When we think of dehydration, we often imagine that cliché movie scene where a guy is dying of thirst in a desert as he crawls to a mirage of a puddle of water. In real life, dehydration isn’t always this dramatic.
Dehydration occurs when there is too much water lost, not enough water taken in, or most commonly, a combination of the two [via Medicine Net]. Severe dehydration is generally caused by diarrhea, vomiting, extreme sweat, underlying diseases like diabetes, or in the case of the guy stuck in the desert, lack of availability to water combined with extraordinary water loss.
Unless you are experiencing these situations, then there is nothing to be worried about, right? Not exactly, CGs. Studies have shown that even mild dehydration (approximately 1.5% loss in normal water volume in the body) to moderate dehydration (5-6% water loss) can have adverse effects on mood and energy. Whether you just came from a workout or have just been sitting at your work desk all day, you are prone to mild dehydration. Here are the signs to watch out for—some may not be as obvious or noticeable as thirst.
1. Headache. “The brain sits inside a fluid sack that keeps it from bumping against the skull,” health writer Nancie George reported in Everyday Health. “If that fluid sack is depleted or running low because of dehydration, the brain can push up against parts of the skull, causing headaches.”
2. Dry mouth, skin, and eyes. “When we are dehydrated, the overall response of the body is to conserve water,” explained Dr. Alexandra Villapol, M.D., Internal Medicine Specialist. “The mouth, skin, and mucous membranes will become dry. Our sweat glands will decrease production of sweat, and our salivary glands will decrease production of saliva. Even our lacrimal or tear-producing glands will conserve water.”
3. Dizziness. Thirst isn’t always a reliable gauge of the body’s need for water, so the earliest symptoms of dehydration include dizziness, lightheadedness, or feeling cranky [via Mayo Clinic].
4. Bad breath. Saliva has antibacterial properties in it, but dehydration can prevent your body from making enough saliva, which in turn gives you bacteria overgrowth [via Everyday Health].
5. Feeling sleepy or sluggish. Mild dehydration can cause the blood to thicken, forcing the heart to pump harder to carry blood to your cells and organs, thus resulting in fatigue [via Web MD].
6. Memory or concentration problems. A study done on female subjects showed that although mild dehydration did not substantially reduce their cognitive abilities, it did give them a difficult time concentrating on regular tasks.
7. Cravings for sweets. Lack of water in the body makes it difficult for some nutrients and organs to release glycogens and other energy components, so you start craving for food, especially sweets [via Everyday Health].
8. Decreased urine output. “Normal urine output is at least 30 ml per hour or 720 ml per day,” said Dr. Villapol. A sign of dehydration is urinating less than usual. Also look at the color of your urine. Clear or light-colored urine means you’re well hydrated, whereas a dark yellow color usually signals dehydration.
9. Constipation. “Our body will sense the lack in water. As a result, water will be more absorbed as our digestive tract processes our food and fluid intake, leading to hard stools,” said Dr. Villapol.
10. Muscle cramps. Dehydration causes the fluid outside of cells to decrease. Reduction in fluids cause nerve endings to be squished together, become overexcited, and spontaneously discharged. That spontaneous discharge is a muscle twitch, which can lead to a muscle cramp [via Active.com].
To prevent or counteract signs of mild dehydration, listen to your body. The moment you feel thirst, grab a glass of water or watery snacks such as strawberries. “Our brain sends us signals to make us feel thirsty as a compensatory mechanism to replace the water loss,” explained Dr. Villapol. If you’re taking alcohol, coffee, or tea, counteract the diuretic effects by chugging water on the side. When doing sports or other sweat-inducing activities, replenish with lots of water and sports drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade. “To maintain water balance, you need a daily water intake of 2,500 ml, which is roughly eight glasses of water,” Dr. Villapol added.