8 Signs That May Indicate You’re Dehydrated
Dehydration—it’s a topic you hear often times in athletics and particularly in warmer climates, where everyone seems to be thirsty and parched. While many folks may use it casually, the term “dehydration” is actually quite serious as a medical condition. It’s important to remain aware of its causes and particularly its symptoms so you can avoid its more drastic consequences.
Did you know that 75 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated? A recent survey of 3,003 Americans discovered that 75 percent had a net fluid loss, resulting in chronic dehydration. Not good news, right? The participants made sure to note that they were drinking about 8 servings of hydrating beverages per day, this was counterbalanced by consuming other beverages with caffeine and a diet high in sodium.
W.H. Auden once said, “Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.” This quote could not be more relevant when talking about the importance of staying hydrated. (Even though some would argue the detriments of living a life without love!) In our fast-paced culture, we rarely take the time to stop and drink 8 glasses of water. When we’re reaching for a beverage, often times it’s to wake us up or relax us. Hydration—while totally necessary for optimal human functioning—seems to be pretty low on the totem pole when it comes to others’ priorities. While our heart beat and brain health we may pay more attention to, they both are affected by our daily consumption of water.
At its essence, when we are thirsty, we are dehydrated. Physiologically speaking, dehydration causes the body’s thirst response, meaning when we initially feel thirsty, dehydration is already kicking in. Dehydration and extreme thirst can be caused by a multitude of circumstances—mostly notably are when we’re exercising or due to illness.
Dehydration causes fatigue, something that we all struggle daily to avoid. After all, don’t we need as much energy as possible to live out our daily lives? Countless have revealed that people who were mildly dehydrated were definitely a lot more likely to feel fatigued during moderate exercise and even while remaining sedentary. Midday fatigue—according to many scientists—is primarily due to dehydration, not lack of sleep. Who knew?
Hydration even plays a part in weight loss. When we are more hydrated, that actually boosts our overall metabolism. One study found that a dose of cold water actually helped increase men and women’s metabolic rate by nearly 30 percent! Cold water causes the body to expend more energy warming, which results in an enhanced metabolism. Many fitness instructors talk about the importance of water, but how nice to know it actually plays a part in keeping our metabolism healthy and strong!
Additionally, dehydration can lead to cases of kidney stones. An important 1990 study studying 700 patients found that patients who were told to increase their daily consumption of water had a decrease in kidney stone recurrence. Dehydration, scientists concluded, was the cause of kidney stones in about 20 percent of the cases. How valuable to have proof that staying hydrated can also lead to an avoidance of health mishaps like the pain and suffering caused by kidney stones.
People often say, “I know I should stay hydrated, but if everyone’s dehydrated all the time, how on earth do you know? We understand this all too well, which is why we’re going to take a deep dive into eight common signs that may indicate you are dehydrated. Hopefully, you walk away with a better understanding about some of dehydration’s frustrating symptoms while also taking note of how best to approach your own consumption of water.
How to Determine if You’re Dehydrated
Increased Thirst/Sticky Mouth: As we discussed before and as most people are aware, being thirsty is a main sign of dehydration and so is having a “sticky” mouth. These are telltale signs you need to up your water game immediately. Laura Goldberg at the Cleveland Clinic says that women need 2.7 liters of water each day, which translates to about 11.4 cups; men need 3.7 liters daily, which translates to about 15 cups. Of course, people will need to adjust their water intake, depending on how physically active they are and how much time they spend in the sun.
Dry Eyes/Blurred Vision: This can be kind of a scary one. Having blurry vision can mean a lot of different negative things, so dehydration doesn’t have a monopoly on this particular ailment, yet the science in this is important to understand. Dry eyes on the whole can signify a lack of water in your diet. When you sweat profusely, your general body fluid decreases, and this can result in dry eyes and blurred vision.
Frankly, any part of the body that is normally moist but is now dry implies dehydration—which is a good rule to follow when keeping up with your water consumption. Tears are vital for the body’s functioning as they wipe out toxins and infections, so you run the risk of eye problems and eye illnesses by not adequately hydrating yourself. Pay attention to your body, but especially your eyes when it comes to wellness and dehydration!
Headaches/Disorientation: It’s common for marathon runners who have been running long distances to run haphazardly in zigzags because they are dehydrated. Some even face challenges making decisions and feel out of it, not to mention weak, nauseous, and dizzy. All of this happens because the body doesn’t have adequate fluids to send to other parts of the body, thus resulting in heat exhaustion and/or collapsing, which can lead to serious consequences.
Lack of Sweat: Everyone sweats and few can underestimate the importance of sweating, particularly for ridding the body of countless toxins. A grave sign of serious dehydration is the inability to sweat, meaning you need to get water as soon as possible because lack of sweat can also lead to heat stroke.
Dark Urine: While clear urine may mean that you are over hydrated, dark urine or urine with blood in it can mean that you are very, very dehydrated. If that is the case, you need to stop exercising immediately and consume hydrating fluids.
Fever: If you are dehydrated, this can lead to flu-like symptoms, such as chills, over-heating, even hypothermia. If you are experiencing a fever from lack of hydration, get yourself into an ice bath right away and consume as much water as you can.
Dry or Shriveled Skin: When skin is hydrated, it’s supposed to be doughy, yet when it’s the opposite, it lacks elasticity and does not bounce back when you touch it. This is a sure sign of dehydration.
Muscle Cramps: The loss of water and salt in the human body can cause your muscles to experience extreme tightness. This is very uncomfortable and often painful, especially in your legs and often felt after excessive exercise. When you experience widespread muscle cramping, that is indicative of a sodium deficiency and dehydration in the fluid spaces surrounding certain types of muscles. As you can imagine, this is not good—and it’s why it’s essential to consume sports beverages that contain sodium, as it helps your body retains water and ultimately hydrate.
Naturally, if you have experienced any of these symptoms, you want to seek hydration and perhaps even the care of a doctor immediately. Mild to moderate dehydration is common amongst many Americans and the only real solution is to incorporate more water into your daily diet, avoiding excessive salt as well as beverages with high amounts of caffeine.
Easy Hydration Tips
If you’re looking for tips to stay more hydrated, we have a few for you—hopefully, these are easy to follow and helpful as you aim to feel and function better.
First, bring a water bottle around with you, one that you can take to work kitchens or water fountains and refill. With it sitting nearby, it will help remind you to take a drink of water throughout the day. Try to keep a goal of how many bottles you can consume. You don’t want to be running back and forth to the bathroom, but you do want up your water game as best you can!
Second, watch the foods that you eat. Focus on foods that are water-rich such as oranges and other fruits and vegetables. Remember—many fruits, such as watermelon, are primarily water, meaning you can get hydration that way. Even hamburgers and chicken breasts contain a lot of water, making them hydrating sources of meat.
Third, seek out smoothies as a snack, which are filled with water and other nutrients. Smoothies can provide a real pep throughout your workday while providing delicious-tasting fruit and veggies. Also, flavored water is a great alternative if you don’t like plain drinking water, just try to avoid artificial sweeteners in doing so. You don’t want to be consuming additional toxins!
In conclusion, an old Slovakian Proverb summarizes this article perfectly. “Pure water is the world’s first and foremost medicine.” Yes, that is important to keep in mind, particularly when aiming to avoid dehydration.