When was the last time you considered that dehydration can be a cause for a headache or digestive problems?
Hot summer days are usually that period of the year when we start to pay more attention to keeping our body hydrated. Most are aware how important it is to maintain the necessary level of fluids. This is something we have been listening to a lot when we were kids.
Water is life. It is crucial for every living thing on the planet and for the planet.
And the question of dehydration is more important than you might think.
I am gong to explore in details why we need to be more serious about keeping our body hydrated.
Let’s start with why.
Why we need to keep our body hydrated?
Two-thirds of our body is water – can this be a good enough reason for you?
When we lack water, our body and brain cannot function properly. Even more than that, our body cannot absorb nutrients from the food.
Dehydration can impact on our emotions and mood because when our body feels tired, we lack energy. And when we lack energy, we tend to perform poorly at work, or throughout the day, feeling moony or being distracted, and having a hard time to concentrate, especially if we need to maintain focus on important work. But it’s not just about our performance.
Do you remember? We get 20% of water through food- from fruits and veggies that are high in water content.
We need around 1.5 liters of water a day. Women should have 1.6 liters and man at least 2 liters a day. Needless to say, the amounts vary as it depends on factors such as age, lifestyle, activity levels, especially temperature and humidity.
And why do we feel thirsty?
The answer lies in the fact that our body is made of water. More specifically, this is a clue from our body telling us it is running low on water. In a nutshell, we are thirsty because our body is dehydrated. But if you are feeling thirsty all the time, you should investigate what lies behind. Why? Because dehydration can be a signal of many different things.
Causes of dehydration
I don’t drink enough water isn’t the only cause of dehydration. Most of us believe that once we satisfy our thirst, we have solved the puzzle. However, if you decide to listen to your body it can tell you more that what you could imagine.
Many people are not quite familiar with the important causes of dehydration, and that’s why we need to dig deeper into the subject.
We lose water when we sweat. Excessive sweating that is usually followed by the vigorous physical activity can cause dehydration. We cannot easily replace fluids on the go. But it’s not just during summer that we lose fluids, we can also dehydrate in winter. Teens and children are susceptible to dehydration because they can easily mistake thirst for hunger, and generally cannot easily recognize warning signs.
Increased urination is causing dehydration. Increased urination can happen as a result of diabetes. Diuretics and certain blood pressure medications as well as antihistamines and antipsychotics can cause you to urinate more than normal and lead to dehydration. And don’t forget about alcohol.
Vomiting and diarrhea cause dehydration. We avoid speaking about the problems related to our digestive system, but this is a crystal clear sign from our body and the message is simple: we need to break some unhealthy habits or go and get a full body check up.
If you are feeling nauseous or are experiencing foodborne illnesses you will dehydrate. You lose minerals, electrolytes and a tremendous amount of water when you are suffering from acute diarrhea that prevents your intestinal tract from absorbing water from the food. On the other hand, many things can cause diarrhea such as viral or bacterial infection, food, bowel disorder, and it can also be a reaction to medications.
Fever causes a tremendous loss of water. The higher the fever, the more water we will lose. Fever is the most common cause of dehydration.
Low-carb diets and dietary supplements are little known causes of dehydration. When we are trying to drop a few pounds we usually decide to go with the low-carb diet. That brings both good and bad news. As carbohydrates are stored in the body along with fluids, when we lose a couple of pounds of water weight, we lose it because we stop eating whole carbs. But, when we cook brown rice or oatmeal, this food soak up water. When we eat them we are actually increasing our hydration level.
Dietary supplements are shown to increase urine output and if you are thinking about taking any, consult with your doctor first.
Pregnancy causes a decrease in body fluids. During pregnancy, the body is requiring more fluids as blood volume and cardiac output increase. If you feel nauseous and suffering from morning sickness you can easily decrease the water amount.
Breastfeeding can significantly lower hydration levels. If you are having trouble producing, this might be a sign of dehydration. Electrolytes, minerals and proteins, and water of course, are moving from your body to baby’s body, thus you can easily start to feel tired and exhausted. What you need to do is feed your body with enough liquids it requires to keep the strength.
A diet low in fruits and vegetables can lead to consuming more water. When I think about nutrition and healthy eating I always think of the balanced diet. Our body needs nutrients from the food, but it will not get enough if we keep ruining our eating habits with fast or junk food. Unhealthy meals are almost a synonym for no fruits and vegetables. As I said, we get around 20 percent of water from vegetables and fruits. If you don’t eat it enough and don’t drink extra water, you can easily dehydrate.
As we age, our body has a problem to conserve water. Aging is a natural process and with it, some of our sensations are declining and we can easily forget to drink water or mistake the thirst for hunger. It’s good to keep track of how much water you have consumed during the day and to have a bottle of water near you.
Dehydration can be mild to moderate and severe.
We can recognize more symptom and differentiate the level of dehydration.
Mild to moderate dehydration can be recognized if/when:
- Your skin and mouth are dry
- You have a headache or constipation
- When you feel dizzy, tired or cannot sleep
- If you have muscle cramps
- If you have bad breath
- When you crave for food, especially sweets
Severe symptoms of dehydration include:
- Rapid heartbeat and breathing
- Low blood pressure
- Little or no urination
- When you are irritated, delusional or confused
Anyone can dehydrate but certain people are more susceptible to water depletion.
Who is at risk?
Infants and children are vulnerable because firstly they are more likely to experience diarrhea and because they cannot recognize the need and mistake being thirsty for being hungry. Their smaller body weights are contributing to this problem.
Older adults tend to eat less and sometimes forget to eat or drink, especially if they are in the nursery homes. They are more susceptible to dehydration because their body’s ability to conserve water is reduced. With age, the body is less able to respond to changes in temperature. All this is followed with health problems that are common such as dementia and diabetes. Certain medications can contribute to the problem of dehydration as well.
Athletes who are training for marathons, triathlons, cycling competitions and similar are at great risk of water depletion. The body may lose more water than it can absorb during exercise and training.
People with chronic illnesses such as diabetes are likely to dehydrate frequently if they do not develop a habit of drinking water regularly.
People living at high altitudes (above 8,200 feet) can dehydrate as body is trying to adjust to the atmospheric conditions. Rapid breathing and increased urination leads to water depletion as the more the body is trying to maintain the oxygen levels, the more water vapor you are exhaling.
So if you are feeling thirsty, what should you drink?
Water, of course. You can drink tap water if it goes through regular check – meaning it’s safe and clean and can be utilized. If you don’t like the taste, you can think about getting a filter.
Soda and sugary drinks should not be thought of as liquids that can keep your body hydrated. You should think about them as enemies. Why? Sugary drink will only help you get empty calories as these drinks have no nutritional value. Let’s not forget that drinks that contain sugar cannot in fact satisfy your thirst, and you will usually become even more thirsty and grumpy.
Fruit juices are a good alternative, however they can be enemies as well. Soda and sugary drinks are enemies in terms of keeping our teeth healthy, and because fruit juices contain natural sugar and citric acid they can contribute to tooth decay. If and when consumed in the right amount, fruit juices are beneficial because of the vitamins and minerals.
It may seem like you don’t have many options, but all in all it’s best if you keep your body hydrated with water. It is after all calorie-free drink and available most of the time.
What happens when you dehydrate?
Serious complication can be a result of dehydration because our system dries out. Besides having trouble to concentrate and focus and feeling tired or distracted, dehydration can contribute to serious health problems such as heatstroke which can be a result of heat injury.
Cerebral edema (swelling of the brain) happens when your body pulls too much water into the cells causing swelling and rupture. This is especially threatening when brain cells are affected.
Seizures happen as a result of lack of electrolytes. We need potassium and sodium because these minerals carry electrical signals. When electrolytes are out of balance, the result can be involuntary muscle contractions. Moreover, this can result in a loss of consciousness.
Kidney failure happens when the kidneys are no longer able to remove excess fluids from the blood.
Chronic dehydration can lead to cholesterol problems, and problems with digestive system and joint.
How can you be sure you are thirsty and not hungry?
This is the most common problem but you can in fact do a test to check if you need to hydrate.
The skin test – Grab a roll of your skin, pull the skin high to one centimeter and then let it go. If the skin bounces back, you might be dehydrated.
The urine test – Your urine will be clear and yellow if your body has enough liquids. When your urine turns orange, noticeable yellow or chardonnay, you are dehydrated. You are in fact severely dehydrated when your urine appears orange.
How to keep your body hydrated?
No one can know better than you if you are dehydrated, all you have to do is listen to your body, it will tell you everything you need to know and show you the signs of dehydration. And when the first sign appears, you have to drink water.
Everybody is at risk of dehydration, and this is what you can do.
Keep a bottle of water near you all the time. This is a good trick if you have to develop a habit.
Drink tea. You can keep the right amount of liquids in your body drinking unsweetened flavored tea.
Remember that dehydration can pose a serious threat to your health and try to always keep in mind how important water is for our organism. It’s essential.
Have you experienced any health problems that resulted from dehydration? How do you keep your body hydrated? Share with the rest of us.