How water gets absorbed into the body, step by step.
We know that every person’s body is different, each of our needs is unique, and that external circumstances such as heat, exercise, and simple things like elevation above sea level play a role in the amount of water we need to drink each day.
Here’s what does not vary for the vast majority of us: how we absorb water into our system. When you drink water, it travels down the esophagus and into the stomach. And if you just ate a meal, water is essential in step one of the digestion process. Water is critical to drink with food, according to many sources including the Mayo Clinic, because it helps your body properly digest and absorb the nutrients – especially proteins – from the food you eat. Benefit #1: water helps you get the most out of the food you eat, even before it rewards the rest of your body in a myriad of ways.
Keep in mind, though, that drinking water with a full stomach will lessen its absorption in the rest of the body since your stomach is getting first dibs on it. So it’s also important to drink water between meals when your stomach isn’t full of food. When your stomach is empty, water is absorbed when it passes through the stomach into the small intestine, and from there, it gets distributed throughout the body.
Also worth noting: after a few gulps of water, the brain will generally convince you — prematurely – that the body has had enough to drink. This is a key internal mechanism since it takes a while for water to reach cells and provide them with sufficient hydration. But that mouth sensation might also be selling you a bit short on your optimal water needs. So quenching your thirst does not necessarily equate to hydrating your body sufficiently. The most reliable way to ensure that you’re properly hydrating is to measure your daily water intake, factoring in your personal needs and external circumstances.
So space out your water consumption throughout the day. The water you have with your meals will get the most out of nutrient-rich foods. And the water you drink in between meals will get circulated out through your bloodstream and out to all your organ systems – from the brain to your skin to every single cell in your body.