Feeling thirsty? You’re already dehydrated

If you’re reading this, go drink a glass of water.

Dehydration is when you don’t have enough fluid in your body to replace what is lost during vital functions. It worsens existing health issues and, in some extreme cases, can lead to kidney damage. Dehydration is also associated with poor academic performance, skin issues, chapped lips, headaches, and fatigue. Dehydration is extremely common, and health professionals estimate that up to 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. The worst part is that if you’re feeling thirsty, that means you are already dehydrated.

Dehydration is worsened when you consume fluids that aren’t water. Soda, coffee, sparkling water, juice and milk are all tasty, but do not provide you with enough water to rehydrate you. In fact, drinking too much of these can send a signal to your brain that you are satiated when you are actually still dehydrated.

The US National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine recommend that an adult should consume between 2.7 and 3.7 liters of fluid a day (that’s between 11.5 cups and 15.5 cups of fluid!) If you’re exercising a lot, living in a hot environment, or have other health considerations, you may have different hydration needs. Overhydration can occur, but this is rare. 

If you’re concerned about dehydration, you should also consider a lower sodium diet. The Food and Drug Administration recommends that adults should consume no more than 2,300mg of sodium a day. Unfortunately, the Center for Disease Control reports that the average American consumes upwards of 3,400 mg of sodium a day. A majority of excess sodium comes from poor quality processed food. If you can, consider avoiding prepackaged foods. Too much salt in your diet pulls water out of your body’s cells and causes bloating, an upset stomach, lethargy, and yes, you guessed it: dehydration.

For me, the easiest fix is to carry around a reusable water bottle. It’s nothing new or revolutionary, but a simple commitment to sipping on water all day helps me avoid feeling gross, tired and unfocused.