Find out if you’re drinking enough water by watching out for these five signs of dehydration
It’s shaping up to be another summer of record-breaking high temperatures. And the news media is beginning to sound like a broken record, too. Over and over again we’re reminded to keep ourselves well hydrated by drinking plenty of water. But it’s an important message—not just during a heat wave, but also throughout the year, because water serves so many critical functions in the body.
If you’re one of those people who keeps track of your fluid intake, and you monitor how much you drink every day, then you probably have a pretty good idea. But there are some other indicators that your fluid intake may not be quite up to par.
This seems so obvious. If you’re thirsty, you’re probably not getting enough fluids. True enough, but keep in mind that sometimes your thirst mechanism doesn’t kick in until you’re already running fairly dry. That’s one reason why athletes, especially, are encouraged to drink on a schedule. Also, as people age, the thirst response isn’t quite as strong, which is why establishing a healthy ‘drinking habit’ as a young adult is so important.
When your body is well hydrated, you can tell by looking at the color of your urine. If it’s relatively clear—enough that you could read the newspaper through it—then you’re good. Without enough water, your urine becomes concentrated and dark in color. Your urine should look more like lemonade, and less like apple juice.
Proper bowel function relies on adequate fluids, so if you’re constipated, it’s possible that you aren’t drinking enough water. Most people consider fiber the most important factor in ensuring a well functioning digestive tract. But in order for certain fibers (the water-soluble kind) to properly do their job, they need to soak up water. That causes the fibers to swell up, adding bulk and aiding elimination.
When your mouth gets dry, there’s less saliva to wash away the naturally occurring bacteria that live there. As the bacteria feed on little bits of food and skin cells in your mouth, they start to multiply, leaving your breath a little stale. Think “morning mouth.” Water helps because it keeps the saliva flowing and can help reduce bacterial buildup.
Water is critical in helping your body produce the energy your muscles need to fuel your workouts. When you’re not well hydrated, you may feel your energy flagging. That’s why getting enough fluids before and during exercise is so important.
Susan is the Sr. Director of Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training at Herbalife, where she is responsible for the development of nutrition education and training materials, and is one of the primary authors of the Herbalife-sponsored blog, www.discovergoodnutrition.com. She is a Registered Dietitian and holds two Board Certifications from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, and a Certified Specialist in Obesity and Weight Management. Susan is also a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Susan graduated with distinction in biology from the University of Colorado, and received her master’s degree in Food Science and Nutrition from Colorado State University. She then completed her dietetic internship at the University of Kansas. Susan has taught extensively and developed educational programs targeted to individuals, groups and industry in her areas of expertise, including health promotion, weight management and sports nutrition.
Prior to her role at Herbalife, she was the assistant director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, and has held appointments as adjunct professor in nutrition at Pepperdine University and as lecturer in nutrition in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Susan was a consultant to the (then) Los Angeles Raiders for six seasons, and was a contributing columnist for the Los Angeles Times Health Section for two years. She is a co-author of 23 research papers, 14 book chapters, and was a co-author of two books for the public: “What Color is Your Diet?” and “The L.A. Shape Diet” by Dr. David Heber, published by Harper Collins in 2001 and 2004, respectively.