Let’s have The Dehydration Conversation. …You knew I’d get around to it sooner or later. You know what I mean? The one where I tell you how much more fluids you need, why it’s important for diabetics…you get the idea.
But hey…Just doing my job! Listen up:
You know that our bodies communicate with us by means of symptoms, some subtle and some whack on the head urgent.
While you may be aware of the more obvious signs of dehydration such as feeling thirsty or having a dry mouth, it’s wise to pay attention to the quiet, not so obvious alarms as well.
The most common signals from your body are :
- Urine that is darker yellow than your normal
- Frequently feeling thirsty
- Having a dry mouth, sticky gums, little saliva, coated tongue
- Feeling more fatigued than usual
But the less-obvious signs are just as important and sometimes appear sooner, especially as you get older. Another good reason to have the dehydration conversation now. These “less obvious” signs include:
➡ When you’re dehydrated, your body puts out less fluid. It shows not only by decreased urination but also includes tears and saliva.
The problem with that is that saliva is antibacterial, so if you’re not producing enough, it can lead to bacteria overgrowth in your mouth. That means bad breath.
It’s also why many experience “morning breath,” as saliva flow almost stops completely while we sleep.
You’re Craving Sweets
I told you I’d get diabetes involved here somewhere…
➡ Dehydration can mask itself as hunger, but it’s most dangerous disguise is in the form of sugar cravings.
- When you’re low on fluid, your body uses the carbohydrates it has stored in your muscles for energy, called glycogen, at a faster rate – so your energy levels drop more quickly.
- Your body will likely crave carbohydrates to help replenish those glycogen stores.
BUT…Before you reach for the sweets, drink some water. You may find it satisfies your craving effectively, and you’ll be better off for it.
Your Skin Feels Cold and Dry
➡ When you’re approaching severe dehydration, your body starts to limit blood flow to the skin.
In medical terms, it’s called “shunting” because your body is shunting your blood from your skin to your internal organs.
In other words, it’s “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
It’s doing whatever it can to conserve what little amount of fluid you have left.
You Fail the Pinch Test
➡ If you pinch the skin on the back of your hand and it doesn’t snap back as quickly as usual, it can mean you’re dehydrated.
Reduced blood flow to the skin can make it feel less elastic. Just don’t expect your skin to rebound as quickly as it did in your twenties…
You Feel Lightheaded or Dizzy
Yet another reason for the dehydration conversation is that some of these symptoms can end up causing you physical harm.
➡ Less water circulating in the body also means less blood.
This can lead to lower blood pressure and cause you to feel lightheaded, faint, or dizzy.
One of the key signs of dehydration-related dizziness is suddenly feeling lightheaded when you stand up too quickly, a condition called orthostatic hypotension.
Although the amount of water you need doesn’t increase as you age, your body’s ability to conserve water decreases and your sense of thirst becomes unreliable.
➡ Which is why it’s important to drink even if you aren’t thirsty.
Drinking plenty of fluids helps reduce these symptoms in most cases.
But if a person is dehydrated to the point of mental confusion—or has experienced vomiting or diarrhea—they require immediate medical attention.
Very often my older patients just don’t feel like eating or drinking much during the day, so it’s important to keep encouraging them throughout the day.
This is especially true in patients who are on diuretics for their blood pressure or other conditions.
The importance of water can’t be overstated.
It makes up roughly two-thirds of our body weight and is responsible for a variety of functions, including digestion, blood flow, and temperature regulation.
It’s like oil to a machine.
- When your body is low on fluids, all systems must work harder to function properly.
This not only leaves you feeling fatigued, but if untreated, it can lead to dizziness when standing, kidney problems, or seizures due to electrolyte imbalances.
That’s why it’s so important to prevent dehydration or catch it early.
There’s no exact amount of water that every person needs.
➡ What’s best for you depends on the foods you’re eating, how much you exercise, and any health conditions you may have.
- Since older adults have a diminished sense of thirst it’s important to encourage fluids regularly to prevent dehydration.
- Keep a refillable water bottle with you whenever possible, and drink a full glass with every meal.
- Remember that fluid-filled foods (such as fruit and soup) as well as beverages (including decaffeinated tea and fruit juice) hydrate you, too.
- Listen to your body and watch for signs of dehydration.
And if you’re ever concerned about hydration or experience any unusual or ongoing symptoms, please talk to your doctor!