TO YOUR HEALTH
Nine signs that you’re dehydrated—besides being thirsty
It’s a busy day. You’re in and out of meetings, got a conference call to jump on, a deadline to meet, grocery shopping on the way home, then cooking dinner for the family. There’s so much on your mind that only when you look at the full glass on your desk do you realize that you’ve hardly had any water today. That may be a problem. Water is essential. A person can survive for only three or four days—a week at most—without water. Two of the most important organs, the brain and the lungs, are around 70 percent and 80 percent water, respectively. Plus, every cell in the body depends on water to function properly. It regulates body temperature, transports nutrients, supports the structure of cells and tissues, and preserves cardiovascular function.
Research shows that at least 7 out of 10 Americans drink below the recommended levels and are dehydrated. According to the Institute of Medicine, men are advised to drink 13 ounces of fluid, while women require 9 ounces per day, but it should be more during hotter weather and after exercise. It doesn’t necessarily have to be H2O; you can get your water requirement from other beverages and through a combination of foods that have a high fluid content such as fruits and vegetables.
Keep in mind, however, that although sugary drinks and sodas do fall into the “other beverages” category, they may actually increase dehydration. That’s because the body uses water to metabolize sugar, which increases its need for more water.
It’s easy to forget about being thirsty and not notice the signs. Yet, when the body is dehydrated it shouts loud and clear, and we must pay attention.
Here are nine signs that a sip of water is in order.
FATIGUE AND DIZZINESS
Dehydration may cause a drop in blood pressure, decreasing the blood flow to the brain, and, according to the American Heart Association, even mild dehydration (a loss of as little as 1 percent to 2 percent of body weight) can cause weakness and dizziness.
When the body lacks enough water, it starts extracting from other parts of the body that are in less need of it—for example, your stool, making it harder to pass. Besides the discomfort, it also exposes the body to toxins
and waste products for a longer period of time.
INSOMNIA AND DISRUPTED SLEEP
Going to bed dehydrated may decrease the quality of sleep, cause snoring or reduce melatonin (the sleep hormone) levels. Dehydration can also cause dry mouth and nasal passages, leading to irritation and snoring that might wake you up or bother the person sleeping next to you.
REDUCED COGNITIVE FUNCTION
Dehydration affects young people and the elderly more drastically than it does healthy adults, but researchers have found that being dehydrated may impair performance in tasks that require attention, mental activity and immediate memory skills.
HEADACHE AND MIGRAINE
Because of dehydration, the blood volume to the brain may drop and temporarily lower blood and oxygen flow to the brain. Hence, the blood vessels in the brain may dilate, which
can cause some swelling and an increased feeling of pressure.
DRY SKIN AND LIPS
Lack of hydration may cause a loss in skin elasticity, making your skin dry and lips chapped. Lotions help, but you should hydrate from the inside out, too.
Not having enough saliva can lead to excess growth of bacteria in the mouth that may cause unpleasant odor. A mint might cover up the symptoms, but you must treat it by its roots, so the solution to your bad breath may just be a glass of water away.
LOW OR DARK-COLOR URINE
Have you ever noticed the darker color of your urine when you go to the bathroom first thing in the morning? When kidneys filter waste, they pull extra water out of the blood to produce urine. But since the body isn’t getting any external water for at least six hours overnight, there isn’t much extra by the time you wake up, so it contains less fluid and becomes more concentrated. Skipping the bathroom could also cause waste and fluid to build up to unhealthy levels in the body.
This could be the next terrible stage after having low and dark urine, especially if there’s a lot of sodium in your diet. The kidneys can’t break down salt properly if there are not enough fluids in the urine, causing a build-up of minerals that may form those painful rocklike crystals.
To avoid dehydration, women are advised to drink at least 9 ounces of fluids each day, men 13 ounces.
Dehydration may reduce levels of melatonin and affect the quality of sleep.