Is it meno or just dehydration?
The many roles water plays in our body
As you know, we are composed of at least 60% of water and staying hydrated is essential for virtually all our bodily functions. Every cell, organ and tissue in the body depends on water and it plays important roles:
- It helps maintain the balance of body fluids
- It lubricates your joints and eyes
- It regulates and maintains body temperature
- It helps your body remove waste products and toxins
- It aids digestion
- It prevents constipation
- It helps control calorie intake
- It helps your skin look good and youthful. When you don’t get enough water, your body dries out, explains Mayo Clinic.
The average person in the U.S. drinks less than a quart (32 ounces) of water a day,
Yet, according to the Mayo Clinic, the average adult loses more than 80 ounces of water every day through sweating, breathing and eliminating wastes. Now, you may continue doing your math by adding the amount of water you are losing when you experience hot flashes accompanied by severe sweats and you will realize how much more water you should drink.
There are many signs that show if you are dehydrated and you may be putting them down to “just menopause” but let’s have a look at all the possible symptoms of dehydration and you will see that ALL of them can be blamed on menopause as well.
1. HEADACHES AND LIGHTHEADEDNESS
Headaches and lightheadedness are some of the possible signs that your body lacks water. A drop in your body’s hydration level reduces the flow of oxygen and blood to the brain and triggers migraines and tension-type headaches.
Even mild dehydration can cause a dehydration headache and even trigger a migraine headache.
Since it’ s often not clear what is causing a headache, instead of reaching for a pill that will put even more strain on your body, reach for a glass of pure water and, if the headache is due to dehydration, it will go away soon.
2. “BRAIN FOG” AND POOR CONCENTRATION
Drinking water and brain function are integrally linked. Lack of water to the brain can cause numerous symptoms including problems with focus, memory, brain fatigue and brain fog.
Water gives the brain the electrical energy for all brain functions, including thought and memory processes. Water is also needed for the brain’s production of hormones and neurotransmitters.
The good news is, that when the brain is functioning on a full reserve of water, you will be able to think faster, be more focused and experience greater clarity.
3. CONSTIPATION AND DIGESTIVE ISSUES
“Dehydration is one of the major causes of chronic constipation. The food you eat makes its way from your stomach to the large intestine, or colon. If you don’t have enough water in your body already, the large intestine soaks up water from your food waste. This makes you have hard stools that are difficult to pass’ WebMD
Lack of water in the body can even cause heartburn and indigestion.
4. FOOD CRAVINGS
When our bodies lack water, it does make sense that we feel the urge to seek food. When you are dehydrated, it can be difficult for organs like the liver, which uses water, to release glycogen (stored glucose) and other components of your energy stores, so you are actually getting cravings for food.
While you can crave anything from chocolate to a salty snack, cravings for sweets are more common because your body may be experiencing difficulty breaking down glycogen to release glucose into the blood stream to be used as fuel.
It is also not uncommon for the body to confuse the feeling of thirst with hunger, meaning that you may feel hungry when actually you are just thirsty.
5. FATIGUE AND LETHARGY
If you are feeling fatigued and with low energy all the time, it can be due to your dehydrated body. Lack of body fluids causes drops in the blood pressure as well as inadequate oxygen supply yo your brain, organs and muscles which causes sleepiness, fatigue and a lethargic feeling.
Another aspect of a low water level is that your body has to work harder to ensure proper blood circulation to provide the organs with nutrients what makes it expend more energy and make you feel fatigued.
6. JOINT AND MUSCLE PAIN AND CRAMPS
Water is a vital component of healthy joints and cartilages as well. In fact, they contain about 80% water. When your body lacks water, your bones start grinding against each other, causing pain to your joints.
A well hydrated body means that your joints can handle movements like running, falling, jumping, without pain.
Depletion of fluids also causes muscle cramps and in this case, the fluid loss through perspiration/sweating plays a great role. The hotter you get, the more likely you are to get muscle cramps, so drinking enough fluids can reduce muscle cramping.
7. DRY AND ITCHY SKIN
Another sign that your body lacks water is dry, inelastic skin. How can you find out if your skin is dehydrated, you may ask? When pinched, the skin of a dehydrated person may remain “tented” and take some time to return to its flat appearance.
The skin is the largest organ in our body and all of its functions require fluid. A low water level in the body causes low sweating, which means the body cannot get rid of the dirt accumulated on the skin surface and neither can flush the toxins accumulated in the body. The result of this is the increased risk of acne, eczema as well as itchiness.
8. SKIPPING A BEAT – HEART PALPITATIONS
Does your heart unexpectedly start to race or pound, or feel like it keeps skipping beats? These sensations are called palpitations. Palpitations can appear out of the blue and disappear just as suddenly and can have many triggers and dehydration is one of them.
Researchers found that the heart rate changes are an average of three beats per minute for every 1% change in body weight resulting from dehydration.
What happens in your body when it lacks water is actually a change in electrolytes leading to a low blood pressure which puts extra stress on your body while your heart needs to beat faster to keep up with the stress.
Now that you know more about symptoms of dehydration, what are the chances that many of the symptoms that you blame on menopause is just your body craving for more water?
If chugging several glasses of water every day seems like a torture to you, here are some ideas to improve your water drinking experience:
- Add a bit of excitement to your plain water by dunking fresh fruit (grapefruit, lemon, strawberries), veggie slices (cucumber, ginger, celery), and/or herbs (basil, mint, lavender) to your carafe.Check 10 Fruit-Infused Waters to Stay Hydrated to get more inspiration.
- Drink a glass of water after every bathroom break or fill up and drink a small cup every time you stand up from the desk or go into the kitchen.
- Sip before every meal – by drinking a full glass of water before every meal you not only stay hydrated but also curb calorie intake because it causes you to feel full.
- Use an app to track your cups – keeping up with how many glasses you’ve finished can be fun with the help of an app. Search for drinking water apps, choose the one that makes more sense to you, and set daily alarms and reminders.
- Dilute sugary drinks with water and ice – if drinking juice, lemonade, or iced tea is a habit, water them down with pure water aiming for a one to one ratio. You will still get the sweetness you are craving but you will get also a healthy dose of water.
- Keep a jug or carafe at your desk, by the bed at home or on the kitchen counter as a permanent reminder to drink up.
- Invest in a good filter – filtered water can taste better than the one coming from the tap.
- Choose sparkling water over soda – add some lemon juice and enjoy drinking it like a fancy cocktail (only without alcohol).
- Eat water-rich foods – a sneaky way to “eat” your water, and a very pleasant way, is to add fruits and veggies with high water content to your daily diet. Some top picks include cucumber (96% water), zucchini (95% water), watermelon (92% water) and grapefruit (91% water).
- Stick to a one-to-one rule when drinking alcohol – this is a great strategy to avoid a hangover and get plenty of water in your system to balance the sugar packed alcoholic drinks.
Laura Peischl, BA, INHC
Laura is a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, Holistic Menopause Health Specialist and Certified Hormone Health and Wellness practitioner. She is the founder and owner of Feel Good Menopause.