Bored with Drinking Water? Rehydrate with Food

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
July 13, 2015
Alternatives to Water

Although the Institute of Medicine recommends drinking eight glasses of water each day to help maintain good health, CBS News recently reported that up to 75 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated. And while dehydration can occur throughout the year, the hot and humid weather of summer increases your susceptibility to dehydration.

According to the Royal College of Nursing, water comprises between 50 and 75 percent of our body depending on age and gender and is essential for protecting the spinal cord, lubricating joints, controlling blood pressure and digesting food. ABC News reported that losing just two percent of water can lead to dehydration and various symptoms that many people do not recognize as dehydration. For instance, it’s common for people experiencing mild to moderate dehydration to complain of fatigue, weakness and unexplained hunger. It also associated with headaches, kidney stones and muscle cramps. Severe dehydration, which the University of Arizona Health Services defines as 9 to 12 percent loss of body water, can cause life threatening conditions like brain swelling, seizures, kidney failure and coma.


Causes of dehydration

It is normal for our bodies to lose some water everyday through sweating, crying, breathing and using the restroom. Most often, simply drinking liquids can replace the fluid loss. However, there are situations in which fluid recovery can be difficult and raise the risk of dehydration, for example:

  • Fevers, as they require fluid to break. As a body temperature rises, the metabolism increases. Because metabolic processes require water and oxygen, speeding up the metabolic rate requires more oxygen and water, potentially causing dehydration if fluid consumption is not increased.  
  • Viruses, which cause fluid loss. Whether the flu or a cold has you sneezing or a stomach bug has you vomiting or with diarrhea, doctors usually recommend drinking plenty of water, broth and juices to replace the bodily fluids.    
  • Diabetes, because it increases urination. In order to form urine, the kidneys filter blood to remove waste products and reabsorb sugar to direct it back to the blood. When blood sugar levels are abnormally high, the kidneys don’t reabsorb all of the sugar, causing it to spill into the urine and filter out more water. People with diabetes should work with their doctors to determine an appropriate amount of fluids to drink each day.
  • Heat-related illnesses, such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, as they are by caused by prolonged exposure to extreme heat and excessive sweating. Learn more by how cool air reduce heat stroke risks on MDVIP Connect.
  • Burns and sunburns, as they attract fluid to the skin and away from the rest of the body. This increases the need for more fluids to help prevent dehydration.

Of course, not drinking enough water is the major culprit of a dehydration. Although experts debate whether or not we actually need eight glasses of water every day, a recent study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did find that nearly 50 percent of Americans do not drink enough of water in general.


How to hydrate besides drinking water

If you are not fond of water, choosing a flavored sparkling water or adding fruit slices to spring water may help make it more appealing. Decaffeinated herbal tea is another alternative. Read more information on sports drinks and hydration beverages.

Another option is to “eat” your water. Below are some foods with high water contents.

  • Green leafy vegetables – spinach and lettuce, especially iceberg lettuce
  • Cruciferous vegetables - cauliflower and broccoli
  • Root vegetables – baby carrots and radishes
  • Vine fruits and vegetables - strawberries, blueberries, watermelon and cucumbers
  • Dairy foods - particularly plain yogurt and skim milk, unless you are lactose intolerant or have dairy allergies
  • Red meat, fish, poultry – extra lean ground beef, flounder, white meat chicken with skin and eggs

Incorporating certain foods into your diet can naturally replace electrolytes. These electrically charged minerals, which include sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, chlorine and phosphate, are found in blood, sweat and urine and have several functions such as helping the body balance fluids. Some foods high in electrolytes are:

  • Citrus fruits – grapefruits, oranges, tangerines, lemons and limes
  • Nuts, seeds and nut products – almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, coconut water, almond milk, cashew milk and peanut butter 
  • Bananas
  • Spinach

Additionally, you can prepare foods that are hydrating such as oatmeal that soaks up the milk or water used to cook it, as well as homemade soups, stews and smoothies. Learn nine secrets for making great tasting smoothies.

If staying hydrated is difficult for you, consider limiting foods that are mild natural diuretics like parsley, celery, asparagus, artichokes and cantaloupe. Moreover, coffee, tea, colas and chocolate contain caffeine and can contribute to dehydration. Consuming alcohol, known for causing excessive urination, can interfere with your body’s water levels and promote dehydration, as can high-sodium processed foods that tend to disrupt the fluid balance in cells.


Signs and symptoms of dehydration

Lastly, learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of dehyration. As per Carnegie Mellon University, the "thirst mechanism" in 37 percent of Americans is so weak, many people often mistake thirst for hunger. Some signs and symptoms of dehydration beyond thirst include: 

  • Dry mouth and swollen tongue
  • Dry cough
  • Flushed skin
  • Heat intolerance
  • Muscle cramps
  • Hunger
  • Moodiness
  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Fainting, dizziness and light-headedness
  • Palpitations
  • Sluggishness and fatigue
  • Dark-colored urine

Since we are in the peak of summer, be sure to discuss hydration with your MDVIP-affiliated physician. He or she is your best resource to help you prevent and control dehydration, as well as other issues that you may be at risk of developing. Further, the unique relationship you share with your MDVIP-affiliated doctor makes it easier for him or her to recognize dehydration and take quick action. Don’t have an MDVIP-affiliated doctor? Learn about the benefits of MDVIP's wellness program and personalized health care

About the Author
Janet Tiberian Author
Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES

Janet Tiberian is MDVIP's health educator. She has more than 25 years experience in chronic disease prevention and therapeutic exercise.

View All Posts By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
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