How Our Drinking Habits Affect Dehydration

A typical response to the brain's signal to drink water is often the opposite of what our bodies actually need. We drink because of habit, ritual or taste, not because we are thirsty. The signal for thirst becomes grossly distorted.

We wind up drinking even more drinks that dehydrate our bodies when, in reality, our bodies are thirsty for life enhancing water. When we drink soft drinks or alcoholic beverages, we become thirstier and wind up drinking even more soft drinks or more alcohol. Sound familiar?

What Drinking Habits Contribute to Dehydration?

We drink soft drinks, sport drinks, energy drinks, vitamin waters, juice, milk, tea, coffee, and alcoholic beverages. These popular drinks may be enjoyable but are they providing the adequate body hydration that is the foundation of health and vitality? The answer is no.

Soft drinks, both colas and uncolas, have no real nutritional value. Acids are used to carbonate soft drinks and chemicals are often used to flavor these beverages. Damage to your teeth may occur. Bones may weaken with extensive use. Carbohydrates in soft drinks slow down the absorption of water in the body. Soft drinks promote weight gain. The diet soft drinks contain unhealthy sweeteners and additives.

Coffee and tea, both diuretics, tend to promote water loss. A diuretic is any substance that tends to increase the flow of urine, which causes the body to get rid of excess water. The term diuretic suggests that the kidneys are required to take more water out of your bloodstream even as you are taking water into your digestive system by drinking. If you add milk, sugar, or chocolate to your coffee or tea, the rate of water absorption is reduced even further.

Alcohol consumption dehydrates your body. Alcohol promotes water loss by depressing production of the anti-diuretic hormone called vasopressin. Vasopressin acts on the kidneys. It concentrates the urine by promoting the reabsorption of water and salt in the body. Vasopressin helps to regulate the concentration of fluids in the body. Interference with its function leads to an increased loss of body fluid from urination, which can lead to dehydration.

Alcohol induced water loss can also lead to the loss of minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, and zinc which are involved in maintaining fluid balance in the body, as well as nerve and muscle action.

Sports drinks do not hydrate better that water. They also do not quench thirst. What do they do? They give you flavor and they offer a quick boost of carbohydrates. They contain sugar and provide electrolytes that are lost with perspiration. Just like soft drinks, the carbohydrates in sports drinks slow down the absorption of water in the body. They may also contain chemicals that your body does not need.

Juices, which could be categorized as food, have carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes but are not the best thirst quencher. Juice also has fructose, a form of sugar, which reduces the rate that the cells can absorb water. The result is that cells are not hydrated very quickly.

Milk may provide some hydration, although the sugars in milk slow down the hydration process. In addition, many people are lactose intolerant. Lactose is the primary sugar found in milk and foods with milk. Intolerance means you cannot digest foods with lactose in them. Many people have digestive and gastric disturbances from milk, resulting in dehydration.

Vitamin waters contain vitamins, minerals and herbs that are advertised to do something extra for you. They are loaded with sugar for flavoring, contain chemicals, have electrolytes and are packed with over 100 calories per bottle. You are better off drinking pure water and taking a multiple vitamin supplement that you and your health care provider have determined is right for you.

The Bottom Line

Our bodies need water to remain healthy. Your best bet to maintain your health and energy is to acknowledge the truth: There is no good substitute for drinking pure, fresh water. Show your body a little appreciation. Give your body the fresh water it needs to remain healthy today.
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