Cognitive dysfunction, dry mouth, sleepiness, decreased urination, muscle fatigue, headache, and dizziness…. What do all of these have in common? They’re all signs of dehydration! Hydration is a vital daily practice for newborns, athletes and adults alike.
Dehydration can occur even if you are not physically active. Our bodies are around 60% water, and this water is used in nearly every function we perform daily. Breathing, digestion, lubrication of joints for movement, and even thinking all utilize water. All of which you’re probably performing while reading this! Even when you are not “sweating” or it is not a sunny or hot day, your body is using water to regulate your body temperature. Alcohol and caffeinated drinks, while a liquid, actually inhibit water absorption and can lead to dehydration.
In the digestive tract, water is present the entire way through. Water is the main component of saliva which aids in the breakdown of food and the wellness of your mouth. Once in the intestines, water carries the nutrients into other parts of the body for absorption and use. Once through the intestines, the kidneys work to control the release of enough water to excrete waste through the bowels and urine.
Not consuming or absorbing enough water can have effects on the skin, muscles, and joints as well. Lack of water can lead to dry skin because water promotes collagen production, a major skin structure. Without water, muscle cells are unable to retrieve and absorb the energy created by nutrient production from food or the breakdown of stored energy. Joints rely on water as well for lubrication. When your body is dehydrated, your physical body will feel tired, unable to perform and can be quite “creaky”.
Water is a carrier for oxygen, another vital element for your existence. Oxygen is needed by every cell in your body, especially your brain! This is why, when you are dehydrated, you may feel like you don't have very good focus or mental clarity. Your brain is oxygen starved and needs water to bring the oxygen to it.
The definition of hydration is “the process of causing something to absorb water”. In order to fulfil this definition and be hydrated, we need 2 things: water to be absorbed, and the ability to absorb it.
So how can we get water? Water is found in nearly every food and drink we consume. If you’re like most people, the thought of chugging water throughout the day may not be appealing. Good! You do not have to rely solely on your water bottle to provide you with fluid. Water happy foods include fresh fruits and vegetables including watermelon, melons, berries, citrus, celery, bell peppers, carrots, and cultured dairy foods (yogurt, kefir, etc) contain ample amounts of gel water. Gel water is structured water that is more easily absorbed and integrated as it is the state of water in our body.
In addition to water, these foods have an added benefit: They contain electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals that carry an electric charge when they are dissolved in a liquid such as blood. The blood electrolytes—sodium, potassium, chloride, and bicarbonate—help regulate nerve and muscle function and maintain water balance. When consuming water, especially after exercise when electrolytes have been used or excreted, it is important to replenish these vital minerals.
The typical minimum recommendation for hydration is 50% of your body weight in Oz. (For example, a 140lb person should consume 70oz of water daily). This recommendation increases for athletes and depends on the climate in which you live. Always drink more if you are thirsty or are losing water through sweat (whether from sun exposure or exercise). If you try and consume all 50-100oz of water all at once, your body will not be able to absorb it all and you will spend the majority of your day in the bathroom! The second part of hydration is your body’s ability to absorb the water. Adding just a little bit of sodium through natural sea salt (celtic or himalayan) will help your body balance its water-potassium levels, open cell walls, and allow the water to freely flow in and out of cells. Beware of eating foods that are high in sodium (such as processed foods) as they will actually cause DEhydration.