Improve Brain Function and Decrease Anxiety Through Hydration

There’s nothing like a hot cup of coffee in the morning. It’s been a morning staple of mine since around the age of 16. The smell, the taste, the quick jolt of energy I get when caffeine runs through my veins--I love all of it.


For much of my adult life, I habitually drank coffee as my first drink of the morning. I’d have a cup during my morning commute and fill it right back up again upon arriving at work. It wasn’t until noon-ish that I’d make any attempt at hydrating my body. Assuming a bedtime of 10pm, that’s roughly 12 hours or more without a sip of water! Considering our bodies are made up of 60% water, it's safe to say I was living in a chronic state of dehydration.

Negative Effects of Dehydration


The negative effects of even mild dehydration can have serious consequences. A number of studies have shown that dehydration can impair you from both a cognitive

and physical standpoint.


One highly cited study from the British Journal of

Nutrition looked at the impact of dehydration on

cognitive functioning and mood. In this study, they took 26 men and induced dehydration through the use of mild, prolonged exercise and a diuretic. The participants were then instructed to complete a battery of cognitive tests and a profile of mood states. Since this was a cross-over study, each individual served as their own control by completing similar cognitive tests after exercising in a euhydrated state and taking a placebo as opposed to a diuretic.


Dehydrated participants were found to perform worse on a number of cognitive tests including those that looked at visual working memory and response time. They were also found to have increased tension/anxiety and were more likely to feel fatigued. [1]


We now know that dehydration can make our minds a bit more foggy, problem-solve less quickly, and worsen our anxiety. Therefore, it makes sense to habituate adequate hydration to ensure peak performance throughout the day.


I’ve found that putting a glass of water on my nightstand before bed is the best way to ensure that I’m hydrating appropriately in the morning. As soon as I wake up, gulp, I’m already ahead 8 oz. After my shower, I refill the glass and now I’m up to 16 oz for the day. By making sure that my desk and gym bag are locked and loaded with water bottles ahead of time, I can be sure to hit my goal for the day.


Daily Water Consumption Recommendations


So, how many ounces should one drink? This is a tough question to answer as we all have different body types, activity levels, and medical comorbidities. Not to mention, we are all exposed to different environments which also plays a role in dehydration.


As a general rule of thumb, nutritionists from the Mayo Clinic have reported that women should consume at least 2.7 liters (91 ounces) per day, as compared to men where 3.7 liters (125 ounces) are recommended. However, it’s important to note that there’s a paucity of data in the medical literature to substantiate these exact numbers. Furthermore, readers should discuss appropriate water consumption with their doctors in the context of their own medical situation before setting a personal goal.


Why is my Pee Yellow?


In my opinion, the best way to determine if you are adequately hydrated is by looking at your urine. It should look similar to that of water with a pale yellow tinge. If you notice that your urine is a darker yellow, this is your body telling you that it’s time to hydrate.


Why does our urine turn a darker yellow when we are dehydrated? This occurs because the body has gone into water conservation mode. Less water is excreted, therefore, a higher concentration of waste products, such as urobilin, are filtered out and excreted by our kidneys giving our urine a yellow color.


No matter what method you use, the take-home message is to take active steps toward appropriately hydrating each day. Doing so will help mitigate the risks of dehydration and ensure that you are functioning at an optimal level.



How about you? What tips do you have for making sure you are adequately hydrated throughout the day? What negative effects have you noticed when you're dehydrated?


References:


  1. Ganio, M. S., Armstrong, L. E., Casa, D. J., McDermott, B. P., Lee, E. C., Yamamoto, L. M., ... & Chevillotte, E. (2011). Mild dehydration impairs cognitive performance and mood of men. British Journal of Nutrition, 106(10), 1535-1543.

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