It may surprise you to know that 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Despite a seemingly abundance of water, most people fall short of the recommended 8 to 10 cups of water per day recommended by health professionals. Dehydration can affect the body in negative ways and lead to health problems that are completely avoidable with the proper fluid intake.
According to Dr. Grace Webb, Assistant Director for Clinical Nutrition at New York Hospital, “Water is necessary for the body to digest and absorb vitamins and nutrients. It’s also a key to proper digestion; it detoxifies the liver and kidneys, and carries waste away. If your urine becomes darkly colored like this, you’re dehydrated. The urine should be light, straw colored.”
There are also five little-known ways that dehydration has an effect on the body.
1. Bad Breath – halitosis is a personal hygiene problem can lead to being shunned by your spouse, co-workers and even mom. Saliva has antibacterial compounds that keep the bacteria growing in our mouths in check. Dehydration means less saliva, giving those stinky bugs a chance to multiply and spew out of your mouth in a smelly cloud with each breath.
2. Muscle Cramps – nothing takes your breath away than a sudden muscle cramp. The pain is extreme and can linger even after the cramp has been worked out. When you sweat out more fluid than you take in, the nerves that connect muscles become depleted of water and sodium making them sensitive, which can cause them to involuntarily contract and spasm.
3. Sugar Cravings – being thirsty could be making you fat. Many times people mistake feeling thirsty for being hungry and they often crave sweets. This is because organs like your liver need adequate water to release stored glycogen to use for energy.
4. Headaches – the sack of fluid surrounding your brain acts as a cushion to keep it from bouncing against the inside of your skull as you move around. When that fluid sack runs low due to dehydration your brain may push up against the skull and cause a painful headache to develop.
5. Wrinkles – being dehydrated can make you look older than your years. Dry skin is thinner and wrinkles more easily. As we age our skin become less efficient at retaining moisture, making it important to drink plenty of fluids and eat foods like fruits and vegetables that contain plenty of moisture in them.
Develop a Daily Habit
You can get the necessary amount of fluids each day by drinking water, milk, juice, coffee, tea and even eating. Fruits like watermelon have high water content, as does cantaloupe, pineapple and oranges. Drinking skim milk, small servings of fruit juice and sports drinks when you are sweating hard during a workout also count toward your daily goal.
Alcohol is actually a dehydrator, so curbing your intake of it and replacing it with club soda or mineral water is a good idea. Fried and highly processed foods are usually full of sodium and low on fluids, which can result in dehydration. Replacing them with a salad loaded with water-filled lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber and fruits like pears, apples and strawberries will help you get the recommended amount of fluids you need each day.
If you get bored with drinking water straight you can always add a little flavor and even some nutrients like a slice of lemon or tasty low calorie drops fortified with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Don’t let dehydration have a negative effect on your health. Let’s raise a glass of water to drink to our health!