We all know how important it is to drink water, for some of us it takes a little pushing to get the right daily intake. Whilst we are often tempted to brush off the effects of dehydration, it can lead to significant body changes both externally and visually as well as to our internal body functions. Some of the more latent impacts will happen over a period of time and therefore less noticeable. However long term, dehydration is very bad for your health and could become a trigger for, depression, diabetes, skin conditions and worse still other more toxic diseases. Whilst it may seem somewhat dramatic, dehydration is a very dangerous and life threatening condition. In time of sickness dehydration can literally lead to death so ensuring you are also hydrated is really important.
Symptoms of dehydration
Some of the more immediate and obvious signs of dehydration can be dry mouth, headaches, dizziness, constipation, tiredness, irritation.
If your body doesn’t have the fluid to remove waste then it will begin to develop and harbour toxins, this can lead to a number of health problems such as slowing down your metabolism which will lead to gaining weight. Most commonly dehydration is often mistaken as hunger as so we will reach for something to eat instead of something to drink, which will eventually lead to weight gain, actually more quickly than you think.
Dehydration will also have a significant impact on digestion. If your body is not digesting the nutrients you eat through food then your immune system will be weakened over a period of time, since the nutrients are not being absorbed by the body into the blood. Furthermore water is essential to breaking down the sugar in our food. If you continuously remain dehydrated your blood sugar levels will become unbalanced and could lead to diabetes. Our nutritional class is a brilliant way to learn more about the correct types of foods we should be consuming, simultaneously with appropriate water consumption.
Medium term Symptoms
Dehydration will affect your concentration levels, and as that begins to build up this will begin to impact on your mood and irritability, leading to anxiety and then poor sleep patterns as the anxiety continues in your rest time.
You may also begin to see physical changes, dark circles around the eyes and possibly sunken eyes. Your skin will become dry and shrivelled, as it is lacking water. Water provides elasticity to skin and so your skin will age more quickly – leading to wrinkles or psoriasis.
Lack of water in muscles and cell system will lead to muscle cramp and joint ache.
The long term effects of not drinking enough water will be much more impactful, and potentially led to brain swelling, heat related injury (the body essentially burning up), a seizure, Kidney failure, Hypovolemic Shock, and potentially leading to a coma and death.
The role of water in exercising
If you’re a gym bunny, lifting weights or doing high intensity training, then during your training sessions are making much more demands on your nervous system, blood and energy levels than you might imagine.
When you exercise if you don’t have enough water in your system then your body temperature will rise and your sweat glands will swell, in a desperate cry for water. Blood is made up of 50% water, which is why the blood that is being used to transport oxygen and the nutrients to the muscles will be diverted, in order that your muscles get what they need. If the muscles don’t get the water through the blood it will result in a poor workout.
Furthermore, when we sweat we lose a lot of important salts and electrolytes, for example sodium, potassium and calcium ions. These minerals are essential to allow healthy cell communication and will affect how your muscles contract, so replacing the salts/electrolytes is critical.
So in order to get the best perfomance your body need to be fully hydrate during exercise and hot weather.
The role of Isotonic Drinks
Isotonic drinks such a Lucozade, Powerade, Iso plus, contain electrolytes and carbohydrates. So when you are doing a heavy work out or engaging in strenuous activity, other secondary bodily functions such as digestion often temporarily ‘close down’.
Since Isotonic drinks contain small amounts of glucose they are an alternative to eating food, such as a banana let’s say, and so they a quick and light way to give your body a quick boost of ‘food’ it needs to keep going. So by taking a sip, (I emphasize sip) every so often you’ll avoid the heavy energy crash during or at the end of your workout.
Electrolytes also contain essential salts as well as carbohydrates so replenishing your salt levels after a heavy workout is essential. A quick sip or two will help to maintain the cell function and prevent dehydration. Coconut water is also a very rich source of potassium which can prevent dehydration after exercise or hot weather. Coconut water (not to be confused with coconut milk or oil) is significantly lower in calories than isotonic drinks as it is low in Carbohydrates and sodium so won’t help to give you an energy burst you may need.
Isotonic drinks can be expensive so making your own is advisable simply by making up a rich dilute of squash drink and adding a pinch of salt to it.
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Kumud Gandhi is a Nutritional Food Scientist bestselling Author, Broadcaster, and Keynote Speaker on the subject of nutritional health for productivity & performance in the workplace. In 2010 Kumud founded ‘The Cooking Academy’ a cookery school that focusses on cooking for nutritional health and wellbeing. Kumud regularly presents to international audiences on a variety of topics such as ‘Eating for Immunity and a Lifetime of Wellness’. She is an expert in the field of Wellness in the Workplace and works with organizations to create transformational change in employee health & well-being through nutrition and health coaching.