Understanding the Effects of Dehydration
The best way to describe how absolutely impactful dehydration is on the overall body would be for you to visualize a watermill….you know, those little
buildings with a giant wheel on the side of them. The water (usually from a mill pond, stream or river) flows past the building, gets caught up in the water wheel and spins. As the volume and flow water increases, the faster the water wheel turns. These water wheels provide energy for grinding flour, grinding pulp, or creating electricity.
Think of your body the same as a watermill. When there is a great volume of water, the water wheel turns faster and the mill produces that much more energy. When there is low or no water flow, the water wheel spins sporadically and slowly or not at all. The mill does not function at the level of efficiency it is capable of, and sometimes in the case of low or no water flow, the mill shuts down. This is precisely the impact water has on every function of your body. There is a lag time between the water wheel spinning fast and it stopping when the water flow decreases. Just as you will not feel the effects of dehydration immediately, the mill master will not be aware of the decrease in production until it is too late.
The Dehydration Test
The skin is the largest organ of the body. Did you know that medical professionals use a highly advanced scientific technique to determine if you are dehydrated? They just pinch you! Ok, so it’s not so advanced, but it is extremely effective. This test is something you can do at home and it determines skin turgor. Skin turgor is a fancy name for “hey, how fast does your skin bounce back if I pull on it?”
This is how you do the skin turgor test: Lightly pinch the skin on the back of your hand between your thumb and your first finger. Pull the skin up (gently) and hold it up like a little tent. Let go. If you are well hydrated, you will have normal turgor and the skin will bounce back immediately. However, if you are dehydrated, the skin will not bounce back. In fact, it will appear to slowly collapse back into place almost like it is slowly melting.
Because your skin is the last organ in the body to receive the nutrients you consume or the water you drink, skin turgor is considered a late sign of dehydration. Decreased skin turgor exists in moderate to severe dehydration.
Purpose of Thirst
The purpose of thirst is to save your life. By the time you are thirsty, your body is already in a state of moderate to severe dehydration. Thirst is not an indicator of hydration. It is an indicator of a severe situation in your body that needs to be fixed immediately. It is an urgent notification that your fluid levels are becoming dangerously low. In short, thirst is an indicator that your brain sends out to tell you, “Danger! Must hydrate! Stat!” It is not a light tap on the shoulder telling you to grab a sip of water.
Thirst is a sign that your body is going into crisis and begging for you to help. Never allow yourself to get thirsty.
Drink Enough Water to Keep Your Urine Clear
So how much water do you need? KEEP IT SIMPLE! The formula for the perfect amount of water for your own personal, unique need is to simply drink enough water to keep your urine clear. That’s it.
Ok, for those who are sticklers for details wanting a formula that is more complicated…this is for you: Divide your body weight by two and drink that many ounces of water per day. If you weigh 150 pounds, drink 75 ounces of water per day.
Not complicated enough? Other factors that could be calculated into the equation are the climate you live in, the altitude, how much daily exercise, beverages with diuretic properties, and your current health status. How are you going to measure and keep track of all that? Well every morning you could measure out your water for the day, or you could just simply drink enough water to keep your urine clear.
Whether you like to keep it simple or you like to measure and be precise, just know that if you are keeping water by your side, on your desk or in your car and sipping it constantly you are well on your way to giving your body what it needs. If your urine is clear, not only can you rest assured that your body has enough water to ward off a list of symptoms, but also you have enough to aid in weight loss! Keep in mind that certain medications and supplements can alter the color of the urine, which would make this method a little challenging.
Coffee, tea, milk, juice, soda, and non-fat double decaf-toffee-nut-lattes contain water but are not hydrating. Even though your body does obtain water from water-enriched foods and beverages, water should be obtained through its purest form. That is the most bio-available form, and your body can utilize it immediately without being taxed with digestive actions.