Tired, dizzy, bad breath? You could be dehydrated
Staying hydrated is essential to the body’s overall health, but it becomes even more important during hot summer days or following exercise. Dehydration occurs when the body loses more water than it takes in. This typically happens when a person sweats excessively from a strenuous workout or is outside in hot temperatures for an extended period.
Despite the importance of water, many people don’t make hydration a priority and don’t even recognize that a range of symptoms they experience can be caused by mild dehydration.
“Our bodies are made up of nearly 60 percent water. When it’s depleted of as little as a two percent loss in hydration, the body begins working overtime to compensate for the loss of fluids. This puts a great deal of stress on the body’s organs,” says Dr. Emelie Ilarde, a family medicine physician at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill. “Water also plays a key role in helping with circulation, food digestion and absorption, regulating body temperature and lubricating joints.”
So, how do you know when you’re dehydrated aside from being thirsty? Dr. Ilarde provides some lesser-known symptoms of mild to moderate dehydration:
- Dark colored urine – A healthy urine color ranges from clear to light yellow. The darker the urine gets, the more dehydrated you are.
- Bad breath – Next time you notice your breath smells, you may need to reach for a glass of water instead of gum. That’s because dehydration reduces saliva production in the mouth, which can lead to excess growth of bacteria that creates a bad odor.
- Dizziness – Water is essential to regulating the body’s blood volume, which in turn affects blood pressure and heart rate. Dehydration causes a drop in blood volume, leading to decreased blood pressure and an increased heartbeat, ultimately resulting in dizzy spells.
- Headache – Dehydration causes your blood vessels to constrict, triggering a headache.
- Muscle cramps or fatigue – A loss of water and electrolytes can trigger muscle cramps or earlier onset of fatigue during exercise.
- Dry skin – Dehydrated skin lacks moisture. This causes the skin to become a tight and rough texture.
While it’s very easy to become dehydrated, it’s just as easy to reverse the condition by simply increasing fluid intake and replenishing lost electrolytes, says Dr. Ilarde. If you experience mild dehydration symptoms, grab a glass of water immediately to begin rehydrating and have a sports drink to restore lost electrolytes.
To avoid dehydration, Dr. Ilarde recommends keeping a large bottle of water with you to drink and refill throughout the day. People who plan to be outside in a warm environment should seek shade as much as possible to prevent excessive sweating.
“Be proactive with your fluid intake. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to grab a glass of water, because it’s likely you’re already dehydrated at that point,” she says.
If you find water to be too plain, Dr. Ilarde suggests adding sliced cucumber, lemon, fresh mint or fruit to spice it up and increase the drink’s health benefits. Eating water-rich fruits and vegetables, like watermelon, celery and lettuce, can also boost hydration.
“Untreated, dehydration can lead to kidney stones, kidney failure, seizures, coma and death. Severe dehydration is a medical emergency, and treatment should be sought immediately,” Dr. Ilarde says.
About the Author
Julie Nakis, health enews contributor, is manager of public affairs at Advocate Children's Hospital. She earned her BA in communications from the University of Iowa – Go Hawkeyes! In her free time, she enjoys spending time with friends and family, exploring the city and cheering on the Chicago Cubs and Blackhawks.