So I came back from my wee break, a little dehydrated. Did you know alcohol consumption can cause dehydration? I mean, I knew this, but I just wanted to make sure you did too. Just in case like.
According to the ever trustworthy and reliable WebMD.com, signs of mild to moderate dehydration include:
- Dry or sticky mouth
- Not peeing very much
- Dark yellow pee
- Dry, cool skin
- Muscle cramps
On the more serious side of things, signs of severe dehydration include:
- Not peeing or having very dark yellow pee
- Very dry skin
- Feeling dizzy
- Rapid heartbeat
- Rapid breathing
- Sunken eyes
- Sleepiness, lack of energy, confusion or irritability
Now, while this particular case of dehydration for me is very much self induced due to alcohol consumption and simply not keeping up with my usual water intake levels on top of that because of being away and a change in routine… the results are the same. And they’re not pretty.
You see, dehydration is a thing I suffer with. I struggle with this, daily.
To most people, it seems that I drink a lot of water. Like, to function normally on an average day of not really moving around very much, I need at least 5, but ideally 6 pints of water (about 3 litres, depending on what type of pints you use). And that’s in addition to the water I get from my food, my daily green smoothie, and the odd juice, isotonic drink, or herbal tea, as I fancy them. I drink one big strong cup of coffee most days, only very rarely going over that – like if I’m in a social situation or something.
And that’s the fluid intake I need.
Most people I know don’t drink that much. I am 6ft 2” and have a fairly fast metabolism, generally, so that’ll be having an effect for sure. But even apart from that, it seems a lot to folks who figure out how much fluid I’m taking on board as standard.
Except when you look at it, it’s not really that much.
According to the CDC, referencing a report by The Food and Nutrition Board – “Dietary Reference Intakes: Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate”, this isn’t really much above the recommended daily intake (I go by the men’s recommendations because generally that’s more aligned to my physical size and workings). They say:
“The vast majority of healthy people adequately meet their daily hydration needs by letting thirst be their guide. The report did not specify exact requirements for water, but set general recommendations for women at approximately 2.7 liters (91 ounces) of total water — from all beverages and foods — each day, and men an average of approximately 3.7 liters (125 ounces daily) of total water. The panel did not set an upper level for water.
About 80 percent of people’s total water intake comes from drinking water and beverages — including caffeinated beverages — and the other 20 percent is derived from food.”
Unpacking that a little bit, I’d like to gently point out that for a lot of people, unfortunately that 20% doesn’t arrive from their food as they’re not eating enough fruit and veg. Or any, in some cases.
And of the remaining 80%, the vast majority of that should at least be from herbal teas, non-sugared fruit juices, and ideally from just plain old water. I know people who claim that 3 litres of tea or coffee a day does them just fine, but come on. It’s not ideal now is it?
So, I’m not that far off with my current fluid intake, to avoid dehydration.
What happens when I don’t get it?
The thing is, for me, getting my water intake every day, tracking it and making sure I meet that goal, is a sort of keystone habit. It’s what I build the rest of my self care around.
Not really on purpose, it just works that way for me. Dehydration is the canary in the coalmine – if my lips are dry or my pee smells strong or I wake up gasping for a drink in the morning… I’m off track. I haven’t been paying attention. I’m out of that self care mindset that I literally need to have as a foundation in my life, or I won’t survive (never mind that thrive part).
Because if I don’t pay attention to drinking enough water, I stop the bigger stuff too. It gets too much, and it’s usually not even a conscious thing. Sometimes I am aware of it, I know I have only drank like a pint of water and it’s nearly bedtime and I’m watching it happen but feel too overwhelmed or powerless or self sabotaging (or whatever fun and games are going on in my head that day) to stop it. Those days I try to tell someone, ask for a bit of poking around my self care, some accountability and even support with the feeding and drinking stuff.
Other days though it just slides by accident and… it doesn’t feel like a big deal. I’ll catch up tomorrow. (We can talk about how this is a sign of subconscious self sabotage too, another day.)
But then I don’t sleep quite right that night, and I wake up tired and out of sorts the next day, and I resolve to hydrate properly that day but there’s so much else to do and I maybe get half of what I need in. And I’ve skipped one of the meals. At this point some part of my brain is beginning a low level panic, which will – if I don’t get a firm grip on it then and there – kick off a spiral of guilt and self recrimination and overwhelm which leads to further and more serious executive dysfunction. Sleep goes, food goes, cleaning myself goes, routine goes… and it’s a whole shit show of dragging myself back from all of that.
How do I do that?
I drink water. I start a new page in my journal, write the date at the top, and I draw 6 little water drop shapes – 1 for every pint of plain water I have to drink that day. And that is my goal. Drink a pint of water, colour one of those drops in blue.
Because when I can do nothing else, I’ve learned that I can do that. I can use that to begin again.
Today, I’m not on a spiral, and my dehydration doesn’t feel that serious. But I have got to make sure I fill in those water drops today, so it doesn’t get serious. No matter what else I get done or don’t get done on my daily list, that is my priority.
Now, I’m not being rude here my friend, but, when was the last time you peed? What colour was it, and how did it smell?
Check yourself before you wreck yourself, and however many little blue drops you personally need to get in your own day, to make sure you’re doing well… Get enough water into you today.
Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate. (2005, 05). doi:10.17226/10925
What is Dehydration? What Causes It? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/dehydration-adults#1