Did you know that we can go for weeks without food? (Well, maybe not during a pandemic!) But we can’t last more than a few days without water. Water is absolutely crucial for every system in our body and also the main thing our bodies are made of. Almost three-fourths of our body is made of water. Our body uses water in all its cells, organs, and tissues to help regulate its temperature and maintain other bodily functions. Water improves our brain function and mood. It acts as a shock absorber and a lubricant in the body. Because our body loses water through breathing, sweating, and digestion it’s important to rehydrate by drinking fluids and eating foods that contain water.
Without it, or without enough of it, we can become dehydrated. Dehydration might show itself in the form of muscle cramps (I know, that is one of my problems when I don’t drink enough water), fatigue, dry mouth, headache, and other unpleasant symptoms. Some of the first noticeable symptom of dehydration include thirst, darker urine, and decreased urine production.
As we age, and especially for women, it is important to note that dehydration can occur without thirst. In our youth, we are 60-70% water; after menopause, we may decrease to 46-55% which is a substantial drop. This is attributed to the decrease in estrogen which helps our tissues to retain moisture. As levels of estrogen drops, so does our body moisture.
Dehydration affects everything!
Recent studies find that dehydration not only impairs us physically, it can also lead to cognitive decline. 80% of our brain’s content is actually water. Every single chemical reaction that happens in the brain needs water to occur, including energy production. Dehydrated women experience a significant drop-off in energy and mood and can be more likely to have headaches and difficulty concentrating. Why? The brain is extremely sensitive to even small changes in the amounts of ions like sodium and potassium found in our body’s fluids. Mood and energy changes may be a sort of built-in alarm system to let you know you need water.
In addition to mood and energy deficits, your dehydrated brain also has to use a lot more energy to accomplish tasks. Even a minimal loss of water, like 2% reduction, which is a very mild dehydration can cause symptoms like brain fog, confusion, fatigue, dizziness and even worse.
If all this doesn’t send you running for a glass of water, some other issues of dehydration include drier, more brittle hair and nails, skin that’s flaky, dry, and itchy, headaches, constipation and bloating. Unlubricated joints will ache more. Your body thermostat may get (even further) out of whack and some studies show an increase in hot flashes among women who are chronically under-watered.
How to avoid all this? First of all, if you feel thirsty, you’ve already waited too long to drink some water. Urine color is one of the best indicators of a person’s hydration level – clear urine means you are well hydrated and darker urine means you are dehydrated. Some easy tips keep you hydrated include:
- Keep a bottle of water with you during the day.
- If you don’t like the taste of plain water, infuse citrus fruits, cucumber or herbs to naturally flavor it.
- Try to drink at least half your body weight in water a day.
- Drink water before, during, and after a workout.
- Limit your intake of tea, coffee, alcohol or carbonated drinks as they are diuretics.
- Increase your intake of water-rich fruits and vegetables like watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, cucumber, lettuce, etc.
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