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Are You Dehydrated? Symptoms & How to Stay Hydrated


by Dr. Nancy Rahnama

Director of Health & Nurition

Water is involved in pretty much every bodily function you can think of – after all, we’re 60% water! Dehydration is a common issue and can lead to many symptoms, including fatigue, constipation, and decreased concentration.

The recommended water intake of each individual is based on many variables. Each individual’s weight, environment, gut function, level of physical activity, and medication used can all influence how much water they should drink.

Generally, we start by recommending 64oz (2 liters) of water a day. This can be any liquid beverage without caffeine, alcohol, or sugar content.

We asked Dr. Nancy about the prevalence of dehydration, how we can spot it in ourselves, and how we can better stay hydrated.

 

What are the signs of dehydration? 

The below factors may suggest that someone is not drinking enough water:

  • Thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased concentration
  • Clammy or sweaty skin
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dark yellow to amber-colored urine
  • Nausea
  • A quickened heart rate and palpitations
  • Increased sensitivity to pain and discomfort
  • A dry mouth and tongue
  • Rough or flaking skin
  • Low blood pressure
  • Constipation, particularly in older adults
  • Water retention
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Anxiety, tension, and even mood swings

Remember, once you’ve got multiple symptoms, you’re already fairly dehydrated. It’s important to combat these symptoms by drinking enough water and increasing our water intake at the first sign of dehydration.

 

What factors affect our hydration levels? 

  • Exercise has a significant influence on a person’s hydration levels. Following exercise, you’ll want to drink more water than a non-workout day to compensate for water loss following a workout.

  • Heat: being in high temperatures will increase water needs as we lose water through sweat.

  • Those who are actively losing weight and want to supplement their metabolism should increase their water intake.

  • Drinking caffeine or alcohol: Do you feel hydrated enough at the end of each day? Are you drinking too much coffee and not enough water? Every caffeinated beverage should be followed by an extra glass of water as caffeine causes dehydration. The same goes for alcohol. 

Remember that electrolytes are also important to replace if you are sweating through exercise or heat. You can drink electrolyte drinks, but remember to drink those and additional water.

 

Is it possible to be too hydrated? What are the signs?

There is some truth to the saying that you can get too much of a good thing. Water is good for your body, but it is possible to overdo it.

One obvious sign that someone is drinking too much water is frequent urination. Patients who suffer from incontinence may notice that their urinary symptoms worsen from increasing their water intake. It’s important for these patients to be cautious of their recommended water intake and whether they’re sticking to it. 

Patients with congestive heart failure and those with chronic renal failure also need to be on restricted water intake, as do patients with gastric reflux may increase heartburn symptoms if they drink too much water too quickly. 

 

I don’t like water on its own! How can I stay hydrated?

Here are some ways you can get your daily amount of water without having to drink plain old H20:

  • Drink sparkling water, just make sure it doesn’t contain too much sodium or any phosphorus, as phosphorus can lead to bone depletion.

  • Add sliced cucumbers, mint, whole berries, lemon, or lime to your water to make it more palatable.

  • Add a cinnamon stick to some boiled water and let it cool to add an unusual yet refreshing flavor. This is also something people do to ensure adequate water intake in the Middle East, where temperatures are very high.

  • Drink caffeine-free herbal tea as this contributes to your water intake! You can drink this hot or cold – just make sure you don’t add sugar!

  • Try vitamin waters with no sugar – choose those with natural sweeteners. If they contain aspartame, drink them in moderation.

  • If you’re not a fan of drinking water, you can always eat it. Include plenty of produce with high water content in your diet. This can include foods like watermelon, strawberries, pineapple, bell peppers, celery, and cucumber. 

 

Why is it so important to stay hydrated?

The human body is made of around 60% water, and it’s important to replenish that water throughout the day and even more so in hot weather or after exercise. Dehydration can influence our mood, energy level, and cognitive performance long before we start to feel bad. In other words, without enough water, we may not be able to concentrate as well as we should, and we may feel a dip in our patience and general vigor. This is particularly relevant for young women. 

Sufficient hydration may also help stop the initial formation of stones, skin issues like acne, hangovers, and mood swings. 

Water can also help you lose weight and perform better at the gym. Water can boost your metabolic rate and make you feel more satiated so you’re less likely to snack.

One 2013 study of 50 overweight young women found that drinking an extra 16.9 ounces of water before every meal over two months led to significantly lower body weight compared with their original measurements.

 

The bottom line is that it’s vital to drink enough water. Your ideal amount of daily water may differ from others, but you’ll know if you haven’t consumed enough water during the day. Whether you add a squeeze of lemon juice, a few strawberries, or enjoy the occasional herbal tea, hydration can affect several important parts of your health, so keep an eye on your fluid intake. 

 

 

Dr. Nancy Rahnama, MD, ABOM, ABIM, is a medical doctor board certified by both the American Board of Obesity Medicine and the American Board of Internal Medicine. Her specialty is Clinical Nutrition, that is, the use of nutrition by a medical doctor to diagnose and treat disease. Dr. Rahnama has helped thousands of people achieve their goals of weight loss, gut health, improved mood and sleep, and managing chronic disease. In addition to her private practice in Beverly Hills, she is also the co-founder and Director of Nutrition for Dr Nancy MD.

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