We are water! As adults, about 75% of our body is as simple as H2O. We rely on water to deliver nutrients throughout the bloodstream, flush out waste, lubricate the joints, regulate the body temperature and stabilize our heartbeat. So staying hydrated is a big deal!
And the hot summer months present bigger challenges! We’ve been in the 90’s here in NY for over a week and I know the rest of the country is experiencing a heat wave.
Individual water needs vary, but according to experts at Harvard Health, most people should consume at least 4 to 6 cups of water per day. My personal opinion is that we need to drink about half our body weight in ounces a day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you need 75 oz. of water.
Plus, exercising, especially in the heat, will increase your water needs. Waiting until you’re thirsty is not the best indicator that you need to hydrate, because that typically means that dehydration is already occurring.
So, how can you tell if you’re dehydrated?
Water acts as an important catalyst for a number of chemical reactions (including working as an enzyme to aid with the digestion of food) and forms the basis of everything from neurotransmitters to our blood. If you aren’t getting enough water, then this will affect nearly every part of your body – from your skin and hair to your teeth and nails. And you’ll feel low on energy, struggle with a poor mood and generally not operate at 100%.
Here are a few of the most telling signs that you may be dehydrated:
Your blood and many other bodily fluids are comprised of water and when you’re dehydrated, these become thicker and less diluted. That in turn means that you won’t be able to get the necessary oxygen and nutrients around the body as needed. This is just one factor that can make you feel tired, run down and sluggish. Another is a lack of important neurotransmitters and even a lack of nutrients as the gut is less able to digest nutrients due to a lack of digestive enzymes.
In short, you can end up feeling lethargic and tired. If you’re tired and you don’t know why, consider that hydration might be the issue!
Dehydration is one of the most common causes of constipation. That’s because dehydration causes stool to become dried out, which in turn prevents it from passing through the bowels.
Drinking more water is actually one of the best ways to solve constipation, as is consuming any food that is high in oils such as fish or avocado – this can help to lubricate the stool and encourage it to pass.
Prunes are the best of all though. Not only does the insoluble fiber break up the trapped stool but the sorbitol content causes the stool to absorb more fluid.
A headache can have a myriad of causes but one of the most common is for it to be caused by dehydration. When the brain is dehydrated, this can actually cause it to shrink due to the lost fluid – just like a sponge. This then causes the brain to pull away from the skull, resulting in discomfort and difficulty thinking.
Combine this with the lack of water needed for countless chemical reactions and you have a recipe for headache, brain fog and generally poor cognitive performance.
4. Brain Fog
Poor concentration, impaired memory and general difficulty getting things done can negatively impact your productivity and the amount of work you do in a day; it can also cause you to make mistakes. In fact, dehydration can actually be dangerous for this very reason as you become more accident-prone – especially when driving and engaging in other tasks that demand your full attention.
This might sound obvious but if you feel very thirsty, then there’s a good chance that you need more fluids! If your mouth and throat feel dry and you’re craving juice or water, then don’t deny your body and drink.
Even if you think you’ve had enough, always listen to your body. Countless factors can lead to you needing more than the recommended 8 glasses of 8 oz. – including temperature, activity levels and your own body weight. If you’re thirsty, drink!
6. Dry Mouth
Similar to thirstiness, you might notice that your mouth feels very dry when you’re dehydrated. This is because your body needs fluid in order to create saliva, which is what normally moistens the mouth.
You’re most likely to notice this first thing in the morning. You might also find that this can cause you to struggle eating certain foods and that it leads to halitosis or bad breath. That’s because saliva serves a number of important roles: acting as the first stage in your digestion to help you dissolve and break up food via enzymes and also helping you to clean your mouth and kill bacteria with its antiseptic properties.
Seeing as bad breath is caused by bacteria, it follows that a lack of hydration can cause it to get worse. In the long term, consistent dehydration can increase your likelihood of tooth decay.
7. Dry Eyes
Your eyes can also dry out as a result of your tear ducts not having the fluid they need to create moisture; they might look red and blood shot. Actually, dehydration is one of the most common causes of bloodshot eyes. You might also notice that if you cry, not as many tears come out!
And just to make things worse, dehydration is also one of the reasons for bags appearing under the eyes and giving you that puffy look. It’s actually highly responsible for us looking rough first thing in the morning! If you want to wake up looking stunning, drink more!
We’ve already discussed that moisture is used to break down food and to create the important enzymes that help to further this process in the gut and throughout the intestines. It should come as no surprise then to learn that dehydration can lead to indigestion, heart burn and a myriad of other difficulties.
If you are suffering with indigestion, one of the best things you can do is actually just to drink some cool water!
Dehydration is responsible for cramping as it alters the balance of electrolytes. It is the ratio of electrolytes like sodium, calcium and potassium, along with the amount of water in your system, that’s responsible for keeping your muscles functional.
When you become dehydrated and that ratio is skewed, you can end up experiencing cramping and spasming which can be very painful. This is especially common at night, following exercise and especially when swimming – all times when you’re likely to be dehydrated!
The best way to solve this problem is with an electrolyte drink – a drink that has the exact same balance of electrolytes and water as is found in human blood.
10. Inability to Lose Weight
Finally, those that don’t drink enough water might just find they struggle to lose weight. Being dehydrated will instantly slow down the rate at which your body burns calories and that of course makes it much harder for you to burn fat while exercising.
Not only that, but dehydration is likely to cause you to look more overweight in the short term too. That’s because not drinking enough encourages the cells to store more water and this gives you a puffy look that appears like fat. Simply being better hydrated can make you instantly appear more toned.
And lastly, I’d like to leave you with some healthy hydration options, check out my infused water recipes here.
I’d love to know what you think!