Lacking energy? Feeling lethargic? Is it one of depression’s symptoms, or might you be dehydrated?
Water makes up 75% of the body and 85% of the brain. When you stop to think about it this is a staggering amount, and it is clear that water intake is vital to good health. Yet according to American experts, some 75% of the U.S. population is chronically dehydrated.
The body uses water in many ways; to transport nutrients, hormones and waste, as a solvent, and as an essential component in maintaining cell structure. Chronic dehydration is recognized as contributing to a wide range of debilitating conditions. With respect to depression there may also be a link. The important amino acid tryptophan is required by the brain to produce the neurotransmitter serotonin. When more serotonin is present, nerves in the brain function more normally. Dehydration can prevent the needed amount of water being available to transport tryptophan to the brain, causing less serotonin to be produced. As you probably know, serotonin plays an important part in the regulation of mood.
Try this exercise. Tally up the amount of fluids you normally consume in a day, then subtract any caffeinated drinks (coffee, tea, cola) or alcohol. These have to be excluded because they act as diuretics; they dehydrate you by making you urinate rather than retain the water. If your tally is less than 8 glasses then it is likely that you are dehydrated. Of course, 8 cups is a very rough minimum, for an average person. Your own requirement will vary with things like exercise, amount of perspiration, health and weight.
If you are chronically dehydrated then it may take you a while to build the habit of drinking more water. Gradually switch your drinks to water, while restricting caffeinated and alcoholic drinks. Start aiming for at least 8 glasses of water a day. As a guide, if you are drinking sufficient water your urine should be clear or light colored by lunch time (it will normally be darker first thing in the morning).
I have a lot of trouble drinking enough water each day, partly because I’m forgetful and partly because I’m downright lazy. But when I am fully hydrated I feel refreshed and my mood is lifted. If you’re forgetful like me, you could try drinking a glass of water before you eat anything, at any time during the day. I figure that I eat things about 10 times a day, including snacks. Another idea is to replace one of your hot drinks during the day with a mug of hot, boiled water. It will give you the same benefit as cold water, and it actually doesn’t taste too bad!
YOUR BODY’S MANY CRIES FOR WATER
by F. Batmanhhelidj, M.D.