It’s not hard to know when you are really dehydrated you feel thirsty, you feel overheated and you know you need some water. Did you know that if you are mildly dehydrated it can cause health problems? It’s harder to tell when you are mildly dehydrated. There are few if any signs. One of the biggest issues with mild dehydration is the effect it has on your brain. Your brain is made up of about 75% water. Your brain consists of and about 100 billion neurons. There are about 1,000 to 10,000 synapses for each neuron. Our brains depend on proper hydration to function normally. Your brain cells require a balance between water and minerals to operate. When you lose too much water your balance is disrupted.
Two recent studies that included healthy college-age men and women who took part in cognitive evaluation over the course of a few weeks in order to compare scores from their well-hydrated and dehydrated states. The women in the studies when in a mild dehydrated state had trouble concentrating. They didn’t score any worse on mental tasks but their perception of their abilities was low. When the men were mildly dehydrated they did not score high on the mental tasks. It was especially evident in task that required more vigilance and working memory. Mild dehydration did not cause the men fatigue or headaches as it did with the women. Researchers think the difference was a hormonal response to dehydration.
The result of this study theorized that the billions of neurons in our brain detect mild dehydration early that negatively impact our body functions as a warning sign to let us know we need water before more dire consequences occur.
It’s really important to pay attention not just to feeling thirsty but look at the more subtle changes to our body and mind such as fatigue, headache, difficulty concentrating, mood swings, remembering or learning. Keep an eye on your urine color. Dark yellow or tan means you need more water. Pale yellow is ideal.
You’ve got to drink water or you’ll have some serious problems. We lose about a half-gallon of body fluid during the day. That’s about 2% of your body weight. If you work out you’ll lose even more and this could be dangerous. With a 3% fluid loss, you’d have a hard time maintaining your body temperature. With a 4% fluid loss, your muscles stop working properly. A 5% fluid loss is life-threatening. At 150 pounds, a 5% fluid loss is only 7.5 pounds. Many people try to sweat away excess weight. Water loss or sweating is not an indication you’re losing weight. It just means you’re losing necessary body fluids.
Drinking water is important all year round but you need to be especially meticulous about drinking water when the weather is hot. Two-thirds of your body is composed of water. This makes it the body’s most vital nutrient. To maintain balance the average person needs about 10 to 15 cups per day. Of this amount probably 60% will be obtained from drinking water or beverages, 30% from moist foods and the remaining 10% will be a byproduct of the metabolism of various nutrients.
Water normally enters the body through the mouth but it can be lost in several ways. These include obvious losses as in urine, feces and sweat as well as less obvious losses, which occur by diffusion of water through the skin (perspiration throughout the day as part of metabolism) and by evaporation of water from the lungs during breathing.
If a person gets in about 2,500 ml of water each day then 2,500 ml of water must be eliminated to maintain water balance. Of this volume, approximately 60% will be lost in urine, 6% in feces and 6% in sweat. Another 28% will be lost by diffusion through the skin (which takes place all day long) and evaporation from the lungs. These percentages vary when factors such as temperature, relative humidity and physical activity come into play.
Water provides a valuable source of minerals like calcium and magnesium. It carries nutrients to your organs and tissue by way of the blood stream. Water also aids in the digestion of food and the absorption of nutrients into the body. It carries away bodily waste and cools the body through perspiration. Water also moistens the mucous membranes and lubricates the joints.
Your daily fluid intake can come from drinking water or other beverages such as juice, milk or soft drinks. Fruits and vegetables can also be counted because they are 80% water. You can’t count your intake of coffee, tea or alcohol because they can act as a diuretic.
If you have trouble getting in water here are some suggestions you might find helpful.
Carry a container of water with you daily to drink throughout the day
Order water when you go to a restaurant and drink it first
Drink sparkling water mixed with fruit juice
Drink water from a wine glass or goblet
It doesn’t require you running a marathon to run low on water. Mild dehydration can happen when you’re doing regular daily activities such as studying, watching sporting events or even having sex.
Remember, more than two-thirds of your body and 75% of your brain is made up of this precious fluid. Don’t take it for granted. Drink to good health, drink water.