How can I avoid dehydration?
2nd October 2019
We’re often told to drink 8 glasses of water a day as a blanket rule and yet we’re not always told why it’s so important to stay hydrated. Many of the key organs and functions in your body rely on having enough water and being hydrated also contributes to healthy skin.
Being dehydrated can cause a dry mouth, tiredness, dizziness and headaches and is particularly dangerous in older people, as their bodies store less water.
Typically, your body will tell you when it needs things (be that food, water or a change of temperature) but if you’re exercising or in a hot climate, it’s harder to know exactly how much your body needs. Heat exposure, vomiting or certain medications can also cause dehydration, or make it worse.
Luckily, there are a few easy ways in which you can ensure you stay hydrated and avoid the symptoms of dehydration.
Drink plenty of fluids
Typically, the simplest answer is often the right one. It makes sense that to make sure your body has enough water, you need to drink enough water. The 8-glass-a-day guideline is a good place to start, as you should typically be having around 2 litres a day as a minimum.
But how does that look in practice? Well, try not to wait until you feel thirsty before having a drink. Try to keep a drink to hand (where possible) and sip from it frequently, rather than waiting until you feel like you need a big drink in one go.
Also, don’t forget that it’s not only water that counts towards your daily fluid intake. Fruit juice, squash and herbal teas all contribute, which is great if you get bored by just drinking water or find it too tasteless.
Be aware of fluid loss
Your body absorbs a certain amount of water to maintain healthy function, but a lot of those functions also mean losing water. Whenever you go to the toilet or sweat, you’re losing fluid that you may not be adequately replacing.
Particularly when you’re in the sun or doing something exertive, you’ll probably be losing more water through sweat than you realise so it’s important to up your water intake to keep up with this.
You don’t just lose fluids though. As your body loses water, you also lose electrolytes, which are minerals that affect how your muscles and nerves work. To ensure you replace these electrolytes as well as fluids, you could try a sports drink or a supplement such as Dioralyte.
Eat foods with high water content
You don’t just get your required fluids from the water you drink but also from the foods you eat. To help to keep yourself hydrated, you should be eating regular, balanced meals that include a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Fruit and vegetables not only have a high water content, but they also contain large amounts of salt and vitamins which replenish your body and help to prevent dehydration.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol
While most fluids will count towards your hydration, ironically, some liquids can have the opposite effect. Drinks containing caffeine (tea, coffee, energy drinks etc) and alcohol are both mild diuretics, which means that they increase your need to urinate.
Diuretic substances remove fluids from your blood through your kidneys and bladder at a much faster rate than normal. This means that your body is not able to absorb the liquids you’re drinking, but from a mental perspective, you feel as though you’re drinking plenty.
If you are in circumstances where you don’t want to avoid caffeine or alcohol completely (the way a lot of people feel when they go on holiday, for example) then try to at least limit your intake by alternating drinks with glasses of water.