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Dietitian Digest: Hydration & Gut Health – Why Is It So Important?

By Collette Romstedt, MA, RDN, LDN, ACSM EP

Registered Dietitian & Certified Exercise Physiologist

Water, water, drink your water. How many times have you heard that from your doctor? Well, there’s a good reason for that advice, because water plays an integral role in your health. It serves many functions, including:

  • Regulating your body temperature

  • Lubricating your joints and protecting your spinal cord

  • Aiding your body’s ability to absorb nutrients

  • Helping your body get rid of toxins and waste

  • Playing a role in your bowel regulation

For today, let’s focus on the last three bullet points and discuss how water helps support your gut health.

  1. How does water help your body absorb nutrients? Your body goes through various chemical processes as food is broken down and nutrients are absorbed. Like gas or electricity that is needed for a car, water is needed as a catalyst in order for many of these chemical processes to take place.

  2. How does water help your body get rid of toxins and wastes? Water is needed to keep your gut hydrated and lubricate the membranes that reside in your gut. This lubrication allows the gut to work more efficiently by removing waste and residue that build up in the digestive tract. Water is also used by other organs (i.e. your kidneys) to remove toxins and waste through your urine.

  3. How does water help regulate your bowel movements? As water passes through your digestive tract, both the small and large intestine reabsorb much of this water. How much water is reabsorbed impacts the consistency of your stool. Being consistent with water intake from day to day and drinking water throughout the day helps your body achieve a steadier state of water reabsorption. This helps create more regular bowel movements and prevents large shifts or changes in your bowels, which can be unpleasant, resulting in constipation or diarrhea.

Besides drinking water itself, did you know that food can also serve as a source of water? Many fruits and vegetables are packed with water. In fact, consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables (5 servings daily minimum) can potentially provide almost 20% of your daily recommended water intake. Fruits and vegetables often referenced for their water content include peaches, watermelon, celery, lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes. Here are some other foods you may not realize can also provide extra water:

  • Zucchini

  • Creamed Corn

  • Milk

  • Cauliflower

  • Bell Peppers

  • Yogurt

  • Broccoli

  • Oatmeal/Hot Cereal

  • Cottage Cheese

The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommend 15.5 cups of water daily for men and 11.5 cups of water daily for women. To help achieve this, consider these daily tips:

  • Aim to drink at least 8 cups (64oz) of pure water. This helps restore some of the water that your body naturally loses through various daily body processes, such as breathing and perspiration.

  • Consume at least 5 servings daily of fruits and/or vegetables.

  • Consider having milk as your beverage at meals. Milk (or lactose-free milk) will provide not only water, but also other nutrients that support your health like potassium, calcium, vitamin D, and protein.


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