“We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one.” —Jacques Yves Cousteau
Beyond our natural environment where water is critical, water is the fuel for our brains and bodies. It is estimated that we can survive a mere three days without water. An essential for both our brains and bodies, water comprises most of the human body. We require a lot of water to function well, from our bones to to our skin and more. Proper hydration protects our joints and tissues, regulates our body temperature, and assists with our digestion and waste removal, among other functions.
Water Your Brain
Dehydration can impact the body and the brain in as little as two hours. The brain is composed of about 73% water, and when it becomes dehydrated, the brain’s ability to function can be impacted, impairing focus, attention, memory and mental clarity. Other symptoms in the body and brain may also present as low mood, headaches, fatigue, sleep issues and more.
Unfortunately, being “thirsty” is not a good indicator to drink more fluids, as we can already be dehydrated by the time we feel it, having lost 1-2% of the body’s water content. Additionally, our sensation for thirst decreases with age, along with the amount of water in our bodies making hydration an important area of health. It is important to make drinking water part of our daily routine as our brains are mostly water and use 20% of our body’s energy. Keeping our brains properly fueled and hydrated is critical for our overall health and wellness, including our mood.
Keep Calm & Drink Water
How much water? The amount of water required for optimal brain and body function varies slightly per person. Two simple rules that may help people track their daily water consumption is: 1) drink eight, eight-ounce glasses of water or 2) drink half of their body weight in ounces of water per day (100 pounds = 50 ounces of water, 150 pounds = 75 ounces of water, etc.). Water can additionally be consumed through other water-rich foods or other beverages.
It is important to note that not all beverages serve the body well in terms of hydration, including caffeine, which is a diuretic. Avoid caffeine after noon. It takes an average of five hours for half the level of caffeine consumed to drop in our bodies and upwards of 10-15 hours for it to no longer have an impact on our bodies and brains. To get a restful sleep, switch to decaffeinated beverages after noon or by mid-day. Remember caffeine may increase trips to the bathroom and require more fluids to quench our thirst. Reach for water to keep hydrated following caffeinated beverages.
Be sure to take notice of when to slow down or monitor fluid intake in the evening to promote a restful night’s sleep. This may vary from person to person but we should aim to keep hydrated properly throughout the day and night. The color of our urine is the best indicator of our hydration status and something we can easily track. Watch this color daily to monitor your hydration for a pale or light yellow to adjust your fluid intake.
Here are some simple tips to keep hydrated:
- Drink a small glass of water with your daily vitamins or medications in the morning or as needed. Try to avoid drinking just enough liquid to swallow the pills at any given time. This is a great opportunity to consume at least half a cup of water, but aim for a cup or more.
- Use a reusable straw or water bottle with a straw to help increase fluid intake.
- Use a smaller cup to increase fluid intake. Large glasses or cups can appear visually overwhelming to someone and deter drinking habits. (Visualize a “Big Gulp” cup or large 32-44 ounce cup. It can be a lot to think about consuming. Switch to a small eight-ounce glass or less and refill it more frequently.)
- Use smaller glasses of water for guests or when visiting with others. Be sure to sip your water during chats. At times, raise a glass to make a toast for a special announcement (Happy Birthday, Jake!) or to commemorate an event (birth of a new grandchild or graduation announcement) and “bottoms-up” to increase fluid intake. Refill the glasses afterward to keep everyone’s hydration up. Cheers, friends!
- Make a fruit-infused water canister with a variety of vibrantly colored fruit combinations such as: lemon/lime, strawberry/blueberry, melon medley, etc. Be sure to properly rinse the fruit first and to change the fruit every couple of days. (Get a fruit-infuser water bottle from one of the dollar stores or online.)
- Aim to sip on a glass of water or water bottle every couple of hours to stay hydrated even if not “thirsty.” Keeping water nearby will help increase your fluid intake.
- Fill up a reusable water bottle in the morning and use it throughout the day. Based on the size of the water bottle, aim to refill it at least once in the morning and the afternoon.
- If you enjoy a caffeinated drink, follow it up with a small glass of water to help balance out its diuretic effect.
- Keep a pitcher of water in the fridge for easy access and use.
- If you have an additional hydration tip, share it in the comment section below.
Create a Hydration Reminder Routine
Make your hydration coincide with a memory routine. If you commonly use a water bottle, make a routine to check for your bottle as you are leaving a room so you do not accidentally leave it behind or lose it. Also, make a routine for when you fill up your water bottle or top it off. (This will serve as a reminder that you have your water bottle with you too throughout the day!)
If you enjoy technology, download an app that will track your water consumption to help you reach your daily hydration goals. As you track your progress on your phone, this will be another gentle reminder to check for your water bottle and to keep hydrated. As checking for your water bottle before you get up to leave a room becomes a habit, the less likely you will be to leave it behind! May you drink your way to better health and stay healthy with clean water.
In brain health & wellness,
**Written for “EngAGE Your Brain!” blog series for Northeast Ohio Boomer & Beyond Magazine. Read the original article post here.