A vast majority of people are chronically dehydrated as they opt for more flavorful drink alternatives. Unknowingly they become more dehydrated by drinking alcohol, sugary beverages, and caffeinated drinks in place of water which can lead to long term health conditions over time. Many of these non-water drinks act like diuretics and cause the body to expel water it needs to rid itself of cellular waste products and harmful inflammatory by-products, further compounding health issues. Proper hydration is essential for your body to function properly and protect itself.
Dehydration happens when a person loses more fluid than they take in, either through natural processes like sweating and urination, when you have a fever or after a vomiting or diarrhea bout. Dehydration is more likely to occur when the weather is warm or during periods of profuse sweating, like during exercise. Drinking water frequently is key, whether you are working out at the gym, sitting on the couch or at the office, water helps the body compensate for the liquids that are constantly being lost throughout the day.
Dehydration is much more than just not drinking enough water. You probably know that drinking water is essential for surviving, but have you ever wondered why? Water is all around us and inside of us. Scientists know that water, which covers 71 percent of the planet, is one of the things that makes living on earth possible. And living organisms not only depend on water, but most of them are also made of it too.
Around 60 percent of the adult human body is water (water makes up 75 percent of a newborn’s body weight!), and many of our organs, including the heart, the brain, and the lungs, are composed of 70 to 85 percent water. Even seemingly hard and dry bones have massive amounts of water in them; 31 percent, to be exact. Water also makes up a large percentage of blood which brings oxygen and nutrients to our cells and supports vital bodily processes such as our immune system throughout the body. Without water, the blood becomes thicker, cells shrink, and blood pressure rises to make up for the lack of liquids.
Lymphatic fluids, part of our immune system, make up four times the volume of blood and are designed to remove waste products from our body. Our essential bodily systems need a continuous supply of water or they can become impaired. Dehydration also leads to inflammation throughout the body which can cause many health issues such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, asthma, obesity, pain disorders, arthritis, depression and even cancer to name a few. All of these conditions can be linked to a chronic state of dehydration as well.
Drinking enough water each day is crucial for many reasons: to regulate body temperature, keep joints lubricated, prevent infections, deliver nutrients to cells, and keep organs functioning properly. Being well-hydrated also improves sleep quality, cognition, and mood.
Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration
It’s normal to lose water by sweating, urinating, and even breathing. But replacing those liquids can be quickly achieved by drinking plenty of water and eating foods with high water content (like fruits and vegetables). But when you don’t drink enough water, you may start experiencing symptoms of mild dehydration. Mild dehydration is not immediately life-threatening and can be solved by drinking more fluids. However, severe dehydration is considered a medical emergency that can cause serious brain, kidney, and heart damage if not treated in time.
These are some signs and symptoms of mild and severe dehydration:
· Thirst and hunger
· Dark yellow/amber urine
· Dry mouth
· Dry skin
· Muscle cramps
· Cold hands
· Flaky skin
· Rapid heartbeat/weak pulse
· Brain fog/disorientation
· Rapid breathing
· Sunken eyes
Can Dehydration Trigger a Migraine?
Many migraineurs find themselves particularly susceptible to migraines when summer rolls in. High temperatures, humidity, and barometric pressure changes are all known migraine triggers. But dehydration, which is extremely common during the summertime, is an often-overlooked trigger that can be easily avoided.
There is significant clinical and anecdotal evidence of dehydration as a migraine trigger. However, few research studies have been conducted to confirm or deny the claim. One research study published by the medical journal Neurology analyzed data from 7,054 patients who had been admitted to the emergency department with a headache. Their results showed that the risk of getting a migraine increases almost eight percent for every nine-degree rise in temperature. The researchers didn’t name dehydration as a trigger, but it is a well-known fact that hot temperature frequently leads to it.
Another study published by the European Journal of Neurology randomly assigned migraine patients to two groups. The first group was asked to drink 1.5 liters of water (around six cups) a day for two weeks, and the second group was given a placebo medicine. Results suggested that, on average, the group that drank more water experienced 21 fewer hours of headaches than the placebo group during the study.
How to Prevent Dehydration
Fortunately, dehydration is easy to prevent and treat. Most guidelines recommend healthy adults to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day (aka the “8×8 rule”), which adds up to half a gallon or two liters of water daily. The 8×8 rule is a good starting point because it is easy to remember, but the fact of the matter is that the amount of water your body needs depends on many factors, including your age, degree of physical activity, the weather, season, and more.
One of the best ways to find out how much water you need is to experiment for a couple of days with your water intake. If you work out a lot or have a physically demanding job, you will most likely need more than 8 glasses of water.
On the other hand, if you are not as active or spend lots of time indoors, two liters might be more than enough. A good rule of thumb is never to wait until you are thirsty to drink water. Thirst is one of the early signs of dehydration, so while you are not likely to be severely dehydrated the minute you feel a little thirsty, it’s always best to sip a little water throughout the day.
Because staying hydrated is not easy for everybody, here are some practical tips that might help:
· Get a few water bottles and leave them where you spend the most time – at home, at the office, in your gym bag. Having a water bottle with you will help you remember that you need to drink water, save money, and cut down on single-use plastics.
· Add flavor to your water. If you don’t enjoy the taste – or lack thereof – of water, add a few fruits or veggie slices to the glass or pitcher. Lemon, cucumber, strawberries, ginger, blueberries and raspberries are all tasty additions packed with healthy vitamins and minerals.
· Use an app to track your progress. Logging your water intake into an app makes drinking water a little more exciting and will help you get a sense of how much water you are really drinking.
· Drink a full glass of water before each meal and after every bathroom break.
· Eat more fruits with high water content: lettuce, cucumber, celery, watermelon, cantaloupe, and cabbage are all more than 90 percent water.
For good health and longevity, make water a big part of your daily routine.