. Most of us forget this because we are often lost in our thoughts and not paying attention to our bodies. Let’s have you track between now and the next time I see you what you notice about your body [see the list of signals above] or when you’re thirsty versus hungry, and what actions you’ve taken to hydrate.

Patient: Sounds good!

Part of my job is to educate on the basics, and water couldn’t be more basic and necessary for good health.

From the Mayo Clinic: “If you do wonder if you’re drinking enough water, the Mayo Clinic’s rule of thumb is “if you drink enough fluid so that you rarely feel thirsty and produce 1.5 liters (6.3 cups) or more of colorless or light yellow urine a day, your fluid intake is probably adequate.”

Being aware of your body’s natural rhythms and requirements may be different week to week and seasonally.

Being more awake in life may seem like a chore, and you may want to outsource it to a gadget. Take the time to learn about what’s happening in your body when you’re hydrated and dehydrated. It’s worth it because being unaware about how your body functions and the real-time signals it sends to you about what your body needs has much bigger consequences on your well-being.