You’ve heard that staying well-hydrated helps your body detox, keeps appetite in check, helps you lose weight and also keeps skin supple and younger-looking. But, that’s not the only reason why you should drink 7 to 8 glasses of water every day. In fact, dehydration could be making you sick. Dehydration can cause muscle spasms, tension in your neck or jaw, constipation, vomiting, as well as more serious symptoms, like sudden heart problems. It can also impact overall mood and cognitive function, contributing to impairment in vision, perceptive discrimination, tracking, recall, attention, psychomotor skills and memory. What’s worse is that you might not be able to draw a connection between dehydration and chronic illnesses like diabetes.
Dehydration Can Cause Chronic Illness
Water makes up a large percentage of our blood. Oxygen and nutrients are transported throughout the body via blood. On the other hand, lymphatic fluids which remove waste products from the body, make up four times the volume of blood. As you can imagine, all body systems can become impaired if the body does not receive a continuous, safe and reliable supply of water.
Leads to Diabetes
What is especially worrying is that when ignored over a period of time, dehydration makes you susceptible to more serious chronic illnesses. Low water intake can lead to diabetes over time, as it increases the risk of new-onset hyperglycemia.
Disruptions in Mood
Mild levels of dehydration can produce disruptions in mood and cognitive functioning. According to a study conducted at St. Louis University Health Sciences Center, St. Louis, dehydration is a reliable predictor of impaired cognitive status. It is a risk factor for delirium and dementia, especially in the elderly and in the very ill. Research has found a definite statistical association between high degrees of dehydration/water volume depletion and poor mental function.
Dehydration disrupts the gastrointestinal function and is a leading cause of chronic constipation. However, dehydration is also linked to heartburn and dyspepsia. Dehydration can worsen arthritis pain as well. Water is the main lubricant of the joints and prevents arthritis, back pain and other kinds of body pains.
Triggers AllergiesOver a period of time, dehydration can aggravate allergies too. Dehydration triggers the release of histamine, making you more susceptible to allergies. Essential hypertension is often the result of gradually established dehydration. The lesser water there is in the body, the more pressure is needed to hydrate vital cells.
Causes Chronic Pain
Another negative trait of dehydration is that it enhances pain-evoked activation in the brain. This may manifest as migraine headaches, joint pain, back pain or several other pain indicators. Dehydration can also interfere with regular sleep patterns, as it causes tryptophan deficiency, resulting in insomnia.
One more issue that dehydration results in is incomplete protein metabolism. This causes gout over a period of time as uric acid crystals collect in some joints and cause pain. The kidneys rely on water for proper functioning. Without sufficient water, the kidneys have to work overtime for filtering out waste, causing them damage.
Who Is At Risk For Dehydration?
Anyone who isn’t drinking 2 to 3 liters of water a day can become dehydrated. However, advancing age alters thirst perception, so elderly people are very susceptible to dehydration. Unfortunately, they are also more at risk for chronic illnesses, which is why drinking an adequate amount of water becomes all the more important as you age.Infants and children are also prone to dehydration since their bodies are more vulnerable to water depletion, while their need for water is greater than adults’.
Others who are more susceptible to dehydration are:
- People with outdoor jobs, like park & rec employees, loggers, construction workers, farmers and miners
- Endurance athletes
- People who sweat excessively
- Mountain climbers
- People with hormonal imbalances
- Those who follow a poor diet that is rich in unhealthy fats and refined carbohydrates
- People living in a very hot and humid climate
- Chronically ill patients
- People recovering from a surgery or a virus
- Chemotherapy patients
You Must Drink Enough Water
The key to avoiding dehydration is to listen to your body. If you are thirsty or have been sweating profusely, replenish your body with water immediately. If you like to exercise even in summers, make sure you always carry a bottle of water. Remember that dehydration starts to set in even before your mouth starts to go dry. So, don’t wait for severe symptoms to show before you take action. But, how will you know whether you’re drinking enough water? If you urinate every three to four hours and your urine is pale yellow in color, you’re drinking enough.
Aim to drink 3 liters of water per day. Keep these additional tips in mind:
- Water is the only liquid that truly hydrates the body. Sports drinks don’t count, so drink plenty of fresh water instead.
- When the sugar or salt content in any food is higher than average, you will need more water to metabolize them. So, drink a couple of extra glasses of water if you’ve indulged in something sweet or salty.
- If you lead an active lifestyle, you need more water to replace the fluids you’ve lost while sweating.
- When you drink coffee, caffeine or alcohol, you should drink an equal amount of water, plus a little more, to replenish what is lost by drinking these diuretics.
- If you eat a high-protein diet, you need more water.
- When nursing a cold, having a fever or battling diarrhea, drink more water as your body needs extra hydration to make up for the fluid loss.
Healthy Alternatives to Plain Water
While there is nothing better than water to keep us hydrated, sometimes, we all need a little ‘something extra’ to stay motivated to drink up!
Some great alternatives to water are:
- Herbal teas
- Coconut water
- Homemade vegetable juices
- Fruit smoothies
- Add some cut lime and few mint springs to a bottle of plain water to add some summertime flavors.
- Hot water with fresh, steeped herbs like dandelion and ginger is great for winter months.
- Bone broth and homemade vegetable soups.
- Add a teaspoon of honey and lime to a glass of water.
- Add yogurt, kefir, kombucha and amasai to your diet.
- Fruits like watermelon, oranges, limes, kiwis and grapefruit are water-rich.
- Add cucumbers, celery, carrots and bell peppers to your salad.
- Chop up a watermelon, kiwis and cucumbers, and add them to a tall jug of water for some extra flavor.
Stay hydrated, stay healthy!