With the weather heating up, one of the most overlooked, yet dangerous, heath issues is dehydration. Whether it’s because of a busy schedule or simply not having fresh, filtered water on hand when you need it, chances are that you simply aren’t hydrated enough.
As your body gets used to chronic dehydration, you lose your sensitivity to water deprivation and don’t get thirsty when you need to. Water accounts for more than half of your body mass — in the form of intracellular fluid, interstitial fluids and cerebrospinal fluid, so chronic dehydration can turn into a real problem. Proper fluid balance allows for your body’s most critical communications to flow smoothly for brain function, immunity, metabolic health and digestion.
Damaging your engine
Attempting to function without enough water is like trying to run a car that doesn’t have enough oil to lubricate its system. And what happens to a car that isn’t lubricated? It heats up and the engine becomes damaged. A similar effect occurs in the body when you’re not well-hydrated, which often happens because your system is running too fast and too long without a break and without the right fluids to keep things going smoothly. Add in the extra demand for water that comes with spiking temperatures, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
In most cases, the solution is simple: Drink more water. It’s estimated that for every 50 pounds of body weight, we need a quart of water daily. It’s also helpful to drink it at certain times throughout the day. For example, drinking two glasses upon rising in the morning helps get your organs moving. And a glass half an hour before a meal can support digestion.
But it’s also important to be mindful of where your water comes from — an increasingly important issue as we face escalating drought conditions in many parts of the country. Protecting and improving our precious water resources may be the most important public health and environmental issue of our time.
It’s easy to assume that bottled water is the wisest choice, but a Congressional report revealed that this is far from the case. In reality, there’s less oversight of the quality of bottled water than there is of the quality of tap water — a fact that might come as a surprise to anyone spending money on a supposedly safe, clean way to hydrate. Water-quality tests for bottled products are not required by the Food and Drug Administration. And in the past several years, some brands of bottled water have been recalled due to contamination with arsenic, bromate, cleaning compounds, mold and bacteria. Unfortunately, that’s not the only concern that comes with bottled water. The potential health-related and environmental risks of its plastic packaging are something to consider, too.
One of the many home water filtration systems available on the market today might be pricey, but it can be worth peace of mind.
Most of us don’t even know we’re chronically dehydrated. One reason is that we often confuse thirst for hunger. Because we’ve chronically ignored our body’s thirst signals, we don’t easily recognize them.
Hunger: Constant snacking — and especially constant sugar cravings — can be one hidden sign of a dehydration imbalance.
Allergies: With dehydration, histamine levels can increase and your immune system can become imbalanced, creating the perfect storm for dust, pollen, mold and animal allergies to manifest.
Digestive problems: Acid reflux and constipation are lesser known signs of chronic dehydration. Hydration is essential to keep all functions of the digestive tract running smoothly.
Depression, irritability and/or brain fog: The brain relies on a relatively large portion of the body’s blood supply. With dehydration, blood supply can be reduced and may manifest in the brain as mental and emotional imbalances and, in extreme cases, temporary mental impairment. Ongoing stress also increases dehydration in the body with high levels of circulating stress hormones, so dehydration and stress can be a vicious cycle. Stress also causes the body to get rid of fluids — the idea being that in a potential fight or flight situation, the body needs to be as light as possible. Staying hydrated and finding healthy ways to relieve stress can help break this cycle.
Immune suppression: Dehydration damages immunity in part by slowing down or impairing immune cell signals, resulting in increased susceptibility to colds, flus and infections. It also fuels chronic inflammation which in combination with reduced immunity contributes to other more serious illnesses.
In addition to drinking enough good-quality water, there are foods high in water content such as leafy greens, celery, watermelon and cucumber that help hydrate with extra minerals that support electrolyte balance. Coconut water is also a good source of natural electrolyte minerals. Equally important is limiting dehydrating foods and drinks like sugar, alcohol and caffeine, to help keep you well-hydrated and cool throughout the hot summer days.