The journey of water once it enters your body is quite a complex process and it impacts many different organs and aspects of your body. Every bodily function, from digestion to cognition to cellular function, depends on proper hydration levels. Where does the water exactly go to and how does it impact your organs as it begins its long journey throughout your body?
Step One: The Mouth
As soon as water enters your mouth, it goes to work in helping to produce saliva. This wet, slightly mucousy liquid is mostly water and does more than guard against dry mouth.
Salvia is the first step in the digestion process as its enzymes prepare food for the next steps in the gut. Saliva is also the first layer of the immune system as it fights a variety of germs that enter the mouth. Bad breath and gum disease are less likely with a good supply of saliva, and most surprisingly, saliva keeps your teeth strong.
Fun fact: Your body produces an average of about two to four pints of saliva each day!
Step Two: Enters the Stomach + Intestines
Next, water passes through to the stomach and intestines. Along with stomach acids and enzymes, waters help break up food and prepare for absorption by the small intestine.
From there, water and other nutrients are transferred to the bloodstream by tiny hairlike structures located in the small intestine walls called villi. The rate at which water gets absorbed depends on the amount of food already present in the stomach during water consumption.
"Any water [hydration that occurs] from food digestion will take a little longer to be absorbed because the food has to be digested first," says Molly Knudsen, Registered Dietitian, and Team Nutritionist at InsideTracker.
Without adequate hydration levels, undigested food gets stuck in the colon, or large intestine, potentially resulting in constipation. The longer a person is constipated, the higher the risk of toxins being absorbed back into the bloodstream. Healthy hydration levels can positively influence the amount of good gut flora that exist in the intestines for a stronger microbiome.
There's a delicate ecosystem in your gut consisting of good and bad bacteria by the trillions and supports everything from digestion to immunity and even mood. Staying hydrated keeps the mucosal lining of the intestines in check and helps maintain good levels of good bacteria.
So long as the good bacteria outnumber the bad ones, there is harmony. But once the bad actors take over, health concerns such as leaky gut, constipation, bloating, and other gastrointestinal problems can ensue. Maintaining healthy hydration levels gives you an instant advantage.
Fun Fact: Water isn't digested. Instead, it's absorbed once it reaches the small intestine.
Step Three: Enters the Bloodstream
Next, the blood system absorbs the water and delivers hydration to every cell in the body. The better hydrated, the more viscous the blood, and the easier it is for the heart to do its job. Most humans can pump blood to every cell in the body in less than one minute if properly hydrated. An average person with six liters of blood can pump all of that blood for a round trip through the body at least three times within a minute during exercise.
A healthy adult heart beats approximately 55 to 75 beats per minute. With each beat, the heart pumps an average of 60 to 70 milliliters of blood, or about five liters per minute. It has been estimated that if all blood vessels in a human body were placed end to end, they would circle the Earth four times. An adult contains 100,000 miles of arteries, veins and capillaries. Water is essential for every cell to function and for the heart to do its work of feeding these cells. And water is also crucial to then move waste and toxins from the body’s cell to the organs for elimination.
Step Four: The Kidneys + Bladder
Your kidneys are your body's built-in filtration system. Everything that enters your mouth is eventually filtered through these two organs. By maintaining healthy hydration levels your kidneys do not have to work as diligently to filter your blood.
Overhydration (Hyponatremia) can be a problem just like under hydration (Hypernatremia). Too much water intake without replenishing electrolytes can leach the body of minerals, especially sodium, and can be fatal in some cases. If your urine is clear it’s a sign that you may be overhydrated. If you're dehydrated, your urine will most likely be dark yellow as there's not enough water in your system to properly dilute urea -- it is a waste product produced in the kidneys.
Water quality is also important as the fewer chemicals and unhealthy substances your kidneys need to filter, the better.
Fun Fact: The average person can process about 33 oz of fluid per hour.
Step Five: The Cells
Perhaps the most crucial stop water makes during its journey through the body are the cells themselves. The cell is the primary building block of which life exists and replicates.
Cells use water in a process called cellular hydration which provides energy for the rest of the body. One group of cells make up the body's largest organ—the skin. Our skin covers every inch of us. Even our hair and nails are made of skin cells. Healthy skin requires good hydration and it is our skin that creates the barrier for our bodies to the outside world of pathogens.
Fun Fact: There are at least 30 trillion cells in the human body.
Step Six: Enters the Brain
Some of the most critical cells in our bodies are brain cells. Our brains are made up of about 73% water which is used to help make essential hormones and neurotransmitters. Proper hydration is essential for healthy brain function and repeated research studies demonstrate quantitatively that cognitive alertness, memory, attention span, mood, and mental acuity are substantially affected by hydration level.
Fun Fact: Our brains weigh about 47 ounces for a fully grown male adult and about 42 ounces for fully grown female adults.
We at Hyduro know the crucial role water plays for health and general wellbeing. We also know that staying hydrated can be tricky at times. With The PÜL® SmartCap™ and our PÜL® hydration app you will not have to guess what the proper hydration level is for you. It quickly trains better hydration habits and our built-in water tracker means staying hydrated has never been easier.
Be sure to share what you've learned by utilizing our infographic!
- Hansen, T.H., Thomassen, M.T., Madsen, M.L. et al. “The effect of drinking water pH on the human gut microbiota and glucose regulation: results of a randomized controlled cross-over intervention.” Sci Rep 8, 16626 (2018).
- Sender R., Fuchs S. et al. "Revised Estimates for the Number of Human and Bacteria Cells in the Body". PLOS Biology. 14 (8): e1002533. (2016).
- Hartmann P., et al. “Normal weight of the brain in adults in relation to age, sex, body height and weight.” Pathologe. Jun;15(3):165-70. (1994). German.
- Azab, Marwa,. P.H.D. "Gut Bacteria Can Influence Your Mood, Thoughts, and Brain." Psychology Today. Retrieved August 19, 2021.
- Miller, Kelli. "Saliva and Your Mouth". WebMD. Retrieved August 19, 2021.
- Telephone Interview with Molly Knudsen, Registered Dietitian and Team Nutritionist at InsideTracker. August 13, 2021.