Here comes summer, start fueling up now!
Jenilee Matz, MPH
Our bodies are made up of mostly water. So, it should come as no shock that our bodies suffer when our fluid levels are down.
Dehydration happens when we take in less water than we lose. Fluids are lost each day through exhaling, sweating, urinating, and having bowel movements.
Dehydration is serious. It upsets the body’s natural balance and can lead to headaches, weakness, dizziness, or fainting. Severe dehydration can even cause death.
Water Intake and Your Mood
Not only does dehydration take a toll on our physical health, but it affects our emotional and mental health as well. Studies show that even mild dehydration is linked with moodiness, tension, anxiety, cognitive problems, and low energy levels. These consequences of dehydration tend to be worse for women than for men.
How to Stay Hydrated
Next time you’re feeling cranky or drained, think about how much you’ve drank throughout the day. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink up. Our thirst sensation actually doesn’t kick in until we’re already a bit dehydrated.
The Institute of Medicine recommends that men drink about thirteen cups of fluid each day, and women should aim for nine. You need even more liquids in hot weather, during and after exercise, if you are pregnant or nursing, and when you’re sick with a fever, vomiting, or diarrhea.
You don’t need to stick with plain water to meet your fluid needs. Any beverage (except for alcohol) or hydrating food counts towards the fluid recommendation. Hydrating foods include:
- Fruits. Fruits are packed with water. The best sources include watermelon (hence the name!), cantaloupe, honeydew, oranges, and grapefruit.
- Vegetables. Veggiesdon’t contain as much water as fruits, but celery, tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, and Romaine lettuce are good sources of H2O.
- Hidden sources. Smoothies, soups, yogurt, and oatmeal each contain a good amount of water.
Am I Drinking Enough?
Taking in liquids throughout the day and eating a balanced diet will likely keep you well-hydrated.
The color of your urine is also a fairly good indicator of hydration. A pale yellow color means you’re probably getting enough water.
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Jenilee Matz, MPH is a medical writer, health educator, and runner based in Charlotte, NC