What are the signs of dehydration?

February 25, 2023

Dehydration is more common than not these days and it’s not just a physical condition; it can also have a significant impact on our mental health. Studies have shown that even mild dehydration can lead to a decrease in cognitive function and mood. As a certified personal trainer (NASM) I am always talking to my clients about the importance of proper and consistent hydration. In this blog, I will not only speak to the 5 top signs of dehydration but I will also tell you the 5 ways to increase your level of hydration. We will wrap up with 5 ways chronic dehydration can affect your overall health.

Before we jump in, it’s important to note that hydration needs vary depending on factors such as activity level, climate, and health conditions, so it’s best to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the right hydration plan for you.

What are the 5 Signs of Dehydration

Dehydration happens when you don’t drink enough water or when you lose water too quickly. It is important to stay hydrated throughout the entire day in order to maintain optimal health and well-being.

Thirst

This is the most obvious sign of dehydration. When dehydrated, the body’s natural saliva production decreases, leaving the mouth feeling dry and sticky.

Dry skin and lips

This was always a big indicator for me. Dry lips that chapstick doesn’t stand a chance at helping.

Dark yellow urine

Well-hydrated individuals typically have clear or pale yellow urine. Dark yellow urine can be an indication of dehydration. Check yours the next time you go!

Fatigue

Dehydration can cause the blood to become thicker, making it harder for the heart to pump, which can lead to fatigue.

Headaches

Dehydration can cause blood vessels in the brain to constrict, leading to headaches. This is especially the case for hot/dry weather.

Even if you start drinking water right away upon noticing these types of symptoms, it can take up to 45 minutes for your body to absorb, so keep the water coming! It’s important to note that thirst is not always the best indicator of hydration levels, so it’s good to make a habit of regularly drinking water. Also, if you are sweating excessively, you may need more fluids to rehydrate.

5 Ways to Increase Hydration

Okay, so now you realize you are feeling those headaches, your urine is dark and fatigue is your middle name.

What do you do about it? How do you make it sustainable?

Sustainability is a very important factor in our coaching at Feed Your Soul Fitness and within our Soul Fit Nutrition coaching program.

Here are 5 ways for you to increase your hydration.

Drink Water

The simplest and most effective way to hydrate is to drink plenty of water; more if you are active or in a hot environment.

Your definition of “plenty” depends on your starting point.

Track how much water you drink on average for 3-5 days. Then increase by 10 ounces every 2-4 days increasing your overall intake. Don’t just go for a gallon right out of the gate; it most likely will feel like too much and can scare ya off!

Eat Hydrating Foods

Certain foods, such as fruits and vegetables, can help you stay hydrated. Fruits such as watermelon and strawberries, and vegetables like cucumbers and lettuce, have high water content. I even plop a few cucumbers into my water from time to time!

Electrolytes/Sports Drinks

If you are engaged in physical activity, sports drinks can help replace electrolytes lost through sweat. Just watch the sugar content! I personally love Nuun tablets!

Herbal Teas

Herbal teas, such as chamomile, hibiscus and peppermint, can be hydrating and also provide other health benefits. If you prefer colder drinks, both peppermint and hibiscus are great over ice! The key is to stay away from teas that have caffeine or sugar.

Broth-Based Soups

Broth-based soups are a great way to hydrate and replenish fluids, especially during cold weather. Just be weary of sodium content!
Be mindful of alcohol and caffeine intake as they are diuretics! Alcohol and caffeine can dehydrate the body, so it’s important to drink extra water if you consume them. I have a personal ‘rule of thumb’ where I won’t allow myself any coffee without at least 20 ounces of water. I also won’t allow myself to have a second cup of coffee without another 30 ounces of water. Last, be sure to avoid sugary drinks, as these can actually dehydrate you more.

5 Ways Dehydration Can Negatively Affect Your Overall Health

Dehydration can have serious effects on a person’s health and it can range from mild to severe depending on the level of fluid loss. While some of these symptoms may be obvious, there are some effects that you may not have previously correlated such as the increase of stress hormones that can lead to feelings of anxiety/depression.

On top of that, lack of water intake can affect the levels of neurotransmitters, chemicals in the brain, that control mood and cognitive function.

Brain Function

Dehydration can affect cognitive function and can lead to headaches, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. I need all the focus I can get, so I keep a gallon jug on my desk at all times!

Physical Performance

Dehydration can cause decreased physical performance, as the body does not have enough fluid to maintain proper temperature regulation and support muscle function.

Kidney Function

The kidneys require an adequate fluid intake to function properly and filter waste from the blood. Dehydration can cause the kidneys to work less effectively and can increase the risk of kidney stones and urinary tract infections.

Gastrointestinal Issues

Dehydration can cause constipation and make it more difficult for the body to absorb nutrients from food. If you are not having a bowel movement every day, I’d check your water intake.

Heart Function

Dehydration can put an extra strain on the heart, as it has to work harder to pump blood to the rest of the body when fluid levels are low.

My guess is that you are drinking water right now after reading this blog and for that my friend, I am proud of you!

Be sure to take into consideration what your starting point is and how you will incrementally increase to get to where you need to be. This will help it feel more sustainable as well as more approachable.

Drinking ample water will have a positive ripple effect for your mind and body! I’ll leave you with one of my top tips and that is to set alarms throughout the day to remind you to drink. I know it may sound silly, but in this day and age when we get so busy, we forget! Alarms have certainly helped me, I hope they can help you too!

To learn more, check out our Coffee with Brandy video on Dehydration.

If you’d like to get more information on hydration and nutrition, chat with a coach to find out what our nutrition experts can do for you!

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