One question I’m asked a lot is “how much water should I be drinking?”
When people are experiencing incontinence or nocturia (waking up more than twice at night to urinate), they often try to control the condition by limiting their intake of liquids. However, not drinking enough water can often lead to a lot of problems related to dehydration. Therefore, many of us have heard the recommendation that we drink eight glasses of water a day.
By drinking a full eight glasses, we’re pretty assured to be hydrated enough. However, in some cases, eight glasses may be more than what is needed. For starters, the eight glass recommendation is usually not in addition to other liquids that you’re drinking - coffee, tea, juice, etc. But it is important to not simply drink eight glasses of coffee and call it a day: you need to make sure that you are consuming some pure water, too.
Secondly, different people living different lives need different amounts of water. A very active person in a hotter climate who is sweating throughout the day may require eight or more glasses of water to stay properly hydrated. A more sedentary person who is working at a desk or otherwise sitting for most of the day in a climate-controlled environment obviously won’t be sweating as much, and it would make sense that they wouldn’t require as much water. In this person’s case, while drinking eight glasses a day might not hurt their body, it probably won’t help with their incontinence or nocturia, and may be unnecessary.
So, how do you know how much water is enough? There are two good indicators: thirst and urine. Many physicians, at least when dealing with incontinence, have switched from recommending eight glasses a day to “drink when you’re thirsty.”
Thirst is your body’s natural way of telling you it’s time to rehydrate. But be careful if you’ve trained yourself to drink eight glasses of water each day and then suddenly you switch to drinking only when you’re thirsty - you may not recognize the feeling of thirst right away because chances are you haven’t felt it in a while. Also, make sure that you’re not cutting down too drastically too quickly because your body has become accustomed to processing a certain amount of liquid.
The second way to monitor how much water you need is by looking at the color of your urine. Urine should generally be a light yellow color. If it’s dark yellow or even orangish it is a sign of dehydration and you need to be drinking more water. However, if the urine is nearly clear, then you are probably drinking more water than you actually need, and you could try slowly and gradually cutting out a little bit until your urine color becomes that light yellow that indicates a healthy level of hydration.
Of course the most important indicator is simply how you feel. For example, headaches are a common sign of dehydration, and over a longer period you might notice your skin drying out a bit too. Pay attention to how your body is reacting and adjust your intake accordingly. Even by reducing your liquids, you’ll still have incontinence and you may still experience nocturia, but it may help cut down on the amount of leakage or number of times you’re getting up at night, respectively.
Jasmine wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Incontinence.