Believe it or not, every day a large portion of the American population walks around unknowingly dehydrated. It can happen any time of year, in the blistering heat of summer or the chilliest winter. Chances are, you’re dehydrated at this very moment.
Oh, but come on –being “dehydrated”? Is that really an issue anymore in a first-world country like America? Sure, if you were lost in a desert somewhere without a camel that could be problematic, but here you have unlimited, all-day access to a tap. Doesn’t your body just tell you when you need water by getting thirsty?
As it turns out, thirst is one of the last symptoms of dehydration –meaning that by the time you’re thirsty, your body is already dehydrated. But exactly how important is hydration in relation to a healthy lifestyle?
For starters, the human body is made up of up to 60 percent of water, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). It’s also the main ingredient in all bodily fluids, major organs and muscles –and surprisingly even 31 percent bone matter. Quite literally, it is the liquid life force that keeps everything running smoothly and efficiently.
Water is a pretty important deal. So accordingly, the lack of water is a pretty big one too.
Effects of Dehydration
Your body runs on water like your car runs on oil. Run low or on the wrong kind of oil and your car is going to break down. Dehydration occurs when your body expends more fluid than you are replenishing. Here are six signals to look for that may be your body’s check engine light flashing.
1. Pizzazz is out of Place
Dehydration can leave you feeling zapped, with little to no energy to meet a project deadline, play with your kids or fuel through a workout. Many people misinterpret this tiredness as a lack of sleep and turn to the aid of a coffee pot or energy drink –not realizing that by acting as a diuretic, caffeine can actually worsen the issue by flushing more fluid out of the body.
2. Foggin’ in the Noggin
The brain is comprised of 73 percent water, according to the USGS. Lack of fluids can slow down its production speed, resulting in difficulties focusing, foggy-headedness and headaches that no amount of aspirin or reading glasses will be able to correct.
3. Dainty Damsel Syndrome
Fatigue, dizziness, and lightheadedness are side effects experienced in the early stages of dehydration that are commonly misconstrued as hunger. A snack may momentarily boost your blood sugar or glucose, but it won’t restore strength or help move along that metabolism with near the effectiveness as a few big gulps of aqua.
4. Sand Paper Skin
Composed of 64 percent water, your skin also needs access to its fair share of hydration. Without it, that epidermis is going to start looking dry, drab and become irritable. You can slab as much lotion and miracle cream onto it as you fancy, but lotion is only designed to help retain moisture in the body, not supply it.
5. Potty Problems
All middle school bathroom humor aside, lack of fluids can result in some real difficulty for both the bladder and the gastrointestinal tract. It’s all fun and games until someone cries “constipation” or “inadequate urine output”. (Admit it. The 12-year-old in you giggled. Just a little.)
6. AC Malfunctions
To prevent overheating, the body’s primary cooling system is the secretion of liquid through pores, sweat glands, and the lungs. But when that system is short on juice, you begin losing the ability to regulate internal temperatures. Especially in the hotter seasons, this leaves you with significantly higher susceptibility to heat-related illnesses, like heat exhaustion and even heat stroke.
Feeling thirsty yet?
Fortunately, as with most ailments, there is a remedy. Unfortunately, the solution is somewhat lengthy, complicated and difficult to ascertain –so if you have a pen and paper nearby, now would be the time to utilize them. Are you ready for it?
Drink more water. Utterly mind-blowing.
Yes, as a smart cookie like yourself has probably been able to deduce by now, the key to treating a hydration deficiency is, in fact, to supply more hydration.
But wait, you may say, isn’t drinking too much water an equally risky issue? Overhydration and water intoxication are, after all, life-threatening conditions. Water may be good for you, but when is it too much of a good thing?
According to Scientific American, the average adult can drink about four cups of water in an hour without causing any issues for the kidneys. To exceed that amount, by just one cup, would require consuming 60 cups (3.75 gallons) of water over 12 hours. So chances of the average Joe contracting any type of water-related poisoning without a preexisting kidney condition are reassuringly slim.
By now you’ve probably heard someone refer to the old 8×8 rule –to drink eight 8oz cups of water a day. While this little piece of health propaganda is actually unsupported by any hard medical evidence, it’s still not a bad starting point. The actual recommendation by The Institute of Medicine for adequate intake (AI) is approximately 13 cups of total beverages for men and nine for women a day (although there are benefits associated with drinking more than the minimal recommendations).
The best way to gauge whether you’re adequately hydrated throughout the day is through (bear with me now) your urine. Not only should you be urinating more often during the course of the day, according to the Mayo Clinic, your urine should also be more of a colorless, pale yellow shade. (There’s that 12-year-old again.)
Since your body can only process and absorb so much water at a time, it’s best to strategically sip on liquids continually throughout the day rather than downing a large quantity in a couple sittings. Recommended beverage options include water (flavored, plain or lightly carbonated), milk, diluted or fresh fruit juice and even decaffeinated coffee or tea. Try to steer clear of drinks that contain fair amounts of sugar, salt, caffeine or alcohol.
All writing copyright © 2013 Rachel Elise Weems Woods
Images copyright © Bigstockphoto.com