H2O, the essential nutrient for life!
With the summer around the corner and the temperature already on a steady rise, it is important to remember to stay well hydrated through the warmer months. Seems a straight forward concept but over half our population is considered chronically dehydrated all year round. So this summer be one step ahead of getting thirsty and try these tips to keep your fluids flowing!
Why it is important to stay hydrated:
Our bodies are composed of about 60-75 percent water and it is the number one most critical nutrient for human survival. Water is essential in every function in the body including:
- Brain and neurological function
- Organ health
- Waste and toxin elimination
- Endocrine regulation
- Proper kidney and liver function
- Lymphatic and immune system function
- Keeps the membranes of the eyes, nose and mouth moist
- Joint and spinal disc lubrication
- Blood concentration and cardiovascular health
- Body temperature regulation
- Exchange of nutrients and waste metabolites within our cells
- Healthy skin
- Metabolism regulation
- Mental and emotional health
Yup, that is pretty much all your functions. Get the picture?
Symptoms of dehydration:
The symptoms of mild fluid loss may not be noticeable right away but they can quickly accelerate from mild to more severe side effects which may include:
- Thirst and hunger, including cravings for carbs
- Fatigue and low energy
- Irritability, anxiety and mood swings
- Dry mouth
- Persistent headache
- Weakness, faintness or dizziness
- Increased heart rate
- Changes in blood pressure
- Inability to concentrate, brain fog or memory impairment
- Muscle cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dark coloured and strong smelling urine
- Infrequent urination
- Dry skin
- Increased risk of kidney stones
- May trigger migraines
*Note: The brain is composed of 75-80 percent water and therefor is drastically impacted by fluid imbalance. When the tissue of the brain shrinks, it places pressure on pain sensitive sensors in the cranium causing headaches. Fluid loss also results in imbalances in electrolytes which are essential for conductivity and transmission of neurological impulses. This is why headaches and cognitive impairments are prevalent with dehydration.
**Note: Chronic dehydration may be a cause of low grade chronic headaches, irritability, constipation and dry skin in some people and may be resolved by addressing underlying causes of dehydration.
Causes of dehydration:
Remember if you are thirsty, you have already tipped the scale, thirst is your bodies alarm system reminding you you are out of balance. We lose a daily average of 8-12 cups of water just breathing, perspiring and through digestion and elimination processes. When we add other environmental factors, we can quickly slip into a loss of fluids compared with our intake. Here are some reasons why we may find ourselves at a loss:
- Not drinking water. Seems obvious but many people just don’t drink water!
- Excess salt, sugar, alcohol and caffeine.
- Diabetes, thyroid disorders and other health conditions.
- Medications such as diuretics and meds for high blood pressure.
- Prolonged or intense exercise.
- Environmental temperature.
- Infections and illness.
- Vomiting and diarrhea.
- Diets high in fiber. Fiber is a really good thing but may require a little more H2O to keep that matter movin’!
*Note: Diets that are high in sodium, sugar, caffeine and alcohol often result in a net loss of water even if recommended daily intake of water is consumed. If these are included in your lifestyle, consider an increase in hydrating fluids and foods to prevent chronic dehydration from occurring.
**Note: People that are elderly and small children are at higher risk of dehydration in general.
**Note: Severe dehydration requires medical attention immediately.
One of the best ways to prevent dehydration is to frequently consume small amounts of water through out the day. Other liquids, such as herbal and green tea, non dairy and dairy milk and fruit juices can also maintain hydration but contain more calories and should be drank in moderation. If you practice a healthy diet, you will derive a fair amount of water out of the food and beverages you consume through out the day. Coffee, caffeinated teas, soda, pre-made ice tea and lemonades, hot chocolate, sports and energy drinks and alcoholic beverages of any kind are not considered hydrating as they can have other disrupting effects on the body. That said, if you are past the point of no return any fluid would be better than none at all! Here are some other ideas to keep on top of staying refreshed:
- Keep a glass in the bathroom and every-time you relieve your bladder, have a sip of water. Water out, water in!
- Start your morning with a glass of water with a fresh squeezed wedge of lemon. There are multiple benefits to this. While you begin your morning ritual of making coffee, tea and breakfast, add your lemon water to the routine. Have a container of quartered lemons ready to go for ease of effort.
- Set water challenges for yourself. For example, set a goal to drink your entire water bottle before lunch and then refill it and set a second goal to drink this one before the end of the work day.
- Make your favourite herbal tea, fruit flavoured ones are nice in the summer, and store it in a mason jar in the fridge. Add some stevia or honey to sweeten if desired and pour over ice to enjoy during the day.
- Reach for a reusable straw to make sipping more playful.
- Set reminders on your phone to stop and have a drink at least every hour.
- Make sure you drink your glass of water served to you at a restaurant.
- Fill a glass with ice and crunch away.
- Dehydration is one of the most common causes for a mid day slump. Instead of caving to the craving, reach for a glass of water and rehydrate first.
- Eat foods that are high in water content and include soups and stews into your diet.
- Limit foods high in sodium such as fast foods, potato chips and processed foods, sugar laden beverages including energy and sport drinks, excessive caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine and alcohol are both forms of diuretics and flush out the water in your system quickly.
- Consider a glass of water in between every alcoholic beverage you consume and always have a big glass of water before bed if you have over indulged in the cocktails.
- Stay cool in summer weather. Wear a hat, cool clothing, keep out of the direct sun and don’t exercise in the heat of the day.
- Take cool showers, dip in the river or lake or enjoy an air conditioned room when temperatures are high.
- Wind down your evening with a cup of your favourite herbal tea, especially through the fall, winter and spring when temperatures aren’t so hot.
- Supplement with quality electrolyte formulas when working in the heat or doing intense exercise. Not all electrolyte drinks are all that healthy, use discernment.
Top hydrating foods and foods to boost electrolytes:
It goes without saying that eating a diet rich in fruits, veggies and whole foods like nuts, beans and whole grains is always to your benefit. There are some foods, however, that are helpful to include when hydration is a factor. Some of the top foods that contain high water content are:
- Watermelon and other melons
- Berries such as strawberries and blueberries
- Greens such as spinach and romaine
- Bell peppers, especially green
- Cabbage (have you ever made sauerkraut? Salt the cabbage and just watch the water ooze out!)
- Zucchini and summer squash
Foods to restore electrolytes:
Electrolytes, including sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium and phosphorus are essential to maintaining proper functions and cellular activity in the body. When we become dehydrated it can detrimentally impact our electrolyte levels. Profuse sweating such as in high heat or intense exercise, may require direct electrolyte supplementation. Milder states of electrolyte imbalances can be replenished by including the following foods:
- Spinach and kale
- Milk and greek yogurt
- Soup broth
- Coconut water
- Nuts and seeds such as almond, peanuts and pumpkin seeds
- Beans and soy, including tofu
At the end of the day, just remember to take in more fluids than you are losing. The recommended average is 8 cups of water per day. This is only a recommendation as your needs will change depending on age, activity, illness, environment and body size. Pay attention to signs such as cravings, low energy, headaches, irritability, dry mouth and constipation. Note the frequency of urination and look for clear or straw coloured urine and don’t let your mouth get dry and sticky. It can feel awkward being that person who always needs to pee but go with the flow!! It is better to be consistently hydrated than put unnecessary stress on your brain, organs and overall well-being. Lastly, water is perfectly designed to do exactly what it is intended for, plus it is zero calorie and costs nothing! So reach for the tap and get quenching!
Want a hydrating summer salad to try? Check out this Refreshing watermelon Summer salad and enjoy the flavors of summer!
Are you ready to step into a more healthy lifestyle and want someone to support you along the way? A health coach can work with you to create manageable goals to work toward your increased vitality and well-being. Contact me for a free consultation to find out if Health Coaching is for you!