Not drinking enough water can do more harm to your body than you can imagine
Water plays the role of lubrication and transportation in the body. According to Chen Wenrong, director of Hanlin Chinese Medicine Clinic, water lubricates the skin, add moistures to the oral mucous membrane to make swallowing easier, and also improves the peristaltic movement of the gastrointestinal tract. Water transports nutrients and oxygen to the tissues and organs, and eliminates waste products produced by cellular metabolism.
Lack of water intake can cause chronic dehydration. But the body does not necessarily use “thirst” to remind people to drink water. The body will first produce many signs of dehydration before finally sending a signal that it is thirsty.
Chronic dehydration can have many effects on the body:
- Feeling thirsty easily
- Dry skin that lacks elasticity
- Dizziness, chronic pain (including regular migraines, joint pain)
- Feeling tired and getting cramps easily during exercise
- Constipation, abnormal urination
- Inflammation (including urethritis, cystitis, vaginal infection)
- Anxiety, irritability, insomnia
- Obesity, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, high blood sugar, cardiovascular disease
Overlooked in Treating Disease
Some people may wonder how insufficient water intake can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Don’t forget, the main component of blood is water.
Chen Wenrong explained that when there is enough water, the blood can transport oxygen and nutrients smoothly.
Without enough water, blood vessels and microvessels will shrink, and blood will become thicker, more easily resulting in blood clots. If there is already a blood clot and the blood vessels have become thinner, it may lead to acute embolism, angina, and chest tightness.
Chronic dehydration also leads to poor metabolism and induces chronic diseases related to metabolism, such as obesity, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, high blood sugar, diabetes, and kidney disease.
In treating dizziness, chest tightness (pain), and chronic pain, chronic dehydration is a factor that is often overlooked. If you take painkillers without solving the problem of dehydration, it will trigger pain again and create a vicious cycle: dehydration, pain, medication, more dehydration.
Chen Wenrong pointed out that female patients with chronic dehydration are prone to inflammation, leading to urethritis, cystitis, and vaginal infections.
Many chronic patients, especially the elderly, become accustomed to drinking less water, and gradually will not become thirsty for it. However, the body will show signs of dehydration in other ways, such as loss of skin elasticity, reduced urination, and dark urine color.
Anxiety may also be related to dehydration. Chen Wenrong pointed out that Chinese medicine emphasizes the balance of yin and yang, and water (yin) and fire (yang) should be balanced. When there is not enough fluid in the body, lack of water transportation and lubrication, the body will become hyperactive and generate internal heat, causing insomnia and irritability.
The main factors that cause chronic dehydration are improper hydration methods, stress, and yin deficiency.
Improper Hydration Methods
You may think you’re drinking a lot of water, but your body is actually dehydrated.
This is because many people are accustomed to using coffee, tea, soft drinks, and other beverages as a substitute for plain water. Although these drinks contain water, but they also contain dehydration factors: caffeine, alcohol. They make you urinate more, thus losing more water than you take in.
Some people think that drinks that are sugar free are enough to not burden a body, and may drink two or three of them a day during the summer.
However, in the summer one usually sweats more. This, combined with drinking caffeinated beverages, like unsweetened teas, can cause chronic dehydration.
Likewise, drinking cold tea after exercise may feel comfortable, but will only aggravate chronic dehydration.
High Stress and Yin Deficiency
People under pressure can easily be irritable, and develop insomnia, resulting in what traditional Chinese physicians call too much fire or yang in the body and not enough yin.
A human body which is yin deficient has a lack of water to begin with, or the body’s metabolism is too vigorous, and water will be depleted, resulting in chronic dehydration. The characteristics of yin deficiency are thin body type, irritability, red face color, warm palms and feet, likes to drink cold drinks, dry skin, easily develops wrinkles and dark spots.
How much water should I drink each day to avoid chronic dehydration?
Many people think they need to drink a lot more water than they actually need. But the truth is that the amount of water you need to drink each day is less than you think.
In many cases, one only needs to drink 34 to 40 ounces, or 4.5 to 5 cups of water daily.
Chen Wenrong explained that this is because whilethe human body does need about 5 cups of water per day, some people also consume other foods high in water content. If your water intake is too much, then the body’s ability to metabolize water is poorer, causing swelling and other health problems.
The exception to this is flu patients, who should be drinking a lot of water as they recuperate. ]
However, the premise is you really have flu. Chen Wenrong said he often encounters patients who ask him, “Doctor, I have a cold, and I drink more than three glasses of water every day, but how come I’m not getting better?” It turns out that the patient has an allergy, not a cold. In addition to urination, allergic patients are likely to have nasal discharge and more phlegm, which may aggravate their condition.
In addition, exercise is a major factor in the body’s tendency to lose water, especially intense exercise. It is best not to wait until you are thirsty to drink water, but to replenish water before and during exercise to avoid dehydration. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to wait until you’re thirsty to drink water,” Chen Wenrong said.
If you don’t like drinking plain water, you can add fruit slices to the water to increase the flavor. For example, lemon juice, or beneficial herbs such as licorice and stevia leaves are good additions.
However, some herbs encourage urination, such as fat reduction teas. Drinks with Plantago asiatica and psyllium are not suitable for people with chronic dehydration.