Water – The Essence of Life

Water! It’s necessary for hydrating us and it makes up 60-70% of our body weight. What don’t we know about it? Did you know that water improves our energy, mood, increases our metabolism, aids in digestion and eliminating waste products made by the body? Did you know that nearly half of America doesn’t drink enough water and is dehydrated? That’s right! About half of America is dehydrated! The most common but under-recognized sign of being thirsty is feeling hungry. You read that correctly; many times when you are hungry you are actually thirsty! Especially if you just ate and you’re still feeling hungry, drink water, as this is your body telling you “I’m thirsty!”. It may seem odd I would write this blog as we are moving into the cooler season, but this is prime time for many to become dehydrated! I personally have to become very cognizant that I am drinking enough water in the winter, because the cooler weather tricks me into forgetting that I need to stay on top of my hydration.

Signs of Dehydration

The signs of dehydration can range from minimal to severe, and it really depends on how dehydrated you are. Fatigue is a common sign of dehydration. But why do you feel tired if you’re not hydrated? It’s because without water your body cannot perform optimally! It’s like oil in a car engine – without enough oil your engine will not be able to perform optimally and can very easily slow down the vehicle. Another common sign can be dry skin or lips; without water your skin cannot stay nice and lubricated – if your skin becomes severely dry it can crack which can lead to the introduction of bacteria, causing an infection. Other signs of dehydration can be an elevated heart rate; this happens because when you are dehydrated, your blood becomes thicker as it has less volume from decreased water, so your heart has to work harder to pump the blood through your cardiovascular system. Other signs of dehydration can include dizziness, brain fog, constipation and dark-colored urine. Severe and dangerous signs of dehydration can include extreme thirst, lack of urination, irritability and confusion. 

What Can Dehydration Do?

Being dehydrated, as stated above can decrease your body’s performance which includes its ability to eliminate toxins, move food through the digestive tract, and it decreases your blood circulation making your heart work harder to get blood throughout your body. Being dehydrated also increases the risk of developing gallstones and kidney stones. Being constantly dehydrated also puts you at risk of developing UTIs – this is because you don’t have enough urinary output to flush bacteria out of your urinary tract.

What Causes Dehydration?

Being out in the heat, especially working outside in the summers, working out, diarrhea and vomiting, and high fevers dehydrate you. Caffeinated drinks with alcohol are dehydrating as they increase your urine output. Another cause of dehydration? You guessed it! Not drinking enough water.

Hydrating Foods

Water is the primary way people think of hydrating, but did you know you can hydrate through foods? Many fruits and vegetables contain large amounts of water and help to hydrate you such as watermelon, apples, spinach and broccoli! You can find other hydrating foods here.

Am I Hydrated?

Most people have heard of the general rule of drinking eight 8oz glasses of water a day is ‘enough’ water, however this may not be true for everyone. Going through medical school we were taught the general rule of thumb is to drink ½ our body weight in ounces of water, especially here in the southern desert areas. Depending on activity level too can change how much water is needed – for athletes, those who are working outside or sweating a lot need to increase their water intake even more! Did you know you can determine your hydration status through the color of your urine? That’s right! And clear urine is not what you should be looking for – this means you are over-hydrating, but straw-colored urine is the right hydration level. Now, there are things that can change the color of urine such as B Vitamins, certain pharmaceutical medications, or eating beets. Yes. Beets – also known as beeturia – is caused by eating large amounts of beets turning your urine a pale pink which could alarm someone into thinking they have blood in their urine. 

Should Everyone Drink Lots of Water?

Listen to your body on the signs it is giving you and it is also important to talk to your primary care doctor about your hydration status, and what is right for you. As it says above in this article, everyone has different needs for hydration, and there are some people who need more or less hydration. The amount of fluid intake is especially strict in individuals with chronic kidney failure as too much fluid can overwhelm the kidneys, causing other detrimental health effects.