It could be the perfect storm. No, I’m not referring to Tropical Storm Isaac that passed over us here in Florida a couple of days ago, and has unfortunately ravaged the Gulf Coast. I’m referring to the seldom-mentioned link between dehydration and stress that can hurt your health and your bones.
Surprising Study Results
A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that dehydration or hypohydration by -2.5% and -5.0% of body mass “…strongly increased cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, the primary stress hormones.”1
Bear in mind that the loss of less than 5% from body fluids is considered mild dehydration, and up to 10% is considered moderate dehydration.2 Interestingly, study researchers found that the elevated cortisol levels observed in the mildly dehydrated study subjects occurred both before and after intense resistance exercise. Which means that the exercises were not causing the increase of cortisol levels.
You see, every single organ in the body needs water to function properly. After all, we’re made of 70% water! So as the study proved, even minimal dehydration triggers damaging biochemical changes that are the same as the body’s response to stress.
And how does the body react to stress? By producing, among other things, the hormone cortisol, also known as the “fight or flight” response which, as I write in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program, accelerates bone loss.
The Dehydration ‘Hand Test'
Dehydration often reduces skin elasticity, so doctors often use this skin test to quickly check for dehydration. The best part is, you can do it yourself:
Pinch the skin on the back of your hand and pull it upwards. Your skin should snap back rapidly. If your skin maintains it's pinched shape for a few seconds and drops slowly, you may be dehydrated.
More Signs You're Dehydrated
- Dry mouth
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
- Muscle cramps or spasms
- Heart palpitations
- Very dark urine
- Decreased urine output
Benefits of Good Hydration
Besides helping maintain cortisol levels at bay, there are many other the benefits from staying fully hydrated. Here are some of them:
- Oxygenation: Adequate hydration ensures that oxygen is carried throughout the body.
- Prevention: Water deficiency can cause kidney stones, constipation, migraines, ulcers, and more.
- Digestion: Fluids are needed for nutrients to pass through the membrane of the intestines. Sufficient hydration allows nutrients to be efficiently distributed throughout the body.
- Joint Pain: Proper hydration helps lubricate the joints. Dehydration, which doesn’t allow the body to efficiently cleanse toxins, can actually lead to an accumulation of toxins, which can cause pain and inflammation in joints.
- Youthful Appearance: Hydration keeps your skin cells plump so your skin appears smoother, giving you a more youthful appearance.
- Weight Loss: Staying hydrated can help weight loss efforts by acting as a natural appetite suppressant. It also removes the threat of misinterpreting thirst as hunger.
What Should You Drink?
It’s a vicious cycle: dehydration causes stress and stress often leads to dehydration. Since it’s impossible to completely avoid stress, the best way to break this cycle is to stay well hydrated by making sure you’re drinking enough water.
Don’t wait until you’re thirsty, since thirst is a sign of dehydration. Instead, I recommend sipping distilled water throughout the day. Sipping, as opposed to gulping, helps your body retain water and won’t overload your kidneys.
Distilled water is the best choice. Why? Because not all water is created equal. Only distilled water is pure, made only of Hydrogen and Oxygen atoms. In a perfect world, rain water would be identical to distilled water: just plain H2O.
If you can’t get distilled water, your second best choice is water purified by reverse osmosis. And with either water, try adding a few drops of lemon juice to add a little flavor and help alkalize the body,
How Much Should You Drink?
A general rule of thumb is to try to drink half of your body weight in ounces per day. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, drink 80 ounces of water per day – which is about 10 glasses of water. But it is just that, a general rule. Feel free to vary your water intake by 20 percent in either direction, depending on your activity level. If you are extremely active, by all means drink more.
To your health!
P.S. I'm excited to announce that next week is Save Our Bones ‘Water Week'! So stay tuned, and look in your inbox for some fascinating information about water and how important it is for your bone health and overall wellness.
1 Judelson AD. et al. “Effect of hydration state on resistance exercise-induced endocrine markers of anabolism, catabolism, and metabolism.” Journal of Applied Physiology September 2008 vol. 105 no. 3 816-824.