Dehydration and How It Affects Health and Wellbeing
Dehydration may not seem like a big deal, but it can certainly be destructive if not treated appropriately. The human body is mostly water. This concept is neither new nor revolutionary. As a matter of fact, it has been an accepted premise for a lifetime. However, what dehydration is, what it does to the body, and how to prevent it are continually being studied. We want to take a moment to help you navigate this information.
What Is Dehydration?
Dehydration, in its simplest explanation, is a lack of fluid for the body. The problem is that many people do not recognize the signs of dehydration, so they often do not realize what is causing their ailments. First, let’s look at those symptoms of dehydration.
- Decreased urination
- Dark urine
- Dry skin or mouth
The problem is that people with diabetes who are untreated also experience some of these symptoms like dizziness, confusion, thirst, and headaches. Fatigue and sleepiness can also accompany other conditions.
Dehydration begins to occur when your water intake is less than what your body needs. Sweating from exercise is often blamed, but you can still get dehydrated even if you lead a sedentary lifestyle. In some ways, it is almost easier to do than when you are active. When we are active, we know what we need to drink extra, so we are more likely to reach for a bottle of water or juice. However, when working from home on a computer or in an office, we do not always realize that we have not had enough to drink.
Another culprit causing dehydration is “natural” diuretics. Some of the foods and drinks we partake in are diuretics. If we drink too much of them, we can dehydrate. Part of the cause of hangover headaches is dehydration from too much alcohol and not enough water. Chasing your drinks with water will decrease the likelihood of dehydration, FYI. Caffeine is another diuretic, but we will talk more about it with prevention.
Other Health Effects
While we have talked about the symptoms of dehydration, there are some things that you should consider. The body has trouble properly functioning without the appropriate water and nutrition. Just as you would not deprive yourself of food, you need to make sure your water intake is adequate. Long term dehydration effects are still narrowly understood, but it is clear that cognitive functions and renal activities both seem to suffer more with chronic dehydration.
What Can I Do to Prevent Dehydration?
The simple answer here is to drink more water, but not everyone wants to walk around drinking water. Some foods and drinks can help. Coffee, tea, and soda have poor health reputations, but they can help despite their caffeine content. Energy drinks and food or drink with high caffeine content should probably be avoided, but a cup of coffee is not going to dehydrate you. Likewise, carrots, watermelon, lettuce, grapes, peaches, and other “juicy” fruits or veggies can help with water intake. They can also provide valuable nutrients for a healthy body. If you want to drink broths or soups, these can also help.
Sports drinks are fine if you are very active or have a medical condition that warrants them, such as Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), but the general public does not need them for moderate activities.
Dehydration can decrease your body’s essential functions because our organs need water to maintain good health, but you probably do not need to super hydrate. For most people, 2-3 litres of water per day is sufficient. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about your hydration levels.
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