Most of us don’t drink enough water. We drink tea, coffee or soft drinks, in the mistaken belief that we’re hydrating our cells properly.
Unfortunately most of these drinks have a diuretic effect, and actually deprive our bodies of moisture by encouraging excessive urination and limiting our ability to retain water.
Without enough water we become dehydrated, and our bodies cease to function properly.
For many people, dehydration means migraine-like headaches, itchy skin or a parched throat, but the symptoms of this increasingly pervasive condition are actually a lot more varied than this.
A large amount of people suffering from dehydration probably don’t even realise it.
So What are the Symptoms of Dehydration?
People suffering from dehydration can experience a range of symptoms, from a dry mouth and dizzy spells to aching joints, low blood pressure, heartburn, constipation, convulsions and even depression.
People suffering from chronic dehydration can also experience fainting episodes, severe muscle contractions and salt or sugar cravings.
Sound familiar? In his book Your Body's Many Cries for Water, Dr Batmanghelidj says that over 50% of the population currently suffers from dehydration, and that number is growing every day.
If you feel tired and 'foggy' – or suffer from any of the symptoms mentioned above – you may well be suffering from dehydration too.
The Effects of Dehydration
Dehydration is a serious concern for a number of reasons. This increasingly common condition can:
- deprive your cells of the nutrients and oxygen they need to function correctly
- slow down your metabolism, inhibiting your body's ability to process nutrients
- prevent your body from repairing damaged cartilage, increasing abrasive damage to your joints and leaving you with many of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
- lead to depression by preventing the amino acids needed to produce serotonin from reaching your brain
- cause constipation by forcing your colon to leach water from your stools
Another common effect of dehydration is the increased production of histamine, a neurotransmitter used to regulate and ration the body's water supply.
Histamine is responsible for drawing water away from the skin, muscle and bones, and redirecting it towards our vital organs in order to ensure their survival.
However, histamine can also cause asthma-like symptoms during dehydration by forcing the bronchial muscles to contract, which limits the size of our airways and can leave us feeling light-headed and short of air.
Histamine also stimulates the production of mucus, which partially plugs the bronchioles.
Research shows that in addition to the physiological benefits, staying hydrated helps to keep your memory sharp, your mood stable and your attention levels high.
This should come as no surprise: our brains rely on adequate hydration to perform optimally. Furthermore, drinking more water helps to keep your skin supple and elastic.
Effective Ways to Deal with Dehydration
If you’re worried about the effects of dehydration, or are just eager to restore your body to balance and enjoy better health, you’ll be pleased to know that the solution is simple: just drink more water!
You should aim to drink between 8 and 10 glasses of good, healthy water a day to ensure that your cells are properly hydrated. Start early in the morning to get into a routine; it's a good idea to leave a glass chilling in the fridge overnight.
Good, healthy water is water with a high pH value (alkaline) and a rich mineral content. Indeed, a 2017 study showed that athletes who hydrated with alkaline water demonstrated "favourable changes in hydration status in response to high-intensity interval exercise with a significant decrease of specific urine gravity, increased urine pH and more efficient utilization of lactate after supramaximal exercise."
Drinking it will help you bring your body back into balance and aid you in your efforts to enjoy a healthy, more energised life, as well as ensuring that you do not suffer from the effects of dehydration.
Incidentally, a smoothie can be just as hydrating – particularly if you mix your fruit, vegetables or protein powder with – what else? – water.
If you feel that you could be suffering from chronic dehydration, you may also want to add a pinch of good mineral salt (i.e. Himalayan pink salt) to your water.
This will replace some of the essential minerals you have lost, balance your water and potassium levels, and help you to restore your body to good health.
There are other things you can do to address dehydration. One is to eat foods which have a hydratable effect.
In fact, the Institute of Medicine claim that food should constitute around one-fifth of our daily water intake.
Unsurprisingly, fruit and vegetables are high on the list: excellent choices include watermelon, citrus fruits, lettuce, cucumber and spinach.
These foods are also terrific sources of the aforementioned minerals and electrolytes.
Keen to achieve better levels of hydration? You might enjoy our blog 'What's the Healthiest Water to Drink?' which provides plenty of useful information. In it, we attempt to answer an oft-asked question: which factors determine the true quality of water?