Dehydration Signs and Symptoms (and Remedies!)
Summer is here...and that means so is some seriously hot weather! Here in Central Virginia it feels almost as if we totally bypassed Spring, going straight from Winter to Summer. This drastic temperature change can be a bit of a shock for the body, and increase the risk of dehydration due to the sudden increase in fluid loss from sweating. Dehydration can be a very serious problem, but luckily, there are some warning signs to watch out for so you can catch it before it gets too out of hand. Below I've listed some of the major symptoms of dehydration, as well as some SOS dehydration remedies (and my favorite ways to prevent dehydration in the first place!). Of course, ALWAYS consult your doctor or medical professional if you feel that you are dehydrated (chronically), or if the below remedies do not seem to help.
The human body requires water for almost every function...and without enough, chaos can ensue. Thirst is the most common indicator of the body’s need for water...however, in certain individuals who require more water than the average person (in people with kidney problems, diabetes, ostomies, etc.), thirst oftentimes cannot keep up with the fluid need, and is, therefore, not an accurate indicator of dehydration or need for water. So what are other symptoms of dehydration we should all be aware of?
COMMON SYMPTOMS OF DEHYDRATION
Feeling shaky or jittery
Urinating less frequently
Irritability and/or mood swings
Dry skin and/or eyes
Acid reflux (stomach acid is made from water and sodium chloride/salt!)
Lack of appetite
Edema/swelling of the ankles, wrists, legs, etc.
As you can see, dehydration can cause some pretty scary symptoms. So now that we know what to watch out for and how to catch it when it DOES occur, how can we know how to PREVENT IT?
Ways to Prevent Dehydration
Drink before you’re thirsty. Aim for eight 8-Oz glasses a day, more if you are active or sweat on a regular basis. If you’re an ostomate, for every liter of output you have, try to drink a liter of fluid.
Get enough salt! Yes, you read correctly. Not getting enough salt in your diet can lead to dehydration! Salt, or sodium chloride, is an essential electrolyte that is mandatory for important bodily functions, including fluid balance in the cell. Not getting enough sodium can have dire consequences. So don’t go wild with the salt, but adding a few extra lunches to your meals during summertime wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Drink more than just water. Contrary to popular belief, water and water only isn’t always a good idea. Did you know that dehydration can actually occur from drinking TOO MUCH WATER? Yes, it’s true! Dehydration doesn’t always mean lack of water...sometimes (and more often than you’d think) it means an imbalance of electrolytes in the body. In these cases, drinking plain water to rehydrate is actually the exact OPPOSITE of what you should do! When your electrolytes are out of whack, drinking more plain water to rehydrate is diluting your electrolytes even more...which can actually worsen the symptoms of dehydration. Plain water is good (and ESSENTIAL!), but it’s not all you should drink—especially in summer when you’re losing more salt through sweat. Sports drinks, coconut water, and other electrolyte-containing beverages (and foods!) are the preferred rehydration drinks in cases of electrolyte dehydration.
Best Beverages to Help with Hydration
There are tons of awesome options these days when it comes to electrolyte-containing items. Some of my favorites are listed below for convenience, but if you’re wanting to search out your own, you want to look for something that contains potassium, sodium, and magnesium, and preferably a 4:1 ratio of potassium to sodium (we generally lose four times the potassium to sodium when we sweat).
Coconut water (16 oz of pure coconut water contains over 900 mg potassium!)
Fresh pressed juice (celery, cucumber, tender leaves, watermelon and other melons, and citrus fruits—particularly lemons and lime—are excellent choices)
Body Armore LYTE drinks (one bottle contains 700 mg potassium! (see below)
Ultima Electrolyte Powders (one scoop contains 400 mg potassium! Electrolyte powders are also the cheapest option of those listed here) (see below)
Vitamin Water Zero Revive (one bottle has 940 mg potassium!) (see below)
NUUN hydration tablets (note: these DO contain some sugar, which can potentially be problematic for those with diabetes or finicky pancreases/blood sugar issues, but keep in mind sugar/carbohydrate IS necessary to rehydrate, and can be considered in many regards an essential electrolyte, but a little goes a long way) (see below)
Foods are also useful in cases of electrolyte dehydration. Potatoes contain up to 900 mg of potassium per spud (russet), and one average sized kiwifruit contains more potassium than a banana (600-780 mg versus 400 in a banana)! As far as sodium, most packages foods contain a fair amount of sodium, but if you avoid all packaged foods entirely, it’s definitely a good idea to salt your food during the summer months, preferably with Himalayan pink salt or Celtic sea salt, which both contain 82 and 84 different minerals, respectively, in comparison with the bleached chemical stuff (table salt).
If you’re having trouble remembering to drink, or not finding your thirst can keep up with your fluid needs, there are a couple tricks I use:
Set phone reminders! Program your phone to alarm every hour or two, as a reminder to drink a glass or two of water.
Don’t go ANYWHERE without a water bottle. I have at least one beverage with me at ALL times, no kidding. Try to sip your drinks instead of guzzle. Slowly sipping throughout the day will enable your tissues and GI tract to actually absorb the liquid, whereas chugging it will result in the fluid running straight through you...and you running to the bathroom more than a few times for the next few hours.
Download a water tracking app. There are tons of awesome apps out there these days, including apps that help you stay hydrated! One of my favorites is “My Water Balance”
Have a smoothie. Smoothies are an awesome way to sneak in fluids, without feeling sloshy in your stomach. Throw in a few ice cubes and boom—you’ve gotten another 8 oz of water today.
I hope these tips and tricks have helped. If you have any other hydration tips, feel free to email me so I can take advantage of them and share them with others via my Instagram page (I’ll tag the individual who shares the tip with me!).
Until next time,
Dr. Anna Johnson, ND