Dehydration Dangers — “How Much Water Should I Really Be Drinking?”

Photo: Our grateful thanks to Drew Gilliam on Unsplash!

by Connie Hernandez, ND

“How much water should I drink?”

Dr. Connie Hernandez, ND

Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast answers. Our patients often confess, “I guess I should be drinking more water.” The “should” is generally based on the generic admonition to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily. But that could be too much or too little, depending on your body’s unique needs, which are highly individual.

The important principle is to prevent dehydration. An adult body is about 60% water.  The beautiful, pliable skin of babies and toddlers reflects the high water content of their bodies (75%), while the dry, rigid skin of the elderly reflects a water content that has steadily decreased through life, to about 55%.

  • Water cleanses the body by facilitating the release of toxins.
  • Dehydration is a major cause of dryness of lips, mouth, eyes, and skin.
  • Headaches, bad breath, dizziness, and fatigue are common in dehydration.
  • Other consequences of dehydration include:
    • Low blood pressure
    • Cardiovascular risk
    • Constipation
    • Joint pain
    • Muscle cramps
    • Impaired mental function
    • Depression
    • Delayed wound healing
    • Eye styes
    • Poor tissue oxygenation
    • Visual issues
    • With dehydration, blood draws are difficult, and I.V. therapies are even more so.

All of these problems may have multiple causes. So how can you know if you are dehydrated?

  • If you pinch the skin of your hand, and the skin peaks and doesn’t quickly return to normal, you are dehydrated.
  • Thirst is an indication that you’ve already lost some of your body fluid.
  • If you have scant, infrequent urination, or dark-colored urine (not caused by intake of B vitamins or medications), you are probably dehydrated. Healthy adults tend to urinate every 2-3 waking hours.
Photo: Our grateful thanks to Filip Mroz on Unsplash!

Sodium levels on a blood test can be revealing. While the conventional range of normal is between 135 and 145, optimal is from 137 to 142.

Those with numbers outside the top of the range display signs of biologic aging and are more prone to chronic disease and premature death.

Overhydration can also be problematic, causing low sodium, which can result in headache, nausea, and more severe consequences. The hydration mania that seized the athletic world for a time led to an alarming number of deaths during marathons.

There are many reasons people become dehydrated.

  • Many of us have been trained to ignore our body’s thirst signals and thus don’t intake adequate fluids.
  • Water may be lost through fever, sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, or the use of diuretics.
  • Stress hormones impact aldosterone, the hormone that helps manage the balance of water and salts in the kidneys.
  • Age, size, and loss of muscle mass all affect water loss, as does health status in general and activity level.

While the National Academies of Science advise 2.7 liters of water daily for women and 3.7 for men, the factors listed above must be taken into consideration.

As a rule of thumb, 80% of fluid intake may be from beverages and 20% from foods. Soups and smoothies do count, and fruits such as watermelon or veggies such as cucumbers are filled with fluid.

  • A good guideline is to respond to your body’s thirst signals by drinking, and especially by drinking before and during exercise and between meals (45 minutes before and after eating).
  • Take small sips rather than glugging your water. Room-temperature water gives greater benefits than ice water.
  • Drink while sitting to hydrate the internal organs. When you drink while standing, fluids hydrate your joints.

If you’re aware of all of these parameters, and you’re still dehydrated, try using electrolytes.

You can purchase LyteShow online. Electrolyte Synergy (by Designs for Health) is good for athletes and those who sweat excessively. Another good option with several flavor alternatives is Optimal Electrolyte Powder (by Seeking Health).

You’ll notice that these formulas emphasize potassium over sodium.

Food-based electrolyte drinks include miso soup, tomato juice mixed with sauerkraut juice, and coconut water.

If you’re concerned that you might be chronically dehydrated, start by making some simple changes in your fluid intake. You might try using electrolytes, while addressing any underlying conditions that could be affecting your water balance. It’s been shown that being even 2-3% dehydrated can reduce our overall energy level by up to 40%. When you take care of your body’s need for fluids, you’ll feel better in so many ways.

For information about the services we offer at Pacific Naturopathic, please give us a call at 650-961-1660, use the convenient Contact Form to get in touch, or follow the link to: Consultations – Pacific Naturopathic. Thank you!