Dehydration is when your body loses more water than is being ingested.
Dehydration can become serious problem because it prevents our bodies from working optimally. In our day to day lives, we can often replenish our thirst. In an emergency situation, our chances of obtaining clean drinking water can be limited. It’s vital that we use our resources well to maintain our bodies properly hydrated so we can feel our best and function well even in the midst of challenging times.
The signs for dehydration may be slight to severe. Some people are chronically dehydrated and don’t realize that many of the physical symptoms they experience are rooted in a lack of water.
Have you experienced any of the following symptoms of dehydration?
- Dry skin
- Bad mood
- Lack of focus
- Food cravings (especially sweets)
- Muscle cramps
- Chills and fever
- You’re thirsty. This is your body warning you that you’re dehydrated before the problem becomes severe.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to determine that hydrating our bodies is vital. The human body is made up of 60% water so we have to continually be “watering” ourselves. We need water not only to survive, but to thrive [especially in a survival situation!] Our cells, ligaments, muscles and the rest of our bodies are completely fueled by water.
We typically give our plants water to help them grow strong and beautiful. How often do we do the same for ourselves? Our society has a tendency to consume sports drinks, juices, soda, and many other awful water substitutes that don’t benefit us at all. Make a conscious effort to reach for water throughout the day and especially when you’re thirsty or hungry for something else.
Which foods can cause dehydration?
While eating or drinking one of the following things will NOT cause you to become overwhelmingly dehydrated, it certainly won’t help to ingest them when you’re at the point of dehydration. If possible, avoid these foods and drinks until you have replenished yourself with a sufficient amount of water, especially if you’re in a survival situation with limited potable water sources. If you consume any of the following foods, make it a habit to consume an equal amount of water alongside it.
1. Salty Snacks
This includes salted nuts, pretzels and potato chips. Have you noticed yourself getting thirsty after eating too much salt? This is because water is drawn out of the cells when the salt concentration of the plasma increases, that is, when too much salt is consumed. Remember, thirst is a sign of dehydration.
2. Soy Sauce
Too much salt, such as is the case when eating a few tablespoons of soy sauce, can cause an electrolyte imbalance in your body. Soy sauce is pretty much liquid salt so avoid using it when you’re thirsty or recovering from dehydration.
3. Cured Meats
Bacon, ham, salami and other processed meats that are commonly eaten during the holidays are typically cured with a large amount of salt. You can expect these meats to make you extra thirsty because the high sodium content dries out the cells in your body.
4. High Protein Meals
Studies have determined that eating a high protein diet, including white and red meat, causes dehydration.
Plain popcorn, in its natural form, is okay to eat. Don’t eat the buttery popcorn you get at the movie theater or the pre-packaged microwavable kind as they are extremely high in sodium.
Vegetable and meat broths are great if they’re made with real vegetables and meats, with no other additives. The bouillon cubes you buy at the store are not as healthy as they sound and can be especially hard on your body if you’re recovering from dehydration. Due to the higher salt level in your bloodstream, your kidneys will have to pull water from other parts of your body, leaving cells and vital organs short on the liquid they need in order to function properly.
7. Fried Foods
Fried food is not limited to the snacks you can purchase at the County Fair, although those still apply under this category. Fried food also refers to anything you buy at a fast-food restaurant. From soda, to burgers and fries, to whatever dessert these places offer, these restaurants prepare their food with a high amount of sugar and salt. Steer clear if at all possible…they may taste good in the moment, but they do your body and health no favors.
8. Frozen TV Dinners
Ready meals are prepared with additives to enhance flavor. The problem is that they tend to be extremely high in sodium and/or sugar. Check the labels… even the meals packaged by the so-called “healthy” brands are culprits.
9. Most Processed Food
The general rule is to read the labels of any processed food item. Don’t be fooled by the marketing tactics stamped on the front of the packages because sodium is found in practically everything, even yogurt, cereal and instant oats. For example, some products advertised to be low-fat contain more sodium then the regular version of that product. Sodium is added to products to enhance flavor, so remember to always read the labels!
10. Canned Food
Canned food is typically made with a lot of sodium however it is becoming more common to find the low sodium cans. If possible, purchase the low-sodium or otherwise rinse the food before eating it.
11. Foods High in Sugar Content
The breakdown of artificial sweeteners and refined sugars cause the kidneys to work overtime to balance out the sugar levels in the blood. This process results in the loss of liquids, or in other words, the pulling of liquids from other parts of the body.
Asparagus is a diuretic and eating this vegetable will make you have to use the restroom more often. Save this veggie for a time when your body is fully hydrated and replenish yourself with enough water after eating it.
Beets are high in potassium which helps your body eliminate fluids. They can be eaten in moderation but are not recommended in large amounts when you’re recovering from dehydration.
Pumpkin and pumpkin seeds are highly nutritious but they are mildly diuretic, so if you eat them do so in moderation.
Artichokes are used in natural medicine for their ability to improve kidney function. They also serve as diuretic and have digestive properties.
The diuretic properties in parsley (as well as other diuretics) help the kidneys stimulate the production of more urine. If your body is dehydrated, it will deplete other organs of their liquid content to convert it into pee.
17. Foods High in Fiber
Fiber is beneficial to your body but too much fiber can cause you to become dehydrated. When increasing your fiber intake also increase your water intake. People who consistently eat more than 50 grams of fiber per day are more prone to dehydration.
18. Dried Fruit
Eating dried fruit can boost your nutritional and fiber intake. Dried prunes (and prune juice) have laxative properties and can cause diarrhea if eaten in large quantities, therefore causing dehydration. If eaten in moderation, it won’t be as much of a problem.
For those who are lactose intolerant, dairy is a big no-no. If you’re not lactose intolerant but know of a particular dairy product that tends to give you diarrhea, then it’s best to avoid it. Diarrhea causes a sudden loss of liquids, so drink a lot of water afterwards.
20. Herbal Supplements and Spices
Some natural supplements have urine-increasing properties, such as celery seed, parsley, dandelion, stinging nettle, horsetail, ginger and watercress supplements.
21. Cactus and Cactus Water
Eating cactus or drinking cactus water straight out of the plant requires the body to process toxins that will result in vomiting or diarrhea, therefore causing fluid loss and dehydration. Read more about this here!
Caffeinated drinks, such as coffee, are not only diuretic but also caffeine accelerates dehydration.
23. Sugary Drinks
Drinks that are high in sugar cause dehydration for the same reasons as foods that are high in sugar content. These drinks include energy drinks, sports drinks, fizzy sodas, sweetened coffee and fruit juice (including cranberry and pineapple juice which reduce water retention). Read labels before assuming something is healthy to drink!
Alcohol is also a diuretic. The kidneys work overtime to get rid of the alcohol in your system therefore producing more urine. Drinking one glass of wine, for example, will cause your body to eliminate approximately four times the amount you drank, but in water.
25. Laxative Teas
Teas labeled as detox and weight loss teas should not be used when you’re mildly dehydrated. Laxative teas are great for constipation relief but must be followed up with plenty of water. Senna tea and Yerba Mate are natural laxatives and are known to cause diarrhea. They should also be avoided if you’re dehydrated.
Imagine a situation like the one Louis Zamperini had to face. He was isolated in a raft in the middle of the ocean for over a month. He quickly became thirsty and severely dehydrated, yet while he was surrounded by water he wasn’t able to drink it. He had to make good use of the little rain water he received from time to time. Salt water has too much salt and will in turn make you more dehydrated. In an extreme situation like this, it’s best that you don’t drink anything at all or preserve rain water like Zamperini did.
You may be surprised to see most of your favorite food items listed here. This list is not meant to scare you into never eating them again, but instead it’s meant for you to become aware of the potential harmful effect it can have on your body when you are dehydrated already. The CDC reported that 75% of Americans may suffer from chronic dehydration, and yet this is a country where potable water is not much of an issue. It does not take more than a decrease of three percent of body water to cause negative effects linked to dehydration.
Note: Generally speaking all fruits and vegetables are okay to eat because they’re made up of mostly water. However, the few veggies mentioned above have properties that cause an increased passing of urine. If you’re losing more water than you’re ingesting, then you’ll naturally become dehydrated quicker.
Also note: A pinch of salt is necessary in maintaining the electrolyte balance in your body, which in turn helps to prevent dehydration. Drinking something with potassium and sodium helps rehydrate and rebalance the electrolytes in your body quicker. An excess amount of salt / sodium (as is found in the products listed above) will have the opposite effect by causing an imbalance of minerals and subsequent dehydration.
What other factors can cause dehydration?
1. Being Sick
Vomiting, diarrhea or a high fever will cause a dramatic loss of fluids and electrolytes in your body. Two or more of these combined symptoms will cause a greater amount of fluid loss.
2. Increased Sweating
Due to the humidity and high outdoor temperature, your body will begin to lose liquid through sweating. On hot days, drink extra water to balance out the water you’ve lost through your pores.
3. Your Period
Progesterone and estrogen are influencers of our body’s levels of hydration. Lots of blood loss will also deplete the body’s fluid levels.
Pregnant women should always drink more water than they’re used to because they’re drinking for themselves and growing baby. Also morning sickness, vomiting, bloating and diarrhea result in a greater amount of fluid loss.
During breastfeeding you’re transferring fluids from your body to your baby. This causes you to dehydrate quicker so replenish yourself sufficiently during and after breastfeeding.
6. Low Carb Diets
Low carb diets, such as the Ketogenic Diet, cause your body to lose water weight quickly through frequent urination. Another side effect of these diets is the loss of vital nutrients which will cause an electrolyte deficiency in your body.
7. Prescription Medications
Many prescription medications and medical treatments cause dehydration. Some common ones are blood pressure meds, antihistamines and chemotherapy. Diuretics and laxatives increase urine and stool output and therefore increases dehydration. Check the side effects of your medications. If dehydration is one of them, consult your doctor on the healthiest ways to rebalance your electrolytes.
8. Dietary Supplements
Some people take more supplements than their body is able to handle. Just as urine output is increased, so should your water intake be increased.
Being dehydrated has been proven to increase cortisol levels (the stress hormone). Keep your water intake up so that your cortisol levels can be kept down
10. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Dehydration is a side effect of diarrhea. Drinking more water actually helps to soothe the stomach and relieves IBS symptoms. Not drinking enough water can worsen IBS and cause you to loose water rapidly.
As our bodies grow older, they become less efficient in conserving water, especially if we become less active. People with memory disorders may often forget to drink water, or may not realize they’re thirsty, and will need to be reminded especially if they’re taking medications.
High blood glucose levels lead to increased dehydration due to the kidneys attempting to clean out the sugar from the body and consequently producing more urine than usual. Someone who drinks plenty of water throughout the day but is always thirsty or feeling dehydrated may have diabetes and should consult a medical professional.
13. Working Out
Sweating is water loss and an opportunity to get dehydrated if you don’t drink enough water to replenish yourself. Some experts recommend weighing yourself before and after a workout. Determine how much weight you lost and drink about 3 cups of water for every pound lost.
14. High Altitude
As your body acclimates to higher elevations, your heart speeds up, your breathing speeds up and your urine output increases. Drink lots of extra water to help your body acclimate quicker.
15. Not Eating Enough Raw Fruits and Veggies
There are a lot of benefits to eating raw veggies and fruits. They are largely made up of water, especially watermelon, cucumber and lettuce. Make it a priority to eat fresh produce and if you have a large yard or property, grow your own food at home. This will become especially helpful during times of crisis when fresh food isn’t readily available at stores and on a day-to-day basis when you want pesticide-free produce.
How can you tell if you’re dehydrated?
Our bodies are amazing at telling us when something is wrong. To verify whether your symptoms are related to dehydration or not, do the following tests:
Dehydration makes your skin less elastic. Pinch the skin on the back of your hand, right above your fingers. If it takes a second or more for the skin to spring back to its flat appearance, it indicates that you need more water.
2. Urine Color
If your urine is a strong color, it means you need more H20. Also, if you pee often it means you need to hydrate just as often.
3. Headache or Fatigue
Drink a couple cups of water and eat some fresh fruits and veggies. If the symptoms lessen within an hour, then dehydration was likely the problem. Consume about 600mL of water to fully hydrate yourself. Your body will begin to absorb water five minutes after drinking.
4. In Babies
No tears when crying, no wet diaper for over 3 hours and a dry mouth are indicators of dehydration in babies.
5. In Older Adults
It’s more difficult to see the initial symptoms of dehydration in older adults so it’s important to make sure they are drinking water often, especially if they are taking medications.
During emergency situations, do your best to limit the foods you just read about and nourish yourself with vegetables, fruits, lean meats and whole grains as well as the required two liters of water per day. This should help you stay strong, healthy and able to perform whatever duties are required of you. Dehydration is preventable but can land you in the hospital if you ignore the symptoms.
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