Over the past few weeks we’ve seen more and more clients coming to the clinic who appear to be dehydrated. Our only explanation for this is that as we all wear masks to protect ourselves and others from COVID, we must not be casually drinking or sipping water as often as we should be. This is not a reason to “let your mask down,” but something to be aware of and take steps to address proper hydration.
Proper Hydration is Key to Good Health
Being properly hydrated is critically important to our overall health. It’s normal to lose water from your body every day primarily by sweating and going to the bathroom. If someone is sick you can lose more water than usual due to fever, diarrhea, vomiting and excessive sweating.
Usually you replace the lost liquid by drinking fluids and eating foods that contain water. If you lose too much water or don’t drink and eat enough, you can become dehydrated.
Benefits of Drinking Enough Water
WebMD lists several benefits of proper hydration and drinking enough water.
Your Heart Works Better
Skimping on water can lead to less blood in your body, which can lower your blood pressure and raise your heart rate. It takes just 15 to 20 minutes for enough water to even things out.
You Keep Your Brain Sharp
Your memory, ability to think clearly, or concentrate fully can be affected when you’re low on water.
Your Joints Work Better
Water makes up a large part of your joint cartilage that helps absorb shock and make bone-against-bone movements smoother. Water also can help keep gout (a painful joint condition) at bay.
Your Kidneys Stay Healthier
Water helps your kidneys remove waste from your blood. Dehydration can also lead to kidney stones and urinary tract infections.
You Stay Regular
A little constipation is common if you don’t drink enough water. Inactivity, diet changes, illness, and even stress can add to the problem. Exercise, over-the-counter meds, and water can get things moving.
See a doctor if your constipation lasts for more than a week or two or you have dizziness, bad pain in your belly, or blood in your stool. These could be signs of something more serious.
As sweat evaporates from your skin, it cools down your body. Drink extra water prior to and during your workouts.
Athletic Performance is Enhanced
Even mild dehydration can make you tired. Athletes who replace the sweat they lose with water and electrolytes (minerals like sodium and potassium) have lower body temperature, more muscle, stronger hearts, more brain power, and more energy.
You Could Lose Weight
Proper hydration can help you lose weight. People who drink just 2 or 3 more cups of water a day seem to have less fat, sugar, salt, and overall calories through the day. Extra water can replace empty, sugary calories many people drink with meals. Water also seems to speed up your metabolism, and it takes up space in your stomach so you feel more full.
Signs of mild or moderate dehydration include:
- Dry or sticky mouth
- Not peeing very much
- Dark yellow pee
- Dry, cool skin
- Muscle cramps
Signs of severe dehydration include:
- Not peeing or having very dark yellow pee
- Very dry skin
- Feeling dizzy
- Rapid heartbeat
- Rapid breathing
- Sunken eyes
- Sleepiness, lack of energy, confusion, or irritability
Symptoms for babies and young children can be different than for adults:
- Dry mouth and tongue
- No tears when crying
- Dry diapers for 3 hours
- Sunken eyes, cheeks, soft spot on the top of the skull
- Sleepiness, lack of energy, or irritability
Severe dehydration is a medical emergency and needs to be treated immediately.
Tips for drinking enough water
You may be able to meet your water intake goal by drinking when you are thirsty and with your meals. If you need some extra help consuming enough water, check out these tips for drinking more:
- Try carrying a water bottle with you wherever you go, including around the office, at the gym, and even on road trips.
- Focus on fluids. You don’t have to drink plain water to meet your hydration needs. Other good sources of fluid include milk, pure fruit juices, tea, and broth.
- Skip sugary drinks. While you can get fluid from soda, juice, and alcohol, these beverages have high calorie contents. It’s still smart to choose water whenever possible.
- Drink water while out to eat. Drink a glass of water instead of ordering another beverage. You can save some cash and lower the total calories of your meal, too.
- Add some flair to your water by squeezing in fresh lemon or lime juice.
- If you’re working out hard, consider drinking a sports drink that has electrolytes to help replace the ones you lose through sweating.
How Much Water Is Enough?
A good rule of thumb for proper hydration is 15 cups of water a day for men and 11 cups for women. You get 20% to 30% of your water from food. You get more from other drinks like juice, tea, and milk. If you’re sick, you’ll need more (especially with diarrhea or vomiting). If you’re exercising or outside in the heat, focus on getting a little extra, too.