The importance of keeping hydrated

The importance of keeping hydrated

By Liz Lockhart

One of our top tips for good mental health is to avoid dehydration.  Keeping hydrated is very important to us all.  If you suffer with anxiety and stress, getting even a little dehydrated can cause feelings akin to panic: dry mouth, flushing, light-headedness, headache etc.

Getting enough fluid may not cure stresses, but it can at least stop an unnecessary panic due to dehydration.  We know that water is best, so try to drink it every day.  Try avoiding alcohol, caffeine and fizzy drinks as they can have the opposite effect.  Click here for other top tips.

By the time we become thirsty, experts suggest that it is too late to avoid many of the effects of dehydration. 

A recent study by researchers from the University of Connecticut’s Human Performance Laboratory explains some of the negative effects of dehydration on our mental, mood and cognitive state.

The effects of dehydration are the same whether we have just done a workout or if we have been sat watching the television.  The definition of mild dehydration is about a 1.5% loss of normal water volume on our body.  So remember that it is important to keep hydrated at all times.

Lawrence E. Armstrong worked on the study and is also an international hydration expert.  Armstrong says ‘Our thirst sensation doesn’t really appear until we are 1% or 2% dehydrated.  By then dehydration is already setting in and starting to impact how our mind and body perform.’

He feels that we should all be promoting the importance of hydration.

‘Dehydration affects all people, and staying properly hydrated is just as important for those who work all day at a computer as it is for marathon runners, who can lose up to 8% of their body weight as water when they compete,’ he added.

In one part of the study a group of twenty-five women were tested.  Their average age was 23 and they were all healthy and active.  None of them were athletes nor were they couch potatoes but they all typically exercised for 30 to 60 minutes each day.

The women were assessed on three occasions which were four weeks apart.  The evening before each assessment they were all fully hydrated then, the following day, they all walked on a treadmill to cause dehydration.

When the women were not dehydrated they were put through a series of cognitive tests.  These measured for vigilance, reaction time, concentration, memory and reasoning.  They were then reassessed in the same way when they were dehydrated.

It was found that the participants all experienced mild dehydration.  This caused them to have headaches, difficulty with concentration and headaches.  There was little difference in their cognitive abilities although they did perceive tasks to be more difficult when slightly dehydrated.

The research results can be found in The Journal of Nutrition. 

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