Don’t let dehydration damage your health, sap your energy, dry out your skin, and more. Discover the simple secrets to staying hydrated and avoiding dehydration with these top tips.
Most of us function in a chronic state of dehydration. Whether it’s a busy schedule, a specific health condition, or simply not having enough clean water on hand, the reality is that most people in today’s world simply aren’t drinking enough hydrating fluids. And as mega-droughts persist around the world, and access to safe drinking water diminishes, the issue is heating up fast.
Damaging Your Engine
As your body acclimates to dehydration, you lose sensitivity to water deprivation and don’t get thirsty when you need to. And that’s a real problem. Water accounts for more than half of your body mass as blood, intracellular fluid, interstitial fluids, cerebrospinal fluid, and more. These fluids unite your various organs and systems, allowing your body’s most critical communications to flow smoothly. Water also helps to:
- Remove wastes and toxins
- Transport nutrients and oxygen
- Control heart rate and blood pressure
- Regulate body temperature
- Lubricate joints
- Protect organs and tissues
- Supporting smooth skin
83% of your blood volume — a significant portion by any standard – is water. So, it’s easy to see why chronic dehydration can become such a problem.
What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Water?
Trying to function without enough water is like running a car without enough oil. What happens to a car that isn’t lubricated with the right motor oil? It heats up and the engine can get damaged. A similar effect occurs in the body when you’re not well hydrated, you’re constantly busy, and your system is running too fast and too long without a break.
The immediate results? You may feel dizzy and fatigued or suffer from headaches or digestive upset.
It’s the long-term consequences that are most concerning, however. Since water forms a large part of the highway on which signaling molecules travel, dehydration can have a negative effect on functions right down to the cellular level. We feel sluggish and tired. Physical activities become more difficult. Our mental performance is impaired. We are simply not ourselves. Over time, this can result in chronic inflammation and many degenerative diseases.
What Causes Chronic Dehydration?
There are various causes of chronic dehydration. Some common ones include:
- Illness that causes fluid loss through diarrhea and vomiting
- Intense physical activity without fluid replenishment
- Alcohol, drug use, excess caffeine consumption, and/or poor food choices — including highly processed foods and those loaded with salt or sugar such as soda.
- Diseases, such as diabetes, cystic fibrosis and kidney disease, as they cause people to urinate or sweat more often
- Environment: extremely dry environments or places with extreme temperatures (high or low)
Surprising Signs of Chronic Dehydration
Chronic dehydration can produce vague symptoms that are often confused with other health issues, such as dizziness, lightheadedness, headache, disorientation, muscle spasms, and sunken eyes.
Many of us are chronically dehydrated and don’t know it — dry mouth and thirst are not always present in cases of dehydration. Your urine color is a better gauge; darker-colored urine signals dehydration while light-yellow or even colorless urine indicates that you are properly hydrated.
Dehydration can also happen when you confuse thirst for hunger. That’s why people often turn to a sugary snack when the body is asking for fluids. Constant snacking — and especially constant sugar cravings — can be a hidden sign of a dehydration imbalance.
Here are some surprising causes of dehydration:
With dehydration, histamine levels can increase, and your immune system can become imbalanced, creating the perfect storm for dust, pollen, mold, and animal allergies to manifest.
Digestive ailments, especially acid reflux and constipation are another lesser-known sign of chronic dehydration. Hydration is essential to keep all functions of the digestive tract running smoothly.
Dehydration can fuel chronic inflammation and stagnation in the body, leading to oxidative stress and damage to cellular mitochondria, the tiny cellular “engines” that help produce energy.
Depression, irritability, or mental fog
The brain relies on a relatively large portion of the body’s blood supply. With dehydration, blood supply can be reduced and may manifest in the brain as mental and emotional imbalances and in extreme cases, temporary mental impairment. Ongoing stress also increases dehydration in the body with high levels of circulating stress hormones, so dehydration and stress can be a vicious cycle. Stress also causes the body to get rid of fluids—the idea being that in a potential “fight or flight” situation, the body needs to be as light as possible. Staying hydrated and finding healthy ways to relieve stress can help break this cycle.
Water, Water Everywhere, But…
It’s easy to assume that bottled water is the wisest choice, but that may not always be the case. The FDA regulates bottled water while the EPA oversees municipal water supplies. And according to a federal congressional report, quality tap water has more oversight than bottled water.
Always consider the source. This is the most important factor to consider when shopping for bottled water. Naturally occurring sources of water — like spring, glacier, and mineral waters — are the best choice. “Purified” and “Vapor-distilled” bottled waters often come from public water systems — essentially, tap water.
There are many home filtration systems available on the market today. While they can be expensive, it may be worth your peace of mind. Carbon block filtration systems have been shown to be most effective at removing microbial and chemical contaminants from drinking water.
Purification systems such as reverse osmosis systems and water distillers do a good job of removing contaminants, but they also remove essential trace minerals naturally present in our water. So, if you pick this option, be sure to supplement with extra trace minerals.
How Much Water Should You Drink?
Most medical professionals recommend eight cups of water per day, which comes from the National Academy of Sciences of the United States Food and Nutrition Board. However, this varies depending on certain factors, including age, activity, body weight, and health issues.
How to Boost Your Hydration
A few helpful tips:
1. Always keep water near you — don’t let your busy schedule get in the way of good hydration. Rather than guzzle large amounts of water in one sitting, try to sip throughout the day.
2. On especially hot days or after intense workouts, replenish your electrolytes with natural electrolyte drink mixes and mineral-rich foods such as dark-green leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables (e.g., broccoli, cauliflower), bananas and other fruits high in potassium, bone broth, nuts and seeds, avocado, yogurt, and spirulina.
3. Try hibiscus tea and/or cactus water — both beverages are high in antioxidants, and cactus water is packed with electrolytes. Brewed hibiscus tea (sugar-free) is known to support the body’s cooling mechanisms. It also helps lower blood pressure, and may even prevent oxidative stress from UV light, according to one study.
4. Eat foods high in water and avoid those known to cause dehydration:
Foods highest in water, according to UCLA Health, from highest to lowest:
- Iceberg lettuce
- Romaine lettuce
- Zucchini and summer squash
- Bell peppers
Foods and beverages that can dehydrate the body:
- Coffee, soda, and other high-caffeine beverages such as energy drinks
- Deli meats and other high-sodium foods
- Soy sauce
- Sweets and desserts, which cause excretion of fluid
- Beets — beets and beet juice are high in potassium, which is a good thing; however, consuming too many beets can have the reverse effect by making you urinate frequently (and thereby losing too many fluids)
- High-protein diets
*These foods contain asparagine, an amino acid with diuretic properties, which may pose problems for people with certain medical conditions if consumed in too-high amounts.
The bottom line? Drinking plenty of naturally sourced water is a very simple way to boost your health. Emphasizing foods and beverages high in water also helps keep your body well-hydrated. These simple habits also offer rapid, noticeable results in terms of increased energy and vitality. So, grab your glass and drink up!