Feeling parched? Whether you’re currently surviving our heatwave or your skin feels lacklustre after a night on the margaritas, we all get dehydrated at some point in our lives. Statistics from Google Trends suggest that we’re aware of it, too. In the last 30 days, we’ve collectively been googling “symptoms of dehydration”, while searches for “dehydration tablets” are up 450 per cent. Which begs the question: what do we need to look out for? And if we are dehydrated, how do we rectify the situation? Here, Vogue spoke to two experts to find out.
What causes dehydration?
“When we lose more body fluid than we can compensate for through drinks or eating hydrating foods, we become dehydrated,” explains medical scientist and public health nutritionist, Dr Federica Amati. “Fluids are lost when we go to the toilet, sweat, speak and even if we breathe through our mouths at night. Certain medications can also increase dehydration, so it’s worth looking out for this on any prescriptions you may take.”
You might find that things you’re consuming (or doing) regularly also have a dehydrating effect on the body. “Common culprits include caffeine, alcohol and exercising heavily without replenishing lost fluids afterwards,” says dermatologist and nutritionist, Dr Thivi Maruthappu.
Anyone, at any age, can succumb to dehydration, but it is more dangerous for those who are elderly or really young. “Our brains need proper hydration to function properly, so even a small reduction in hydration levels can reduce our performance and mental sharpness,” says Dr Maruthappu. “Hydration is everything!”
Key signs of dehydration
How to know if you’re dehydrated? Here, some tell-tale signs.
- Thirst: It will come as no surprise that feeling thirsty is a key sign of dehydration. While for some this is an obvious feeling, others–particularly the elderly–may not notice it so much.
- A change in the colour of your urine: “If it’s looking dark yellow, orange or even a light brown, this can be a sign that you’re dehydrated,” says Dr Amati. It should be light yellow in colour. Going to the loo less frequently is another sign.
- Dull skin: “It might look dull and drawn, and it can also become flaky,” says Dr Maruthappu.
- You might have difficulty focussing, feel fuzzy-headed, tired and generally quite sluggish.
“Longer term, dehydration can also really impact skin quality, immunity and mental clarity, as well as the body’s ability to maintain healthy blood pressure,” adds Dr Amati.
How to hydrate effectively
1. Respond to your thirst
“For those of us who don’t have health conditions or take medications that can impact our hydration levels, simply responding to our thirst is going to be enough,” says Dr Amati. Drink plenty of water, adding in fruit and vegetables, such as cucumber, lemon, mint, lime or raspberries to change the flavour (in a healthy way). Contrary to popular belief, there is no hard and fast rule about how much we should all be drinking. “It’s individual and depends on who you are, what you’re doing and how hot or dry your environment is,” she adds.
2. Eat your water
Include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables at every meal–many foods contain lots of water. “Watermelons, cucumber and oranges are all great examples of foods that help to keep you hydrated,” explains Dr Maruthappu.
3. Replenish after exercise (or particularly sweaty days)
On particularly hot days or after a strenuous workout, consider incorporating some electrolytes into your routine. “Coconut water is naturally rich in electrolytes, so it’s great for replenishing lost fluids,” says Dr Maruthappu. “But some contain added sugars, so be sure to check the label.” Alternatively, try a supplement, like Artah’s Cellular Hydration or Hux’s Watermelon Hydration Supplement.
4. Avoid alcohol
“This may be obvious, but just in case it isn’t: alcoholic drinks are not hydrating,” says Dr Amati. Like caffeine, alcohol is a diuretic, which means it speeds up the rate that fluids get passed through the body. If you are drinking alcohol, make sure you hydrate as you go.
5. Tap water hack
While Dr Amati is not a fan of “fancy waters with good marketing”, she does recommend a water filter as a good investment, if you can afford it. “We are lucky that our tap water is perfectly safe to drink in the UK, but it can be a good idea to leave it out in a glass jug to allow added chlorine to evaporate.”
This story first appeared in British Vogue.