Of your body's fluids, it's safe to say that none is more life sustaining than blood itself. It's your body's vehicle for delivering nutrients, oxygen, and vital components to your tissues through the arterial and capillary system. The same blood is also used to carry carbon dioxide, by-products, and waste products through the venous system—thereby discharging them through the lungs by exhalation, or through sweat, stool, or urine. Water makes up roughly 83 percent of your blood volume—a significant portion by any standard. So it's easy to see why dehydration is such a problem for your health.
Damaging Your Engine
Attempting to function without enough water is similar to trying to run a car that doesn't have enough oil to lubricate its system. And what happens to a car that isn't lubricated? It heats up, and the engine can crack and get damaged. A similar effect occurs in the body when you're not well hydrated, which often happens because you're too busy and your system is running too fast and too long without a break.
Add in the extra demand for water that comes with spiking August temperatures and you've got yourself a recipe for disaster.
Luckily, the solution is simple: Drink more water. Just be wary of where it comes from.
It's easy to assume that bottled water is the wisest choice, but a federal congressional report revealed that this is far from the case. In reality, there's less oversight of the quality of bottled water than there is of the quality of plain old tap water—a fact that might come as a major shock to anyone spending top dollar on a supposedly safe, clean way to hydrate. Water-quality tests for bottled products are not required by the FDA—and in the past several years, some brands of bottled water have been recalled due to contamination with arsenic, bromate, cleaning compounds, mold, and bacteria.
Unfortunately, that's not the only concern that comes with bottled water: The potential health-related and environmental risks of its plastic packaging are something to consider, too.
In the end, water from the tap is probably your safest—not to mention cheapest—bet. (Consumed out of a glass, of course!) If, however, you're still worried about potential contaminants lurking in your water, you can always consider one of the many home filtration systems available on the market today—while they can be expensive, it may be worth your peace of mind.
Surprising signs of dehydration
Most of us are chronically dehydrated and don’t even know it. One common reason is that we confuse thirst for hunger. Because we've ignored our body's thirst signals for so long, we don’t easily recognize them. That’s why many people turn to a sugary snack when their body is actually asking for fluids instead. Constant snacking—and especially constant sugar cravings—can be one hidden sign of a dehydration imbalance.
With dehydration, histamine levels can increase and your immune system can become imbalanced, creating the perfect storm for dust, pollen, mold, and animal allergies to manifest.
Digestive ailments, especially acid reflux and constipation, are another lesser known sign of chronic dehydration. Hydration is essential to keep all functions of the digestive tract running smoothly.
Depression, irritability, or mental fog
The brain relies on a relatively large portion of the body’s blood supply. With dehydration, blood supply can be reduced and may manifest in the brain as mental and emotional imbalances and in extreme cases, temporary mental impairment. Ongoing stress also increases dehydration in the body with high levels of circulating stress hormones, so dehydration and stress can be a vicious cycle. Stress also causes the body to get rid of fluids—the idea being that in a potential "fight or flight" situation, the body needs to be as light as possible. Staying hydrated and finding healthy ways to relieve stress can help break this cycle.
Integrative-medicine expert Isaac Eliaz, MD, founder of the Amitabha Clinic & Healing Center in Santa Rosa, California, integrates Western medicine with his extensive knowledge of traditional Chinese, Tibetan, Ayurvedic, homeopathic, and complementary medical systems. With more than 25 years of clinical experience and research, Dr. Eliaz has a unique holistic approach to the relationship between health and disease, immune enhancement, detoxification, and cancer prevention and treatment. For more information about his work, visit dreliaz.org.