As Summer takes hold, the hotter days and outdoor activities that cause us to sweat more remind me that it’s a good time to talk about dehydration. When you look at what it takes for our bodies to thrive, no other substance besides oxygen plays a bigger role than water. Just about every function in our body requires water. Our bodies are always prioritizing resources, sending those resources to “mission critical” areas first, and allowing other, less survival-dependent tissues to go without. The body does this with water too, so waiting till you are thirsty typically means you are waiting until your body is significantly past the point of being dehydrated. You may not realize it, but your body has been trying to tell you this for some time. Here are 5 ways that your body is letting you know:
- Increased Hunger—When your body is lacking something, you will often feel a vague but persistent lack of satiation. We as humans often interpret this as hunger. So if you’ve cleaned out the pantry and still feel the same (save for the bloated belly) then you may be dehydrated. If drinking water still doesn’t help, you may need to add trace minerals to your cup.
- Brain Fog—The brain is about 75% water. Neurons require nearly double the energy production that other cells do, and water is essential to the physiological reactions that create this energy. Water is also essential to the processes that carry nutrients into and waste products out of the brain cells. These trapped waste metabolites can also lead to inflammation in the brain, which has been linked to depression, cognitive impairment, and general irritability.
- Headache—Piggybacking on the information in the last point, when the brain becomes dehydrated it literally begins to shrink. Even the smallest amount of shrinkage causes negative pressure inside the cranium, which causes a headache.
- Fluid Retention—Yes, you read that correctly. When your body is short on water it will try to hold on to every last drop. It will recycle water from your kidneys, digestive tract, and anywhere else it can. Swollen ankles? Fingers? You may need a glass (or 4) of water.
- Rapid Heart Rate—An increased heart rate may be a sign of dehydration. Your blood plasma is composed largely of water. Dehydration can lead to decreased fluid volume and less blood plasma. Simple physics tells us that in order to keep blood flow constant in the face of decreased blood volume, the heart must beat more times per minute.
In closing, your body has many ways of communicating with you. You just have to listen! A great first step in improving your overall health is to drink enough water. We recommend taking your body weight and dividing by 2. This is the number of ounces you should drink per day — and even more if you’re exercising and sweating (which you should also be doing!). Seem like a lot? Well, you’re probably dehydrated :)