Our bodies are made up of 70% fluid. The list of what these fluids are is extensive and ranges from blood and lymph to gastric juices, mucus, salvia and ear wax right through to breast milk, sweat and tears. There is more, but I’ve set my scene. Although we understand that hydration is important, many of us are chronically dehydrated. This is for many reasons, we simply do not drink enough water, we drink too many diuretics (coffee, tea, fizzy drinks), our bodies may have lost the ability to hydrate (after years of chronic dehydration) and stress.
As a Nutritional Therapist, I see many clients (including children) who are showing symptoms of dehydration. As a general rule of thumb, an adult should consume 1.5 to 2 litres of clean water a day. No more than a pint an hour, we don’t want to overload the kidneys. While a child (5 to 11 years) needs to drink between 300 – 900ml a day (depending on their age, size and physical activity). This is water, not juices, squash, milk or soda drinks - plain water.
The brain registers thirst only when IT is about to be impacted. Often this manifests as hunger not the thirst we feel after exercise or exertion. Instead of reaching for a snack, try a glass of water first. If the brain registers dehydration last on the body’s hierarchy, this means that every other organ is working on minimal hydration levels. Some physical side affects of this is constipation, muscle aches, dry skin and hair, brittle nails, lower back pain and headaches. Research is now linking dehydration to other health issues which include urinary tract infections, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol levels, some allergies, forms of depression and STRESS.
Stress has become a part of daily life. To combat this many exercise, take Mindful moments, read and listen to music. While some drink heavily, eat fish and chips and go shopping. There are many strategies that people use. Obviously, some have longer-term physical and mental upsides than others! Seldom, do I see a stressed person reach for a glass of water. However, I want to propose the following –
Stress leads to dehydration and dehydration leads to stress.
Dealing with stress and experiencing dehydration leads to the same physical response pattern in the body, that of fight or flight. Both mobilise and release hormones (endorphins, cortisone release factor, prolactin and vasopressin) to deal with the situation (whether, socially called for or not). Road rage is a common example of this. On a journey, we don’t drink enough because we don’t want to stop. Driving does throw up unusual (stressful) situations that the body can quickly turn into a fight or flight issue. Whether we feel it and act on it (with bad language, thumping the steering wheel or something more aggressive), deep down we often realise the irrationality of it (even if it is later) and can’t control it.
A dehydrated person may find it difficult to cope with more than one thing and will lose concentration easily. They are more than likely quick to anger. My children respond to dehydration in the following way – they become tearful and angry. They lose perspective and become tunnel visioned. My teenagers lose motivation, they are quickly angry and irrational. A glass of water (and a cuddle) later, they are back on track. I am the same!
If you would like more information or would prefer a consultation please contact me.
Paula is an avid writer and enjoys working with food and words.