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Dehydrated, who, me? The importance of staying hydrated.

Dehydrated woman.

You have probably read many articles that have touched on the benefits of drinking water, but they never really talk about the symptoms or what goes on in our bodies when we are dehydrated, we’ll cover this and the importance of staying hydrated.

What is dehydration?

Water makes up more than two thirds of our body weight and is responsible for a variety of functions, including overall cell health, digestion, thermoregulation and blood flow. When our cells are deprived of the water they need to function optimally, our body must work harder to power us, causing us to feel tired and lethargic. Dehydration occurs when the body loses more water than is taken in.

Why is a regular intake of water important?

Under normal conditions the body loses and needs to replace approximately 2 to 3 litres of water daily. Water is continuously lost through normal bodily functions such as sweating, breathing and urinating. The human body is a clever machine and is able to monitor the amount of water it needs to function. A loss of body water equivalent to about 1% of body weight is normally compensated within 24 hours. Dehydration causes a reduction in water loss by the kidneys.

Why we should never wait until we are thirsty!

Thirst stimulates drinking, so our intake of water is increased and allows our kidneys to function properly. When we fail to match the intake required our bodies suffer mild dehydration and can lead to symptoms such as thirst, headaches, dizziness, a dry mouth and eyes, lethargy, cool skin, muscle cramps, food cravings, weakness and tiredness.

Studies have shown that dehydration affects us cognitively and physiologically, even mild dehydration can trigger dips in concentration, memory, and mood.

Helping to keep your blood pressure regulated.

Water is fundamental in the regulation of blood volume which affects blood pressure and heart rate. When we are dehydrated our blood volume decreases which causes our blood pressure to drop and our heart to beat faster. For many people this leads to headaches and migraines. Although the link between headaches and water balance is still under debate, one theory suggests that as our bodies work harder to maintain fluid levels during dehydration, our blood vessels narrow reducing the supply of oxygen and blood to the brain, which causes headaches.

How to check if you are dehydrated?

Do the Skin test: Use two fingers and pinch the skin on the back of your hand, between your wrist and fingers. Pull the skin up about 0.5-1 cm and then let the skin go. If you are properly hydrated the skin should bounce back immediately, if it bounces back slowly you might be dehydrated.

Regularly check your urine: If you are properly hydrated your urine will be mostly clear. A yellow, chardonnay or orange colouring are the “warning” signs to watch for it as it’s a clear indicator that you are dehydrated.

How much water should I drink?

The recommended intake of water is approx. 2.7 litres of water/day for women and 3.7 litres of water/day for men.

Tips for staying hydrated!

Drink 2-3 glasses of water upon wakening. Instead of reaching for your regular coffee or tea, which if they contain caffeine, have a diuretic (an increase in passing urine) effect, keep a glass of water on your bedside table and try drinking 2-3 glasses of water when you wake up. This is important as our bodies’ are dehydrated after 7-8 hours of sleep. For an extra benefit try adding lemon to your water to make sure you get your daily amount of vitamin C.

Keep your water bottle with you. If it’s right next to you, you are more likely to get into the habit of drinking more regularly. It’s amazing how much you get through by just sipping throughout the day!

Infuse your water. Adding fruits, vegetables and herbs to spice up normal water is a great way to make drinking more fun.

Include more high water content fruits and vegetables in your diet. Fruits such as watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, peaches, grapes and pineapples contain more than 85% water by volume. High water content vegetables are celery, broccoli, cucumber, lettuce, zucchini, tomato and spinach.

A study carried out by researchers at the University of Aberdeen Medical School in 2009 suggests that consuming high water content fruits or vegetables after an intense workout may hydrate your body twice as effectively as a glass of water due to the natural sugars, amino acids, mineral salts and vitamins in them.

More Water = Better Health

So many don’t realise the importance water has within our daily routine. Today it’s even more important as water helps our body’s natural processes to eliminate many of the toxins found in today’s foods and environment.

We can do so much to improve our quality of life just by drinking a little more water.


Courtesy of Cintia Breitner from Cintia Pilates