Welcome back, it has been a beautiful summer so far. No regrets about the late start due to the rain because now everything is so green!!. I hope the season so far has been treating all of you well, and that you have been putting time into your personal journey of wellness!!
In this month’s article I want to talk about dehydration. I always feel like I hear about all the health benefits of hydration, its key importance in wellness, and its critical role in so many functions in the body. Though, I also feel like I’m personally chasing adequate, or even mediocre, hydration. Life gets distracting and by the end of the day I realize I’ve had more cups of coffee than I had glasses of water! I know I “talk the talk” when it comes to good hydration, but I should also “walk the walk”. In this month’s article I want to highlight barriers to good hydration, what dehydration might feel and look like, as well as the potential long-term effects of dehydration on your body, health, and wellbeing.
A good way to begin is to talk about what is the ideal amount of water we ought to be drinking each day. It would be convenient to be able to provide a nice round number of ounces or liters that transcends all genders, ages, body types, activity levels, and other demographics, but it isn’t that simple. Your individual needs may vary due to your personal circumstances. Though we’ll do our best to address a generalized idea of adequate hydration as well as ways to assess your individual state of hydration.
“Although nutritional and physiological research teams and professional organizations have described the daily “Total Water Intakes” and “Adequate Intakes” of children, women, and men, there is no widespread consensus regarding the human water requirements of different demographic groups. These requirements remain undefined because of the dynamic complexity inherent in the human water regulatory network, which involves the central nervous system and several organ systems, as well as large inter-individual differences.”
“Total water intake includes drinking water, water in beverages, and water in food. Daily water needs determined from fluid balance, water turnover, or consumption studies provide similar values for a given set of conditions. A daily water intake of 3.7 L for adult men and 2.7 L for adult women meets the needs of the vast majority of persons. However, strenuous physical exercise and heat stress can greatly increase daily water needs, and the individual variability between athletes can be substantial.”
In our previous article, “Hydration essential to Weight Loss, Wellness, and Health Support“ and in our “Between Two IV’s” Episode 2 we talk about a good way to measure your personal hydration that anyone can do in the comfort of their own home and privacy.
This has to do with the color of your urine. The ideal color is just about clear, with a slight tinge of yellow. It would also have a very subtle, to no smell to it, at all. If your urine is darker in color, even a light golden yellow, and there is a noticeable smell, it is a good indication that you need to drink more water. Keep in mind that some foods and medications can alter both the color and smell of your urine.
A common example are drinks that contain alcohol or caffeine which can make your urine clear and at times odorless. Alcohol and Caffeine are also diuretics which promote additional fluid loss and dehydration. There are also several medications that cause dehydration, and some chronic medical conditions that really require individuals to maintain adequate hydration to maintain a baseline of healthy living (ex. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).
There are some common barriers to achieving adequate hydration that we may have all faced at some point. Most of them are behavioral and lifestyle/habit forming behaviors. Luckily all of which can be changed, but like most things in our lifestyle that may require adjustment, it takes concerted effort, conscious awareness, and willpower. Most of the research on this subject really reflects challenges in the aging population in the clinical setting. Though I am certain we can all understand that in the general population, from young to old, there are some common themes that we have personal experience with or know of individuals that have:
- The dislike of the taste of plain water;
- Not having regularly accessible water for frequent fluid intake (e.g.: water bottle);
- Too busy and distracted and forget to drink water;
- Not wanting to use the restroom too frequently;
If you have challenges with drinking just plain water, you can add a little flare to it. Adding a slice of lemon or orange, even a few slices of cucumber or fresh strawberries can add additional flavor to your water without additional sugars, caffeine, or sodium that can promote more diuresis and dehydration. Carbonated soda water can also be a good alternative, but be sure to read the labeled ingredients to ensure it contains just carbonated water and natural flavors, avoiding sweeteners, caffeine, and drinks with sodium in them as that can promote dehydration.
Having quick access to water can make it easier and more consistent to achieve regular water consumption and be able to maintain adequate hydration. Buying a dedicated water bottle for this objective can be helpful. Setting a goal to pick up your water bottle to take frequent sips every hour on the hour or challenging yourself on how many times you refill your water bottle each day can be engaging, turning it into a fun personal goal or game each day. The main thing is to set yourself up for success, make it fun and engaging, and provide yourself with the tools to be successful in your goal to be well hydrated.
I can totally understand that some days can get too busy, we get distracted, and/or the urge to frequently use the restroom from drinking lots of water can get in the way of a productive day. Trust me I’ve been there, where leaving the Operating Room in the midst of a case to use the bathroom wasn’t an option. Our bodies will adjust as we adjust to more fluid intake, and avoiding drinks or additives that promote diuresis will lower the bathroom frequency.
This might be a good segue way into better understanding what dehydration might feel and look like in these scenarios where we don’t achieve adequate hydration regularly and what the potential long-term effects of sustained dehydration does to your body, health, and wellbeing
Besides the changes in color and smell to your urine as previously aforementioned, dehydration can affect and manifest in other symptoms that you may not readily recognize. Some of the more common symptoms include headache, muscle cramps, tiredness, etc. These in itself can ruin a day of being able to focus and be productive. Furthermore, symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, weakness, malaise, lightheadedness, dry mouth, low blood pressure, loss of appetite except for sugar cravings, just to name a few, can all be signs of dehydration.
It’s important to recognize these signs and symptoms of dehydration so that we can take the necessary steps to rehydrate our bodies. Ignoring the signals can lead to more severe consequences and long-term effects on our overall health and well-being.
One of the significant impacts of sustained dehydration is its effect on cognitive function. Studies have shown that even mild dehydration can impair cognitive performance, including attention, memory, and mood. When we don’t provide our bodies with enough water, it can affect our ability to think clearly, concentrate, and make decisions effectively. So, staying properly hydrated is not only crucial for our physical health but also for maintaining optimal mental performance.
Dehydration can also have negative effects on our cardiovascular system. When we are dehydrated, our blood volume decreases, which makes it harder for the heart to pump blood efficiently. This can lead to increased heart rate, decreased blood pressure, and reduced oxygen supply to the muscles and organs. Over time, chronic dehydration can put strain on the cardiovascular system and increase the risk of developing conditions such as hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
Furthermore, dehydration can have a significant impact on our digestive system. Insufficient water intake can contribute to constipation, as water helps soften the stool and facilitate its passage through the intestines. When we don’t drink enough water, our body tries to conserve water, resulting in drier and harder stools. This can lead to discomfort and gastrointestinal issues, affecting our overall digestive health.
In addition to these immediate effects, chronic dehydration can have long-term consequences for our kidneys. Our kidneys play a vital role in filtering waste products from the blood and maintaining fluid balance in the body. When we are consistently dehydrated, it puts additional stress on the kidneys and reduces their ability to function optimally. Over time, this can increase the risk of developing kidney stones, urinary tract infections, and even kidney damage.
Another aspect to consider is the impact of dehydration on our skin health. Water is essential for maintaining the elasticity and moisture of our skin. When we are dehydrated, our skin can become dry, flaky, and lose its natural glow. In the long run, chronic dehydration can contribute to premature aging, fine lines, and wrinkles. Therefore, staying hydrated is not only beneficial for our internal organs but also for maintaining healthy and vibrant skin.
It’s clear that dehydration goes beyond simple thirst and can have far-reaching effects on our bodies, health, and overall well-being. To ensure we stay adequately hydrated, it’s important to develop healthy hydration habits and overcome the barriers that may hinder our water intake.
Remember, the ideal amount of water you need may vary depending on various factors such as age, gender, activity level, and environmental conditions. However, a good rule of thumb is to aim for a daily water intake of approximately 3.7 liters for adult men and 2.7 liters for adult women, which meets the needs of the majority of individuals under normal conditions. However, factors like strenuous physical exercise, heat stress, and certain medical conditions may increase your water requirements.
To gauge your individual state of hydration, you can monitor the color and odor of your urine as a simple indicator. If your urine is pale yellow or clear with a subtle smell, it’s a good sign that you’re well-hydrated. Darker-colored urine and a strong odor indicate that you need to increase your fluid intake. Keep in mind medications you may be taking, as well, what foods or drinks you may have consumed that day as it may provide a false indication of hydration as it relates to urine color and odor.
Overcoming barriers to adequate hydration requires conscious effort and a few lifestyle adjustments. If you find plain water unappealing, try infusing it with slices of lemon, orange, cucumber, or fresh strawberries to add natural flavor without additional sugars or caffeine. Carbonated water can also be a refreshing alternative, but be cautious of added sweeteners, caffeine, or sodium content. Investing in a dedicated water bottle and setting reminders to take frequent sips throughout the day can help you maintain consistent hydration.
While it’s understandable that busy schedules and frequent restroom breaks can be challenging, remember that your body will adapt to increased fluid intake, and the frequency of restroom visits will likely decrease. The benefits of maintaining proper hydration, including improved cognitive function, cardiovascular health, digestion, kidney function, and skin health, far outweigh the inconveniences.
Dehydration is not a trivial matter. It can have significant short-term and long-term effects on our health and well-being. By understanding the barriers to hydration, recognizing the signs of dehydration, and making conscious efforts to prioritize adequate fluid intake, we can take control of our hydration levels and reap the benefits of a well-hydrated body. So, let’s make hydration a priority in our daily lives and ensure that we “walk the walk” when it comes to maintaining good hydration practices for our overall health and well-being.
Stay tuned for my next adventure into Wellness, until then…
Aloha a hui hou!!
Check out our other articles you can find on our Blog:
- A Journey into Wellness, Part 1: 212˚ Wellness
- Aronson’s Family Dental and Biological Dentistry – A Journey into Wellness, Part 2
- Reset Medical Solutions with Brenna Galves “Educate, Empower, and Evolve” – A Journey into Wellness, Part 3
- “Sacred Vessel Acupuncture” with Sarah Thompson – A Journey into Wellness, Part 4
- A Journey into Wellness, Part 5 – Hydration essential to Weight Loss, Wellness, and Health Support