Optimal hydration is crucial to maintaining every organ and system in your body. Insufficient hydration can have an adverse effect on how your body functions. For example, even a 2% drop in optimal hydration can lead to cloudy thinking and fatigue.
Water is an essential component of every cell in your body. For example, the tissue that makes up your lungs is comprised of nearly 90% water. Your blood is more than 80% water. And, your brain is approximately 70% water.
How Optimal Hydration Helps Your Body
Optimal hydration is necessary for every function in your body. For example, you need to be hydrated in order to eliminate toxins from your body through urination, moving your bowels, and sweating. When you are not properly hydrated, your body reabsorbs toxins. This puts a lot of stress on your liver and can even wreak havoc on your immune system over time.
When you are optimally hydrated, it’s easier for your body to maintain a normal body temperature. And, research shows that your metabolism is also dependent on your level of hydration. When you are optimally hydrated, you burn calories at an accelerated rate.
Optimal hydration is important for your body in many other ways, including helping your body produce digestive enzymes, maintaining healthy skin and hair, absorbing essential vitamins and minerals, carrying nutrients to your cells, preventing constipation, and even lubricating your joints.
5 Signs of Dehydration
Your body works to maintain optimal hydration by using hormones to control how much you urinate and by giving your brain signals that you are thirsty. Yet, most people in our hemisphere live in a state of chronic dehydration. Dehydration happens when you lose more fluid than you take in.
Here are five ways you can tell if you are dehydrated:
- Your urine is dark. When you are hydrated, your urine is clear to straw-colored. It becomes progressively darker the more dehydrated you are. So, if your urine is honey-colored to dark-brown that is a sign that you need to hydrate. Remember: certain medications and foods can change the color of your urine.
- You’re constipated. Water is important for digestion and elimination. Dehydration is one of the most common causes of constipation. Of course, there are many other factors that can cause constipation, including the food you eat, travel, and certain conditions and medications. If you are staying hydrated, your stool should be soft and you should not have to strain.
- You have a dry mouth. A dry mouth is one of the first symptoms indicating that you need to hydrate. A sense of thirst may follow. Not being able to produce tears or sweat is another clear sign of dehydration.
- You get frequent headaches. Your brain can actually shrink from dehydration, causing you to get a headache. This is common after exercise when you have been sweating and not replenishing fluids. But, dehydration headaches can occur any time you become dehydrated, and they can be severe. You can tell if a headache is from dehydration because you will experience other signs of dehydration as well.
- You are tired. Dehydration can cause muscle fatigue, sleepiness, and general lethargy. When children are dehydrated, they tend to become less active.
People who are chronically dehydrated may suffer from some or all of these five most common symptoms, as well as other symptoms of chronic dehydration, including: indigestion, muscle and joint aches and pains, high blood pressure, fast heartbeat, depression, lack of mental clarity, skin problems, weight issues, and even allergies.
Severe dehydration can cause low blood pressure, dizziness, and confusion, and it can even lead to chronic kidney disease.
How to Stay Optimally Hydrated
Anyone can be at risk for dehydration. But some people are at greater risk than others. For example, your thirst sensation lessons as you grow older, so older people can be at higher risk of dehydration from simply not reading their bodies’ signals. If you take medications or perspire a lot due to exercise, working outdoors, or living in a hot, humid climate, you may be at greater risk of dehydration as well.
Eat Your Water for Optimal Hydration
You have probably been told that you need drink eight glasses of water per day (eight ounces each) and even more if you exercise. This is partially true, but there is a better way to stay optimally hydrated. Eat your water!
Believe it or not, eating your water is the best way to get hydration to all of your cells. Gerald Pollack, Ph.D., a water scientist and bioengineer at the University of Washington, says that water exists in 4 states—solid, liquid, gas, and gel. His research shows that water in plants is far more hydrating than plain water and more apt to get to the right places in the body, including your cerebrospinal fluid (the fluid that bathes your brain), your bloodstream, your gut lining, and your respiratory system.
Gina Bria, co-author of Quench: Beat Fatigue, Drop Weight, and Heal Your Body Through the New Science of Optimum Hydration and founder of the Hydration Foundation, also says gel water, or as she calls it, “living water,” is the best way to hydrate because gel water gets into our fascia. Gina has studied desert cultures. These populations have very little available water, yet they are able to stay adequately hydrated from eating plants that contain water in a gel-like state, such as chia seeds and cacti. And she has some great recipes for those of us who don’t live in the desert, such as Gina’s coconut-rose splendor smoothie.
Now, I’m not saying you should stop drinking water. Drinking pure water does help you to meet your hydration needs. Just be sure to get some gel-water from food sources, too.
Here are four more ways to make sure you stay hydrated:
- Improve your water. To ensure you get enough water, add something to your water to make it more hydrating, such as a pinch of Celtic or Himalayan salt, lemons, cucumbers, strawberries, or watermelon.
- Watch your caffeine intake. Caffeine is one of the most widely consumed psychoactive substances on the planet. And, caffeinated beverages, including coffee, tea, and sodas have a mild diuretic effect, which means they remove water and other nutrients from your body. You may notice that you urinate more when you drink caffeine. So, just be sure to drink or eat more water as well.
- Limit alcohol use. Alcohol reduces how much anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) your body produces. When you have less ADH available, your body loses more fluid than normal through increased urination. Of course, if you imbibe a little as part of a ritual or an occasional celebration, then you are not going to become severely dehydrated. Just don’t overdo it.
- Trust your body. How much water you need varies, depending on many factors, including how much you exercise, whether you drink alcohol or caffeine, how much you travel, and if you take medications. Be sure to trust your body’s signals. If you think you need to drink or eat more water, then you do. As a general rule of thumb, you can always divide your body weight by half, then drink or eat that amount of water in ounces every day. So, if you weigh 150 pounds, try to get 75 ounces of water per day, or enough so that your urine is clear. Be sure to hydrate gradually throughout the day.
Remember, fluids other than pure water don’t meet your needs for hydration the way that water does because they don’t act the same as water in your body. Once you begin hydrating your body optimally, you will notice that many symptoms will clear up.
What are your go-to ways to stay hydrated? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.