Hydration is a critical element of health, but many people forget to think about it and become chronically dehydrated as a result.
Sure, they may sip away during their after-work Tabata class when the instructor prompts them to take a break, or they may even carry a water bottle to work each day. However, most people still slack a bit when it comes to getting the recommended daily intake. Dehydration wreaks havoc on just about every organ in the human body, so here’s how to make sure you’re staying hydrated.
Clues That You’re Getting a Tad Dry
Should any of the warning signs of dehydration sound familiar, try increasing water intake. If symptoms persist after hydrating, seek medical attention, as many of the following match the warning signs of other, more serious conditions.
1. Changes in skin texture. Everyone knows water helps people sweat when they grow too hot, but when their skin becomes dry, ashy and itchy over the winter, they blame harsh winds or dry indoor air instead of stopping to check if dehydration may also play a role.
2. Changes in mood. Whatever the underlying reason, hydrated individuals exhibit calmer, more rational responses to outside stimuli, while dehydrated people become inordinately cranky over minor irritations, like getting stuck behind a slower driver in the left lane.
3. Headaches and nausea. While researchers have yet to discover a precise link between head and stomach pain and dehydration, one theory opines that dehydration lowers the levels of fluid protecting the brain and the vagus nerve, which runs from the brain to the digestive system. This may explain why those prone to migraines often suffer abdominal distress in addition to neuralgia.
4. Joint problems. All the joints of the body require synovial fluid to lubricate them while in use. When a person becomes dehydrated, the lack of fluid causes bones to rub together, leading to or exacerbating arthritis.
5. Digestion problems. Most people think of the digestive system as contained in the belly, when actually, it begins in the mouth. Saliva helps us break down the food we eat as we chew, and dehydration causes saliva to dry up. This makes eating uncomfortable.
Tips for Taking the Hydration Game to the Next Level
How much water do people need, and how can they make sure to drink enough? The tricky part is that there’s no hard-and-fast rule on how much to drink.
Many health care professionals advise patients to drink at least 64 ounces of water daily. While this serves well as a general guideline, it fails to account for differences in body size and composition, activity level, climate and other factors. Those residing in relatively humid coastal climates may constantly feel drenched in sweat during summer, but they actually lose far less water than those in hot, arid climates, where people’s sweat evaporates as quickly as it rises to the skin surface.
Active athletes must consume more water to replenish that lost through regular physical exertion, and a 6-foot-4-inch 220-pound man needs to drink more water than a 5-foot, 110-pound woman because he has more and larger cells to hydrate.
The best thing to do is to visit a doctor to discover how much water you should be drinking each day. In the meantime, try these five easy tips to increase your hydration in your daily life.
1. Get a Filter. Some water comes from natural aquifers — but the mineral content in such water supplies makes what comes out of the faucet taste quite a bit off. People in some areas of the country have questionable water systems, and some folks simply prefer a purer taste to their water even if they feel confident in its safety. Buy a quality water filtration system for the home, or invest in a water pitcher with a built-in filter. Many reusable bottles come with filtration as a feature, so people can enjoy fresh water at work and home for a fraction of the price of commercially bottled beverages. In addition, the Earth will give thanks for reducing plastic waste.
2. Try Sparkling Water. Even those who haven’t rewatched “The Secret of NIMH” as adults find that sparkly things can still bring delight — including sparkling water!
3. Try Teas. Is plain water simply not cutting it? Why not give herbal teas a try? Many organic herbal teas dot mainstream grocery shelves these days, and many of them help remedy other ailments in addition to combating dehydration. Try chamomile and lavender for relaxation, holy basil and rosemary for a natural energy boost, and peppermint or spearmint for tummy trouble.
4. Stock Up. Keep water bottles in the car and a full one in the bike drink holder. Buy a purse or briefcase large enough to carry an extra water bottle while attending business meetings. Keep a refillable filtered and full water bottle on a work desk.
5. Go one-to-one with booze. Anyone who has ever suffered a hangover knows that dry mouth is one of the nasty effects. Alcohol causes dehydration by prompting the body to exit those toxins pronto via the kidneys and bladder. When out drinking socially or even just enjoying some wine while binge-watching Netflix, alternate one glass of water with every alcoholic drink poured.
Reaping the Benefits of Hydration
Almost 60 percent of the human body consists of water. Always keep those levels in proper balance by staying adequately hydrated!