Dehydration 1

Article by Kari Gaffney

What is dehydration, many of us have basic knowledge of the word, but what are the symptoms and how does it affect the way your brain works if even slightly dehydrated.  Additionally, is it just in the summer that we have to be concerned, or with fall and winter right around the corner should we also know the facts about what to watch for in the winter months too.

Many times, we miss that fact we are either dehydrated or even slightly dehydrated, and how quickly this can occur. Certainly, dehydration happens often in youth and elderly – but its also important to know that some of the medications you might be taking can also raise your risk of dehydration as well.


Thirst isn’t always a reliable early indicator of the body’s need for water. Many people, particularly older adults, don’t feel thirsty until they’re already dehydrated. That’s why it’s important to increase water intake during hot weather or when you’re ill. The signs and symptoms of dehydration also may differ by age. The Mayo clinic has put together some basic signs of dehydration to look for listed.

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Infant or young child

Dry mouth and tongue
No tears when crying
No wet diapers for three hours
Sunken eyes, cheeks
Sunken soft spot on top of skull
Listlessness or irritability


Extreme thirst
Less frequent urination
Dark-colored urine

Is Dehydration only related to hot summer weather?  No, in fact cold temperatures in the winter can also cause dehydration due to the dry air temperatures and extreme cold, especially in higher elevations.

Hot or cold weather. You need to drink additional water in hot or humid weather to help lower your body temperature and to replace what you lose through sweating. You may also need extra water in cold weather to combat moisture loss from dry air, particularly at higher altitudes.

Tip: Cold water is more toothsome and helps cool your body faster than warm water. Furthermore, your stomach absorbs cold water (which is at approximately 41 degrees), at a quicker rate than it absorbs warm water, making cold water better for hydration, according to Columbia University’s question and answer Internet page, “Go Ask Alice.”

Are you really hungry, or could you actually be dehydrated?  Thirst occurs when your body needs water. When you do not drink enough water, your body receives mixed signals on hunger. Dehydration causes you to believe you need to eat when you really need liquid intake. Making sure you have enough hydration in your daily intake can help you cut down on calories you might be adding to your day when simply you might have needed to hydrate with water.   Why do I say water vs. a sugary drink? Because you are trying to quickly combat the effects of dehydration and sugar can create a counterbalance of getting tot fix quickly. A sugary drink can seem refreshing at first. However, drinks with high-sugar content can increase water loss in your body. Sugary drinks create an acidic environment that can impair enzyme function and decrease your body’s water storage capacity, which is necessary to metabolize all the extra sugar. Special attention must be given to sport drinks with sugar because they may make you prone to losing extra fluids.  Cold water is your friend, many drinks on the market claim the ability to act as anti-toxins. The best anti-toxin is water because it helps flush toxins naturally out of your body.

Can dehydration affect your brain function?  This one really concerned me, as it is a known fact that many of us simply don’t drink enough water daily. Recently a new study conducted by Cogstate, a leading cognitive science company, claimed even slight dehydration is associated with inhibited brain function, which can lead to poorer or slower work performance.

The study was conducted with twelve women, who came into the facility three days in a row. The first day was the baseline, and researchers measured participants’ hydration levels, cognition, sensory perception, and emotional states. The next day, half the women drank the recommended amount of water (91 ounces) while the other half restricted their water intake.  Basically, drinking half the number of recommended ounces.  The same tests were taken. The next day, the groups flipped—those that originally drank the recommended amount of water were restricted, and those that were originally restricted drank 91 ounces.
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The results were astounding. The changes in cognition mere marked in the dehydrated groups of women. After rehydration, the measurements quickly returned to normal. “Our primary findings were that while healthy, active women maintained body water during activities of daily living, when we induced mild dehydration these subjects increased errors on complex cognitive tasks that measure memory and learning during these same activities,” stated the authors. “Importantly, when we controlled hydration to meet IOM standards, women restored performance on these same cognitive tests compared to dehydration, and even improved performance on the test that measured cognitive flexibility.”


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Your body is about 70% water. Lose even 1.5% of that H2O—the tipping point for mild dehydration—and your mood, energy levels, and cognitive functions all drop, according to research from the University of Connecticut.  Heard enough, well start hydrating my friends.

This the season for outdoor jazz music festivals and hot humid days, so be sure to pick up your favorite brand of drink tumbler and get hydrating.  Fall and Winter are around the corner, so what better time to get in the practice of hydrating than now.  If you just can’t take the taste of plain water, try a lime, lemon or sprig of mint, or even a slice of cucumber.  Try to avoid the sugar additives.

Always consult your physician.  This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional.

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