Why Proper Hydration is Crucial
"We are all at risk of becoming dehydrated — it doesn’t take much, especially at this time of the year."
Today’s live show with Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD is about a topic critical to our health and vitality — proper hydration. This is an important topic for the whole family this time of year, especially since 75% of us are not properly hydrated. And it goes beyond just drinking enough water. Understanding the signs of dehydration, as well as the associated health risks, and incorporating a simple daily hydration routine can ward off dehydration and keep the body optimally fueled.
Staying hydrated also helps to keep the brain sharp, bowels regular, and helps prevent fatigue, irritability, and headaches. It is essential to keep us functioning at peak physical performance.
- 04:06: Introduction
- 05:41: Animals and Hydration
- 07:17: How Much Water Should You Drink?
- 09:33: Understanding Hydration
- 11:53: What is Dehydration?
- 13:07: Signs of Dehydration
- 20:50: Effects of Dehydration
- 23:13: Dehydration Risk Factors
- 25:38: Preventing Dehydration
- 28:07: Stay Hydrated Smoothie Recipe
- 34:29: Orange Creamsicle Smoothie Recipe
- 38:02: Other Hydrating Foods
- 39:25: Wrap-Up
Since most of the country has been in a heat wave the past few days, it’s important that we talk about dehydration and the dangers of heat stroke. Just this past week a 32-year-old former NFL football player was simply working outside his family’s shop in his hometown on a hot day. The heat index that day (which means the temperature it felt like) in the area where he was working was above 100°F. He ended up having heat stroke and died that same day. Very scary! So recognizing the signs of dehydration and heat stroke isn’t just good for your health, it can quickly become a life or death situation for people at any age.
Animals and Hydration
- Did you know there are some animals that can go their entire lifetime without drinking water? These include tortoises, kangaroo rats, thorny devils, and camels (which by the way do not store water in their humps — instead the camel reabsorbs the mist caused by its own breath as the air cools at night).
- The land animal that consumes the most amount of water (about 100 gallons per day in the summer!) is a cow.
How Much Water Should You Drink?
We recently talked about the best type of water to drink, and in that episode, Dr. Nancy addressed how much water you should drink daily: at least half your body weight in ounces. For instance, if you weigh 140 pounds, you should drink 70 ounces of water every day. No longer do we follow the one-size-fits-all belief that all people should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day.
We also revealed that by the time you feel thirsty, your body has probably lost more than 1% of its total water weight.
The body is made up of about 70% water, and when it loses even that 1%, you already start to feel a little tired, maybe you get a little bit of brain fog happening, and your mouth might even be a bit dry. That’s when it’s time to hydrate — actually, that’s past the time you should ideally be hydrating.
That’s why it’s important to cultivate some self-awareness around what’s going on in your body so you can take a water break before your body has a chance to signal it’s thirsty. Surprisingly, even in the healthcare world, little emphasis is given to staying hydrated, given its importance to keeping us alive and healthy each day.
Did you know:
- 75% of people living in the United States are chronically dehydrated.
- The average American only drinks 2½ cups of water a day? Isn’t that astounding.
- When you’re really dehydrated and you get behind the wheel of a car, you can actually make the same amount of mistakes as if you had a few alcoholic beverages and got behind the wheel.
- Worldwide, almost 700 million people don’t have sufficient access to clean drinking water. That means dehydration on a global scale is a huge issue.
- You can only survive about a week without water
- It only takes 45 minutes for the body to go from dehydrated to a completely rehydrated state?
What is Dehydration?
Dehydration, simply put, is when more fluids are leaving the body than are entering it.
Dehydration can be caused by a number of things. Obviously not drinking water (for whatever reason) is one, but there are other triggers as well:
- Extreme heat like the heat wave
- Lack of access to clean water
Signs of Dehydration
Check Your Skin
Your skin can reveal several signs of dehydration, so check your skin for:
- Roughness or flaking
- Flushing or redness
- Cracked skin or lips
- Cold or clammy skin
- Tightening or shrinking – meaning your skin will appear to be less plump.
There’s actually a super-simple method with your skin for checking your hydration level, and all it involves is a pinch of your skin to test something called Skin Turgor, or the skin’s elasticity — this is what allows the skin to change shape and then return to normal
To test it, pinch the skin on your arm for a few seconds and then let go. If your skin returns to normal immediately, it has normal turgor, but if it takes a moment, the turgor is likely poor, which indicates dehydration.
Check Your Breath
Your mouth and tongue will feel dry or sticky when you’re dehydrated. You might also have bad breath. Your body needs plenty of water to make saliva or spit. When you’re dehydrated, you have less saliva. This causes more bacteria to grow in your mouth and can leave you with dry mouth and bad breath.
Check Your Urine
A third simple way to test your hydration levels is to do a pee test. Your urine, and especially the color of your urine is really important when determining your hydration levels.
You’ll probably urinate less than normal when dehydrated and when you do urinate, you’ll notice a clear color difference when you are hydrated compared to when you are dehydrated:
- Pale yellow to clear is normal and indicates that you’re well hydrated
- A pale honey, transparent color indicates normal hydration, but it may mean that you need to rehydrate soon.
- A yellow, more cloudy color means your body needs water.
- A darker yellow, amber color isn’t healthy. Your body needs water.
- Orangish-yellow and darker: You’re severely dehydrated. Contact your doctor immediately.
Note: If you take a multivitamin, or some antibiotics, these could alter your urine color in some cases.
Effects of Dehydration
So, let’s talk about what happens within the body when you become dehydrated. As we discussed, it only takes that 1% loss of the body’s total water weight to start to become a little mentally fuzzy or to feel like you need a nap. From there, you might:
- Get a headache
- Notice your heart beats a little faster
- Feel dizzy
- Get a muscle cramp, or your muscles feel generally tight
- Realize you haven’t gone to the bathroom in a while
When you reach the 5% water loss mark, you might:
- Feel extremely thirsty
- Become disoriented
- Be irritable
- Develop a fever
- Breathe rapidly
When you’ve lost 10-15% water, you might:
- Become delirious
- Lose consciousness
- Experience painful urination, have urine that is extremely dark in color, or you not to the bathroom at all. If you notice your pee is dark in color, drink some water as soon as possible. This is a big indicator that your body is trying to hold onto liquids in an effort to function normally.
- Experience muscle spasms
When you’ve lost 20% water, that’s when your organs begin to fail, blood pressure drops, or the lack of electrolytes could cause seizures. The consequences at this point can even be fatal.
Everybody take a sip of water right now!
Dehydration Risk Factors
We are all at risk of becoming dehydrated — it doesn’t take much, especially at this time of the year. If you’re having a busy day it’s easy to forget to take a minute to sip some water, or if you exercise really hard or you’re someone who hikes at high altitudes or mountain climbs or runs marathons or plays other sports outside. There are a few other demographics who are at a higher risk of becoming dehydrated as well:
- Babies. While adults’ bodies are made up of about 70% water, infants’ bodies are made up of almost 80% water. This means they are at a greater risk of becoming dehydrated until they turn 1 year old, when their water composition drops to about 65%. During that first year, it’s really important to make sure that baby gets enough hydration from mom or bottle.
- Senior citizens. As we get older, that signal telling us we’re thirsty starts to weaken! According to one study, 20% or senior citizens are not getting their daily dose of water. This could be, in part, because their mental health is also declining, and they may be more prone to forget.
- People with diabetes or kidney disease. People with diabetes and kidney issues are predisposed to become easily dehydrated, so it is absolutely, positively vital you make sure to stay hydrated at all times if you are dealing with diabetes or kidney issues!
You can make a vow to drink enough water every day, if that’s something that proves challenging for you, or you can use a phone app or journal to remind you, but there are other ways you can prevent dehydration too. If you’re someone who doesn’t really like the taste of water, or it’s an absolute struggle to get your daily dose, there are other options you can supplement with. Also, if you’re sick, whether it’s diarrhea, vomiting, or you have a fever, it’s really important you try to replenish the water that you’ve lost, even if you don’t feel thirst.
For water alternatives, we don’t recommend sugary beverages with electrolytes (like Gatorade), although they can be effective in replacing lost fluids. A better natural alternative would be coconut water because it contains electrolytes and antioxidants that help replenish fluids you lost when you were sick, plus coconut water has anti-inflammatory properties, too, which is paramount to our health!
Speaking of coconut water...
Stay Hydrated Smoothie Recipe
In addition to drinking coconut water, foods with a high water content can also help keep you hydrated. This primarily includes fruits and veggies like watermelon, grapefruit, celery, cucumber, and leafy greens like kale and spinach.
For the Stay Hydrated Smoothie, here’s what you’ll need:
- 1 cup coconut water
- 2-3 cups spinach, packed
- 2 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
- ½ cup frozen mango
- ½ cup cucumber, sliced and diced
To make the smoothie, combine all the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.
We just mentioned that certain fruits have a high water content, but it’s important to point out that fruit also contains sugar, which can ultimately be dehydrating. So just be careful and don’t overdo it with the fruit if you feel like you’re maybe a little dehydrated. Initially, maybe go for a glass of water and some cucumber or a piece of celery.
One other good thing about fruits like grapefruit, mangoes, pineapples, and oranges is that they provide a specific electrolyte, potassium, which is also a key ingredient in coconut water and one of the reason’s it’s so hydrating. This next smoothie recipe incorporates citrus fruits, and this one is not only hydrating, but it tastes like a delicious Orange Creamsicle, so the kids will love it too.
Orange Creamsicle Smoothie Recipe
Here’s what you’ll need for this one:
- 1 cup frozen mangoes
- 1 cup coconut water
- 1 cup unsweetened, non-dairy milk of choice: coconut, almond, or hemp
- 1 orange, peeled
Again, all you have to do is combine all the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. So delicious!
Other Hydrating Foods
Now a few other foods that you might not know are super hydrating. These include:
- Cauliflower. This one’s a weird one, right? But cauliflower is 92% water and makes a great substitute for other, more dehydrating grains like rice or those found in flour.
- Organic bone or vegetable broth
- Soup — just make sure it’s homemade or low-sodium. Canned soups contain tons of sodium, which can be dehydrating.
- Berries, such as strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries
Today, we tackled dehydration. It’s not a controversial conversation topic, but certainly an important one at this time of year. Here’s what we learned:
- The body is made up of 70% water, and by the time your brain registers that you’re thirsty, you’ve already lost 1% of the body’s total water weight. That’s enough to cause brain fog, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue.
- As the body loses more and more of its total water weight, the symptoms associated with dehydration increase in severity and can become so severe that the organs completely shut down. Dehydration can even lead to death.
- Babies, senior citizens, and serious athletes are at an even greater risk of becoming dehydrated. And we’re all at risk if we are active outside on these hot summer days.
- The average American only drinks about 3 cups of water every day. That is well below the daily recommended amount. Adults should be drinking half their body weight in ounces of water every day. We suggest you increase that by 65-70% if you plan on being active outside.
- A few ways to make sure you’re staying hydrated include: carrying water with you at all times, and eating foods with a high water content like watermelon, cucumber, coconut, mango, pineapple, spinach, kale, celery, and cauliflower.
We hope you enjoyed this important topic, and that you’re on your way to get hydrated right now.