Hydration is essential to good health. It's also something a lot of people overlook. If you're not paying attention and keeping good hydration habits, you may not be drinking sufficient water. If so, dehydration symptoms could sneak up on you. An individual's personal water requirements vary due to a range of factors, but adults are typically advised to aim for about two liters (or 64 ounces) of daily consumption. Once your body signals thirst, you are already mildly dehydrated. Other low-level dehydration symptoms can include fatigue, difficulty concentrating, crankiness, and headaches. The body and brain are both susceptible to dehydration symptoms.
Dehydration Symptoms of the Brain
Our brains depend on adequate hydration to function well. Even minimal dehydration can create problems as brain tissue loses fluid, reducing brain volume and affecting cell activity. This negatively impacts your mood, memory, and attention span. Dehydration can also affect both short-term and long-term memory recall. Simple math becomes more difficult, and you may experience headaches, mood disruption, and grogginess. The brain is sensitive to even small changes in the body’s water content.
Dehydration Symptoms of the Body
Dehydration means extra work for your heart. Blood volume decreases during dehydration, but the heart must maintain adequate blood flow to your organs and muscles. To maintain stable blood pressure with less blood, your heart exerts more and vessels constrict. This could lead you to experience aches and pains.
Your skin dries out. Dehydrated skin becomes parched and sometimes looks flushed. It may “tent up” when pinched, indicating a loss in hydration and elasticity.
You may get migraines and headaches. Just as dehydration causes body aches, so too does it contribute to headaches and even migraines. Sometimes the simplest remedy is a full glass of water.
Food cravings, especially cravings for sweets, may kick in. When dehydrated, you may have hunger cravings when the body actually needs is water. All of your organs rely on hydration for optimal function. They may struggle to release adequate energy stores such as glucose (glycogen) when you are dehydrated. This can result in intense cravings for food, and sweets in particular, which will not satisfy your immediate water needs.
You may get a fever and chills. If your level of dehydration becomes severe, fever and chills may set in (fever can also exacerbate existing dehydration). The higher your fever, the higher the risk for more severe systemic dehydration. In infants and children, this can be especially dangerous, especially if vomiting or diarrhea are occurring. Be sure to seek medical attention if you are dehydrated and experiencing a fever over 103 degrees.
Tips on Staying Hydrated Hydration starts with drinking pure water throughout the day. Hydrating foods help, but you still need to drink enough water. Check out this daily water intake calculator to see more personalized guidelines. Here are some general recommendations:
Drink a large glass of water first thing in the morning.
Keep a water bottle with you throughout the day.
Add some lemon, lime, or a little juice to your water if you don’t love the taste.
Drink water before, during, and after exercise.
Eat plentiful amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Drink herbal teas.
Remember to listen to your body to detect dehydration symptoms. If you are feeling thirsty, or if you have been exercising and sweating profusely, be sure to drink more water. Make it a habit to stay well-hydrated throughout the day, and maintain a consistent intake of hydrating foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, and salads.