Are You Hydrated?
Photo Courtesy: Healthy Human
I’ll make you a bet. There’s a warm water bottle in your patrol bag and your vest has that yummy “sweat smell”. Welcome to summer patrol. I’ll admit, there were days that I realized I haven’t had more than a few chugs of water. And those were the days that I notably felt the worst.
One of the greatest luxuries we have is access to clean water. Yet according the CDC in 2013, 43% of adults report drinking less than 3 cups of water a day. So it appears that I’m not alone.
We all know that not drinking enough water can lead to a headache. But look at this list of other conditions that may be linked to chronic dehydration: fatigue, brain fog, weight gain, constipation, toxin build-up, kidney stones, back pain, heartburn, GERD, arthritis, allergies, asthma and urinary tract infections.
Let’s take asthma and allergies for example.
When you’re dehydrated, a neurotransmitter (messenger) called Histamine is activated. Histamine goes straight to work delegating where precious water should go so your organs are functioning properly. One of the high “water-loss” places are your lungs through air vapor. So histamine constricts blood vessels in an attempt to conserve water. The longer you stay dehydrated, the longer histamine does this. And that can lead to asthma or allergy symptoms. Makes sense right?
How about constipation?
Water is used to help “fluff up” your poop to help it pass through your colon and out the door. If you’re dehydrated, water is conserved by squeezing water out of your poop and sending it back into circulation. Yes, that is gross and your liver and kidneys have to work extra hard to clean it up. What you’re left with is very hard poop that can lead to constipation. As an added bonus, that hard poop can irritate the walls of your colon, leading to little pouches called “Diverticuli”. As future poop passes by, some may get trapped in these pouches and subsequently get infected and inflamed.
Do you experience fatigue or brain fog?
Water is required to generate hydroelectric energy, primarily in the brain. This is created by water flowing through cell membranes, creating energy (ATP) for the cell. No water? No energy. Just a small drop in body water can also cause up to a 30% reduction in energy. So a majority of the time you’re suffering from “brain fog” or fatigue it may be just because you’re dehydrated.
Do you encounter stress?
When you’re stressed, hormones like endorphins and cortisol are released to help with pain management and energy. In the course of their duties, these hormones “mop up” water reserves. This leads to an increased demand for water. So drink up not only to get your body ready for the fight, but to keep the fight going. Ironically, dehydration causes stress on the body which leads to increased water demand (a vicious circle).
“But I drink when I’m thirsty”
If you’re relying on thirst as your water gauge, you’re in trouble. Your body is about 75% water and your brain is 85% water. You won’t even experience the “I’m thirsty” feeling until you are 1.5% dehydrated (which means a 1.5% loss of water weight). So if you drink only when “I’m thirsty”, you’re already dehydrated and experiencing declined body function.
For reference (adults), you’re considered mildly dehydrated when you lose 1-2% of your body water weight. Moderate dehydration is 4-6% loss (athletes are prone to this). Severe dehydration is 7-9% loss. And a loss of 15% or more is the fatal zone.
Also, your thirst sensations also decline around age 25. This means your “thirst alarm” becomes less and less sensitive as you get older. A big reason the elderly are prone to dehydration. So drink before you’re thirsty.
“What about salt? Does juice or tea count?”
Salt (sodium chloride) is essential for fluid and electrolyte balance, nerve conduction, muscle contraction and influences blood volume and pressure. Yep. It’s an important mineral. So if you drink a lot of water throughout the day, make sure you are getting enough salt. One recommendation from the water expert himself (Dr. F. Batmanghelidj) is 1/2 tsp unrefined sea salt per 10 glasses of water.
Tea, coffee, cola, juice and alcohol may be refreshing, but they can also be high in sugar and calories. Alcohol also has diuretic effects. And cola’s have phosphorous (acidity) which can adversely effect bone health. Drink these for pleasure. Not for hydration.
Drink a full glass of water upon rising. A general rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces (i.e. 150 lbs = 75 oz a day). And drink more if you’re sweating or exercising (or experiencing diarrhea).
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*By the way, if you’re reusing a plastic water bottle you bought at the store, please stop. Not only can the plastic leach into your water and interfere with your hormones but warm water is just plain gross.
Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read in this article.
- Dehydration Influences Mood, Cognition. Rick Nauert PhD (2015, October 06). from https://psychcentral.com/news/2012/02/20/dehydration-influences-mood-cognition/35037.html
- Grazia, A. PhD, Dangers of Chronic Dehydration. http://nutritioninfo.tripod.com/id19.html
- Batmanghelidj F. M.D. “Your Body’s Many Cries for Water”. Global Health Solutions, Inc.; 2008.
- Popkin, B. M., D’Anci, K. E., & Rosenberg, I. H. (2010, August). Water, Hydration and Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2908954/
- Wolfson AB. Harwood-Nuss’ Clinical Practice of Emergency Medicine. LWW; 2012. pg 1140
- Anderson SD. How does exercise cause asthma attacks?. Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 2006;6(1):37-42.
- Yang, C. et al (2011, March). Environmental Health Perspectives – Most Plastic Products Release Estrogenic Chemicals: A Potential Health Problem That Can Be Solved. https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1003220