Five ways to tell you’re dehydrated
On a scorching hot summer day, there is nothing like a tall glass of cold water to soothe a parched throat and quench your thirst.
But water does more than that. “The human body is made up of 60 percent water. Practically all of the body’s major systems rely on water to function,” says Mari Joanne Joson, MD, General Medicine consultant at Makati Medical Center (MakatiMed). “Among the things that water does for our body are; regulate its temperature; moisten tissues in the eyes, nose, and mouth; lubricate joints; transport nutrients and oxygen to our cells; and flush out waste products in the liver and kidneys.”
Because we use and lose water constantly—when we sweat, when we poop, pee, and when we breathe, we lose around 1600 ml of water per day—it is important to keep replenishing our body’s supply.
“When patients ask me how much water they should drink in a day, I tell them to remember the 8×8 rule, that’s eight 8-ounce glasses, or about 2 liters or half a gallon a day.” Dr. Joson explains.
Feeling thirsty is the easiest way to tell if you’re dehydrated, or lose more fluid than you take in. But it is not always the case, she points out.
“Some people may already be dehydrated yet not feel thirsty at all. This is why health experts suggest taking sips of fluid throughout the day, especially if you are active or have been under the sun for hours.”
Dr. Joson also states that “People can also get dehydrated when in front of their computers when working from home, especially if they work in places without natural ventilation.”
Other than thirst, how else will you know you’re dehydrated? Dr. Joson cites. Here are five symptoms:
Your pee is dark yellow. “Normally, urine is a light yellow hue. The more hydrated you are, the lighter the shade,” says Dr. Joson. “When you have not had much to drink, your kidneys retain as much fluid as possible, causing your urine to be more concentrated, and thus darker in color. But a dark or brownish shade of urine can also be a symptom of many things—from taking certain medications to having hepatitis, gallstones, or cirrhosis. If the dark color persists despite drinking fluids, let your doctor know.”
You’re peeing less. According to Dr. Joson, depending on your age, medical condition, what medicines you take, and how much you drink, you pee anywhere from 4 to 10 times a day.
You’re tired. “A body low in fluids makes one feel fatigued,” she says. “Again, small sips of water or a drink can make a big difference in your energy level.”
You’re dizzy. Feeling lightheaded? You are probably dehydrated. “The lack of fluids decreases the volume of your blood, which in turn lowers your blood pressure and limits the amount of blood in your brain. This results in dizziness. Also, dehydration is linked to an increase in your blood pressure due to the action of your vasopressin hormone; the first hormone your brain releases when dehydrated.” Dr. Joson points out.
Your mouth, lips, and eyes are dry. “Here is more proof of fluid’s crucial role to our body,” says Dr. Joson. “Dehydration affects your salivary glands, and when you do not produce enough saliva, your mouth and lips get dry. Same with the eyes: When you are dehydrated, you do not make enough tears to lubricate your eyes, giving you painful dry eyes.” Thankfully, drinking enough water corrects these conditions.
Of course, there are other ways to stay hydrated besides bringing a tumbler of water with you.
Eat fruits and vegetables. “Fresh fruits and vegetables are made up mostly of water, and they are healthy and tasty alternatives to plain water.”
Sip some soup. “If you are not into drinking water during a meal, get your fluid intake through a cup or bowl of soup.”
Drink other fluids. “Coffee, tea, juice, sports drinks, and sodas are made of water too. You can have them, but do not overdo it as they are packed with sugar, caffeine, and calories and can actually worsen dehydration.”
“Dehydration, while easy to fix in mild cases, can also lead to serious conditions like heatstroke, seizure due to electrolyte loss, kidney failure, and even coma,” says Dr. Joson. “Make sure you are hydrated even if you are not thirsty, and especially when you stay under the sun a lot, sweat due to physical activity, and cannot keep your fluids in due to illness.”