How much water do you consume every day?
Health organizations suggest women drink 11 cups, around two and a half liters, of plain water every day. This amount has been shown to be ideal for helping regulate body temperature, maintain healthy digestion, provide energy and improve your skin.
When you do not drink enough water, your body becomes dehydrated, leading to a wide range of health issues. While many are well known, one that does not get enough attention is its effects on your mental health.
How Dehydration Affects the Brain
The amount of water in your body has a direct link to brain function. Essential chemicals, like salt and electrolytes, require a minimum level of hydration to remain effective. When you don’t drink enough water, your brain can become inefficient. Your memory suffers, and you may experience greater pain sensitivity. Cognitive skills can fall significantly.
Your brain is made up of billions of microscopic cells, each owing its shape and structure to available water. This water also allows the movement of minerals through the brain, providing these cells with molecules they need to function properly. When your body starts to pull available water from brain cells, it is like draining the fuel from a car — the cells cannot run like they normally do. They start to shrivel and become inefficient. Your brain consists of roughly 60 percent water. When you become dehydrated, water in your brain is depleted, and it physically shrinks. This compression of brain tissue is a common source of headaches.
For your brain’s health and normal function, it cannot be stressed enough how important a role proper water intake plays. By making a conscious effort to drink plain water, you’ll be truly giving your brain a significant boost in capability.
Mental Health Effects of Severe Dehydration
Whenever your brain’s ability to function at normal levels is reduced, its chemistry is altered, and your body’s reaction to water loss affects mood as well. This “double whammy” leads to clinically-measured declines in baselines for good mental health.
If you are already struggling with stress, imagine how it can be amplified by a loss in your ability to reason and concentrate. Fuzzy thinking can increase concern and negativity. Aches, pains and digestive issues will further feed a level of stress you are already trying to overcome.
Can dehydration cause depression and anxiety as well? Mental symptoms of dehydration include fatigue, anxiety and tension, which when experienced often, may lead to depression. Problems also seem to compound on top of themselves and become overwhelming, simply due to a lack of water.
Additionally, if you are currently being prescribed medication to assist in stabilizing any mental health issues, a lack of water in your system affects their efficiency. When the medication cannot properly break down, it’s not nearly as effective. Clearly, proper water intake is not just a fad to consider — it is a foundation for helping manage mental health.
Time to Hydrate
Drinking the right amount of water has such an impact on your mental health, and it is imperative to make it an important part of self-care. Of all the things you could do to improve well-being, it’s one of the most effortless plans to adopt and stick with.
Did you know that by the time you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated? A loss of only one or two percent of your body’s water supply will trigger dehydration's effects, so your plan should focus on consistently hydrating. One way to remind yourself is to get a cup or bottle that’s exclusively for water. Keep it filled and visible, and take a drink every so often. Make a conscious effort to do so, and you’ll gradually be working toward your daily intake goal.
A proven method many people use is to put a series of rubber bands high up on their bottle, moving one down low each time it’s empty. Fill up the water bottle as soon as the rubber band is moved and start over. This way you can determine how many cups you have had and how many are left to drink for the day.
However you go about it, increasing the amount of water you drink will immediately be reflected in your body’s, and brain’s, overall health. Studies show you’ll feel results in as little as 20 minutes, so the effects of dehydration can be quickly and efficiently chased away. By being proactive about your water intake, you can take advantage of water's mental health benefits.