In wellness circles, there’s a lot of ink spilt, in print and virtually, on the virtues of hydration. Today we’re putting the problem in focus: just how important is hydration? And what happens when you get dehydrated?
What Does Your Body Do With All That Water?
There’s a reason hydration is always high up on the lists of ways to give yourself a wellness boost – your body uses the water for so many different things! It’s no wonder that dehydration symptoms, once they take hold, can be so unpleasant and so extensive!
For one thing, your body uses water as a kind of foundation and reinforcement. It cushions your brain and your spinal column, and even your individual cells are filled with water to ensure they’re the right size and density. One of the causes of the headache that accompanies a hangover is that alcohol dehydrates you and this can cause your brain cells to literally shrink!
Your body also uses water to process and remove waste – water is used to transport nutrients around your body to where they’re needed, as well toxins and other unwanted substances to your kidneys where they’re funneled to the bladder and passed in urine – also made of water.
Perhaps the most important thing your body does with water is keep you cool. As your core temperature rises, you sweat – using up water from your reserves, but cooling you as it evaporates on your skin, taking it with it some of the heat energy from your body.
Not Just Water
It’s important to remember that it’s not just water that you lose when you’re dehydrated, but all the compounds dissolved in that water. Some of these are as important as the water itself and they’re called electrolytes. These soluble salts are used for vital jobs around your body – helping to maintain fluid balance in your cells, transmitting impulses through your nerves to muscles and even helping to regulate your mood – a lot of the problems you encounter when you’re dehydrated actually stem from a dearth of electrolytes.
It’s clear, then, that staying hydrated is key to staying healthy, but there are better and worse ways to dehydrate. Lots of soft drinks come with a big helping of sugar, which has its own effect on your wellbeing. They might be tasty in moderation but if you’re trying to stay hydrated throughout the day they’re not a good option.
Tea and coffee are unhealthy (especially if served without milk and sugar), but they have a diuretic effect on your body – meaning they encourage it to shed water. Too much tea or coffee will have only a small overall hydrating effect!
Water is the best hydrator with the least drawbacks but there’s something you need to remember: it doesn’t naturally contain electrolytes. Make sure you top up both at the same time by using a rehydration product like a sachet or soluble tablet to ensure you’re functioning at your best.