Right now, as you’re reading this, you’re most likely dehydrated. It only takes 1.5% water loss in your body to become mildly dehydrated. Since an estimated 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated, that only means you’re a possible candidate.
After all, the Institute of Medicine prescribes 13 cups of water per day for men, 9 for women. We’d guess that not too many people hit that number.
Water is critical for survival, but also for day-to-day body functioning. You need water to metabolize fat, to detoxify the liver and the kidneys and to carry waste away. While immediate thirst can lead to a headache, chronic dehydration can lead to issues like weight gain, ulcers, high blood pressure, and kidney disease.
Are you dehydrated? Here are the signs and symptoms:
1. Thirst or dry mouth. Thirst is a major signal to start drinking more fluid. Unfortunately, thirst occurs after you are already dehydrated. So drink up! If you are thirsty, you are already behind.
2. Darker urine color and decreased urine output. This is one of the beginning signs of dehydration. The kidneys are attempting to store water to keep the body functioning normally instead of expelling waste.
3. Dry skin/lips. Decreased water intake = increase in dry skin. Your skin plays a role in your immune system. When it is compromised by dehydration, your first line of defense is not as effective. The body has to prioritize where water goes when the supply is limited and the vital organs usually win.
4. Headache. Dehydration can cause the blood vessels to narrow. The temporary narrowing of blood vessels decreases the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain, causing headaches.
5. Hunger. Lower fluid intake can cause the body to receive mixed hunger signals causing you to think that you need to eat rather than drink. Drinking plenty of fluid is a natural appetite suppressant, especially if you are struggling with “head hunger” or snacking between meals.
6. Cramping in arms and legs. Cramping can be caused by a fluid imbalance. A fluid imbalance is not just about the body’s water, but also the electrolytes. Electrolytes are stored both outside of the cell (extracellular) and inside a cell (intracellular)- dehydration causes a shift in the fluid containing these electrolytes which leads to cramping.
7. Constipation. Without adequate water, the water entering the large intestine (colon) is diminished. This results in waste moving slower through the bowel or halting movement completely.
8. Dizziness, weakness, fatigue, or lethargy. Dehydration or lower fluid intake can cause a drop in blood volume. Without an increase in fluid intake, the heart must work harder to send the same amount of blood and oxygen to your muscles.
9. Rapid heartbeat and weak pulse. A rapid heartbeat occurs with dehydration to keep your blood pressure from dropping. The less fluid that is in the blood means that the heart has to pump more to maintain blood pressure levels.
10. Cold hands and feet. Some scientist believe that cold hands and feet occurs in severe dehydration due to a decrease in blood volume and blood flow is rerouted away from the extremities and toward the vital organs.
Are these surprising? What shocks us is that many everyday problems—confusion, fogginess, fatigue—that we chalk up to so many different things are simply just symptoms of one cause: dehydration.
Tips on Staying Hydrated:
Wondering how to implement hydration into your life so you can avoid dehydration and bolster your quality of life? Here are some helpful ways you can do that.
Get a nice water bottle
There are some great inexpensive water bottles on shelves around town that can help encourage you to drink more water. If you splurge for a little bit of a higher end bottle that keeps the liquid cold, you’ll be able to keep the water cool for a long time and know it’s ready to drink no matter where you go.
Add some flavor
If water seems boring to drink over and over, all day long, consider getting some water flavoring to make it taste a little different every once in a while. It’s important not to do this all the time, though, as flavoring packets sometimes have calories, sugars and caffeine. that can interfere with your weight loss goals or other diet plan.
Download an app
If you have a busy day ahead, it’s likely that you won’t remember to drink your water unless you start feeling thirsty. Did you know that there are apps out there that remind you when to drink water? Check out apps like “My Water” that send reminders on when you need to refresh your water supply and take a drink.
Reduce your intake of other beverages
If you load up on coffee, soda, or juice, chances are, you’re not going to be as inclined to drink water. Reduce your intake of other beverages that are not beneficial to your help and replace them with a full glass of water.
It’s critical to stay hydrated. If you’re struggling to reach the daily goal of 96oz, contact one of us and we’ll help you with a plan.