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Since the weather is warming up and most of you will be outdoors more, I thought it a great time to check in with everyone about water intake. Not only do I want to make sure you are taking in enough water each day to remain healthy, I also want to go over some signs and symptoms of dehydration.
Water is one of the most important things that our body requires on a daily basis. We are made up of about 75% water. Every cell in our body contains water and needs water to perform. Most chemical processes in the body require water. We need water in order to regulate our body temperature, to remove waste from cells and also to absorb nutrients in the digestive system. There really isn’t a process that doesn’t require water. This is why it is so vital to drink enough water each day. If we do not replenish the water we lose every day, we become dehydrated.
When a person does not drink enough water each day, a lot of the functions of the body slow down or stop. Blood is 98% water, so when water is not available to use, the entire volume of blood will decrease. That affects how easily blood travels to all parts of the body. It also affects blood pressure; if there is lower blood volume, then there is lower blood pressure. In severe cases of dehydration, heart rate will increase, as well as respiration. This is the body’s way of trying to get more oxygen in and around the body faster, due to the lower blood pressure. Dehydration also decreases the volume of urine and increases its waste concentration. This results in a darker urine and a decrease in amount of output.
Dehydration can come in many forms so it is important to know the warning signs. The obvious sign of dehydration is thirst. The interesting thing about thirst is that it does not show up immediately. If you are to the point of thirst, that means you have already been to the point of dehydration for some time. Dry mouth is another obvious symptom of early dehydration. With that can come dry or cracked lips and bad breath. These things are immediate signs from our body that will prompt us to take a drink of water. Our bodies are amazing at sounding off warning signs, if we just stop and pay attention to them.
Headaches and fatigue are more common signs that most people do not relate to dehydration. If you fatigue easily or often, that could mean your body is losing more water than you are drinking. Try increasing the amount of water you drink each day to see if it eases the fatigue. If you often get headaches, reach for a glass of water or 2 to see if it helps relieve the symptom. There are many different reasons a person can have a headache but a common reason is actually from being dehydrated.
Dry skin is another common symptom of dehydration. When the body is not receiving water from the food and drinks we provide it, then it has to pull water from other areas, including the skin. One way to test dehydration of the skin is to pinch an area of loose skin, such as the top of your hand. If you pinch and release and the skin does not fall back into place, then you may be dehydrated. Muscle cramps are also red flags for dehydration. Our muscles need water to transport electrolytes to them. If there is not enough water to deliver the electrolytes, then the muscles will seize up and not work properly. If you have ever woken up in the middle of the night with a calf cramp due to dehydration or low electrolytes, then you know how painful these can be!
Being dehydrated can also cause some to become dizzy or light headed. This can be due to the low amount of fluid in the body, especially in the blood, that causes a drop in blood pressure. This can also cause blood to not properly reach the brain, which results in light headedness, vertigo and dizziness.
It is very important this time of year to make sure to rehydrate your body. With warmer weather and more outdoor activities upon us, it is easy to lose more water than we intend. In order to know how much water to drink each day, try this calculation: take the number of pounds you weigh and divide by two. This is the number of ounces you should drink on a regular day. If you are 200lbs, then you need 100 ounces of water. In the summer, I would add on another 24 to 32 ounces each day in order to replenish what you lose from sweat.
Prevention is key when it comes to dehydration. Keep a full water bottle nearby so you don’t have to worry wherever you go. Listen to your body and pay attention to any of these signs of dehydration so they do not reach severe levels. You can also monitor your water intake by paying attention to your urine. When your body is completely hydrated, the urine should be a very light yellow color. If it is any darker than that, you are dehydrated and need to up your intake. So, here’s to a healthy and hydrated summer. Cheers!