You’re craving sweets, your mouth feels sticky, and you’re tired even though you slept eight hours last night. You eat some chocolate, but your symptoms don’t go away. Your first instinct is to eat more chocolate—that is, after all, your first instinct in most situations. You decide to give your chocolate coated neurons a break for the moment and consider the problem logically.
Your body is craving something that it lacks. Something that lubricates your mouth and helps your organs release glycogen (stored glucose i.e. sugar) that gives you energy. Surprise! You’re mildly dehydrated and your body is craving water.
Most of us assume that if our body lacks water we’ll feel thirsty. While this is often the case, thirst is not the only indicator that our liquids are low. When water is in short supply, our body sends it to the most important parts first—like the brain—and allows less necessary parts to go without, all in the hopes that more water is on the way and it will eventually be able to function at full fluid capacity. This redistribution of water can lead to symptoms that we don’t always associate with lack of water.
Let’s take a look at what water does in our body and the symptoms we experience when things go wrong. We’ll start at the top.
- Water as airbag: Your brain is surrounded by a sack of fluid that acts as a cushion so your brain doesn’t bump against your skull. Your brain is roughly 70% water and the fluid is, well, fluid. When there is less fluid in the sack, your brain bumps into your skull more easily causing headaches.
- Water as lubricant: Your mouth is lubricated by saliva. Less water equals less saliva which leaves your mouth feeling dry and/or sticky. Think of a slip and slide with the hose turned off. Saliva also has antibacterial properties; less saliva means you don’t have enough antibiotic spit to kill the stinky microbes and you end up with bad breath.
- Water as fire hose: Your blood is roughly 50% water (55% of blood is plasma and plasma is 92% water), but if that percentage drops, your blood is thicker and harder to pump and your blood pressure goes up.
- Water as pump: Your lungs are about 85% water. (Who knew? Water in lungs = bad, lungs made of water = good.) When water is in short supply, your airways shrink or constrict a bit. This can aggravate allergies and asthma.
Next week we’ll continue our journey down the body as well as discuss an easy self-diagnosis technique to determine your hydration. Water we waiting for?!
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35 (NIV)