Top 3 Dehydration Myths Debunked
Dehydration means there is a fluid deficit in the body. Without enough fluid or water, the cells in the body will have difficulty carrying out their normal functions and the body will start to shut down. You can become dehydrated if you use or lose more fluid than you take in, such as during intense exercise, hot weather or during an illness.
How common is dehydration?
Dehydration is more common in young children and in the elderly. Children are particularly prone to getting gastrointestinal infections with diarrhea and/or vomiting, which can dehydrate them very quickly. Young children and infants are at particular risk for dehydration because they lose fluid quickly due to their size and metabolism and they cannot communicate that they are thirsty. In the elderly, they already have less fluid in their body to start with and they often take medications that deplete them further, so any illness can tip them over the edge into dehydration very quickly. Athletes and those that participate in rigorous physical activity are also at risk for dehydration due to the tremendous loss of fluids through their sweat.
Top 3 Dehydration Myths
Coconut water is better than regular water. Coconut water is often touted as a "miracle for dehydration" and "better than sports drinks" but, in fact, it might not be any better than plain water. Coconut water does have a lot of potassium but doesn't have enough sodium, which is probably more important when replacing electrolytes and fluid from dehydration.
Gatorade is better than water. Gatorade and other sports drinks have been used for years to prevent and treat dehydration. Unfortunately, these drinks often contain toxic chemicals that do more harm than good. First, the food colorings and dyes can slow down the production of energy in your cells, have been shown to affect behavior, and have been linked with a myriad of other diseases. Second, the hydrogenated oils used, particularly brominated vegetable oil, which has been taken out of Gatorade but is still present in Powerade can be harmful to the thyroid. Third, the sugars found in these sports drinks are unhealthy. Powerade still contains high fructose corn syrup HFCS, which has been linked to diabetes. Gatorade recently switched to sugar and dextrose, which might sound better than HFCS but is equally problematic in causing the blood sugar to rise drastically.
You cannot drink too much water. You actually can drink too much water. While drinking enough water can prevent you from getting dehydrated, drinking too much can cause a serious problem. In fact, people have died from drinking too much water, often in the attempt to rehydrate themselves. Excess water, without adequate electrolytes can lead to low sodium (salt) levels in the blood which can cause cells to explode.
Thirst is one of the best indicators that you are at risk for getting dehydrated, so if you are thirsty listen to your body and drink more fluids. All fluids, including tea, coffee, soup, can be included in thinking about your total fluid intake for the day. Exercising, particularly in hot and humid weather, can lead to dehydration rapidly. If you are exercising on a hot summer day, be sure to start drinking fluids a few hours before you start.
*For my full interview with Readers Digest on this topic, click here