Dehydration: The Challenges and Benefits of Staying Hydrated.
About 70% of the earth is covered in water, and we have seen the severe effects of drought on delicate ecosystems. Similarly, our body is also a delicate ecosystem that also depends on water for optimal functioning.
What Does Water Do?
Our bodies are about 60% water and losing as little as 2% can significantly affect your body’s functioning. Our liver and kidneys are about 83% water, they use water to remove toxins from our body. Our muscles are about 76% water, and even mild dehydration can cause a loss of elasticity in the muscle, putting us at greater risk of muscle tears and strains. A well-hydrated body, on the cellular level, can slow down and even reverse biological aging.
Water helps the cells regulate body temperature, keeps mucous membranes moist, helps lubricates joints, and protects our organs, muscles and tissues. Water is also an important factor in our digestive system by reducing belly bloat, removing waste through urination, perspiration, and bowel movements. In this sense, proper hydration can assist with weight loss, while dehydration can contribute to weight loss resistance. Water is also an important factor in proper brain function and cognitive thinking. Even mild dehydration can start to affect your body’s short term memory, vision tracking, and fine motor skills. A recent study of adolescents who exercised for 90 minutes to a state of dehydration experienced significant shrinking of brain tissue, much like a sponge left out to dry.
Causes of Dehydration:
Every day your body loses moisture in everyday life. Sweating, urinating, tears, saliva, and even breathing, causes moisture to leave the body. If you lose more water than you take in, you are at risk of being dehydrated.
Signs of Dehydration to watch for:
- Increased thirst
- Dry mouth or eyes
- Fatigue or Sleepiness
- Muscle Cramps
- Decreased urine and more yellow than normal
- Dry skin
How Much Water Do I Need?
Recommendations vary but a safe and easy one to remember is 8×8, or 8 glasses of 8 ounces of water each day. You can also divide your weight in pounds by 2 and drink that number in ounces. If you weigh 140 pounds, divided by 2, that would be 70 ounces of water a day. The Health and Medicine Division of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends that adult women get about 91 ounces of water each day and that men get about 125 ounces of water. That includes all sources of water including the beverages you drink and the foods you eat. Bottom line, listen to your body. If you are thirsty, drink water.
How Do You Know If You’re Dehydrated?
The most prevailing ideology is that as long as your urine is light yellow in color, you are drinking enough water. In fact, Lawrence Armstrong, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist and professor at the University of Connecticut’s Human Performance Laboratory, established a urine color chart to model a measure of dehydration². Based on where you fall on the chart, you can adjust your fluid intake accordingly.
While this is a good rule of thumb, it can be affected if you are taking dietary supplements that contain riboflavin that will make your urine bright yellow, and certain medications can change the color of your urine as well. If you have any kidney problems or other health conditions you should talk to your health care provider about how much water to drink.
Other reasons to drink more water:
- If you are extremely active
- If you live a very hot climate
- If you are in a high elevation
- If you have a fever
- If you are experiencing digestive problems, especially constipation
- If you have a hangover
- If you are pregnant or breastfeeding
How to Combat Dehydration:
Start creating consistent daily habits around hydration. Start your day hydrated, as it is easier to maintain a correct fluid balance if you start in a well-hydrated state. Experts recommend starting your day with water on an empty stomach. Some of the benefits of starting your day in this way include rehydration, mental alertness, increased metabolism, increased energy and benefit for hair and skin.
Schedule regular beverage breaks and keep a water bottle handy so you can take frequent drinks while working or exercising. You can set a timer to remind yourself to drink, draw lines on your water bottle or see these free water tracking apps: https://www.thequench.com/water/8-of-the-best-water-apps-to-use-for-free/
Keep a water bottle with you at all times, to serve as a constant reminder to stay hydrated throughout the day. A good reusable water bottle is the perfect way to stay hydrated and be environmentally responsible. Check out these articles for some great reusable bottles: https://www.latimes.com/lifestyle/story/2019-07-18/best-reusable-water-bottles or https://www.foodandwine.com/lifestyle/reusable-water-bottles
Eat Your Way to Hydration:
Food is another great way to get water into your body. You can get 20-30% of your daily water intake from food. Foods such as fruits and vegetables contain some amount of water. Try some of these food to help with your water intake:
- 97% water: Cucumbers
- 96% water: Celery
- 95% water: Tomatoes, radishes
- 93% water: Red, yellow, green bell peppers
- 92% water: Cauliflower, watermelon
- 91% water: Spinach, strawberries, broccoli
- 90% water: Grapefruit
Water and Longevity:
Dr. Zachary Bush, MD, recently described mechanisms for both efficient cellular hydration and optimum mitochondria function to slow down biological aging. Cellular hydration is essential for life. Proper hydration is not simply infusing your body with water. More specifically, it’s about getting the water inside your cells. To do that, you need to improve the electrical charges across your cellular membranes. Strategies that improve the electrical charge across your membranes include taking terrahydrite humic compounds, reducing EMF exposure, increasing electrolytes and boosting your fiber intake.
- Kempton, M. J., Ettinger, U., Foster, R., Williams, S. C., Calvert, G. A., Hampshire, A., . . . Smith, M. S. (2010). Dehydration affects brain structure and function in healthy adolescents. Human Brain Mapping, 32(1), 71-79.