We mostly talk about hydration in the summer months because the higher temperatures and humid environment make us sweat more, but it is important that we stay hydrated all year long. Even when we spend more time in enclosed spaces where the air is dry and in winter when the spaces are heated. We should, of course, pay additional attention to hydration before, during, and after physical activity to avoid muscle spasms; as well as during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Our body secretes water, urea, and ions through the skin and lungs, and also salt through the kidneys. Our body is also losing water with every exhale, that’s why we can wake up thirsty (and dehydrated) after a good sleep and therefore it is recommended to drink a large glass of water at room temperature; even better, a glass of warm water (In Ayurveda, drinking warm water maintains Vata and Kapha doshas in balance and helps the body to detoxify).
Water in our bodies has one of the key roles - as it is the main building block of our cells - this is why the cellular hydration is directly connected to our physical health, metabolism, and blood pressure, as well as the levels of energy, mood, and concentration; it also significantly impacts the quality of our sleep.
In case you notice signs of dehydration mentioned below, it is important to replace the lost fluids as soon as possible:
rare and decreased urinary excretion,
urine of a darker color and a strong odor,
headache and/or dizziness,
tiredness, numbness, sleepiness,
dry mouth and breath,
Sometimes we confuse dehydration with hunger because people notice that after drinking water the feeling of hunger often disappears.
Levels of dehydration may be different - the symptoms are mild in the early stages and we might not even notice them - with adequate water intake we can quickly bounce back into balance - the headache subsides, urine becomes diluted and lighter, cramps disappear, the focus is clearer. However, in the case of repeated or critical dehydration, the consequences may be more serious as our organs are further burdened and the balance can be destroyed in the long run.
Toxins and acids which our body would otherwise eliminate, accumulate in the body, and myoglobin (muscle protein) starts to block the kidneys because they can't filtrate and secrete it. Such cases may lead to inflammation and kidney stones or other kidney damage.
Significant results were also obtained from a morphometric study where they monitored the condition and the effect of dehydration on the brain. It was observed that at the time of dehydration, the amount of brain fluid decreased as well as the cortical thickness and volume of the brain, white matter, and hypothalamus. Therefore, our brain literally shrinks when dehydration occurs, so the above signs such as confusion, etc. are a perfectly normal consequence; in extreme cases, severe migraines may occur.
Care for regular and appropriate hydration is also recommended in cardiac patients because a higher percentage of plasma is made of water. This ensures a smooth circulation and sufficient blood supplies to all cells and organs. Otherwise, cardiac patients may experience discomfort - their body is unable to regulate body temperature, some develop arrhythmia or a significant drop in blood pressure.
How do we ensure proper hydration?
Drink water in reasonable amounts throughout the whole day - if we exaggerate with amounts of water or drink the daily intake of water in one go, demineralization may occur (or a drop in sodium and other useful salts in the blood) and we achieve exactly the opposite effect. Occasionally, you can add a little bit of good quality sea salt or Himalayan salt to the water.
Drink water at least half an hour before meals and at least one hour after a meal - experts like to warn that drinking water (especially cold) during meals is not good. This dilutes stomach acids (lowers pH) and digestive juices, thereby disrupting and prolonging the digestion process and absorption of some nutrients; a lot of people also experience bloating.
Depending on our weight, activity, and environment in which we live, necessity for water may be different, but there are guidelines on recommended daily intake and the importance of the quality of water which you can read in the blog Live Water.
Room temperature water is more recommended than cold water (also in TCM and Ayurveda).
We enjoy fresh fruit and vegetables.
After exercise and other strenuous activities, we must ensure that we consume liquid (and foods) rich with electrolytes.
Electrolytes are electrically charged ions in our blood, urine, and sweat which, in addition to hydration, regulate blood pressure, pH levels in the body, nerve function (they transmit nerve impulses), heart function, muscle contraction and their regeneration. These include the main ones: sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and chlorine (additionally phosphates and bicarbonate) which can be replaced through a variety of plant-based foods - and if necessary, with supplements. For sportsmen and women, this is even more important in increasing fitness and performance.
Popular drinks with electrolytes that you can buy in a shop are often full of artificial additives, aromas, and sugars therefore it is recommended that you avoid them and buy powdered electrolytes (still check the declaration) in a pharmacy or health food shops. You can mix it with water or lemonade.
An example of a good homemade isotonic beverage that will restore your electrolyte reserves can be a ginger lemonade with mint, kombucha with berries, water kefir to which you only add a pinch of quality sea salt and 2-3 blended dates.
Sometimes people think they consume enough liquid, but we should warn you that some drinks can also dehydrate such as coffee, some teas and juices you buy in the shop, sodas, energy drinks, and alcohol.
When we are in touch with our body and its reactions, it is essential that in the event of dehydration, we react quickly and properly and provide our body good quality water to replace the lost fluids. That way we can operate at a high level of energy, we can be focused, have nice clean skin, and we can sleep well.
Regular drinking of good quality water and care for adequate hydration (electrolytes) is one of the quick and easy solutions available to everyone.
Biller, et. al. Responses of the Human Brain to Mild Dehydration and Rehydration explored In Vivo by 1H-MR Imaging and Spectroscopy. (2015).