- How Can You Tell If You’re Dehydrated?
- What You Drink Affects How Often You Urinate
- Testing Your Urine Colour
- How to Tell if You’re Dehydrated: The Signs of Dehydration
- Signs of Dehydration
- 1. Why am I so thirsty?
- 2. Why is my Urine Dark?
- 3. Fuzzy Head?
- Think you’re dehydrated? Take action.
- This article takes information from a large number of scientific studies, and simplifies it down into the key points from the most recent research into hydration.)
- This chart from the Food and Nutrition Board shows the recommended amounts of water and other substances you should be taking. It’s grouped by age and gender, so you can easily lookup how much you should be drinking.
- The UK’s National Health Service offers advice for all sorts of different health problems. This article clearly sets out the core symptoms of dehydration.
- Urinecolours.com helps you evaluate your health from the color of your urine. They’ve published a great fact sheet and color chart to help you assess your hydration status.)
- Ana Adan (2012) Cognitive Performance and Dehydration, Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 31:2, 71-78, DOI: 10.1080/07315724.2012.10720011 (This article looks into the evidence for a correlation between dehydration and brain function.)
- Why Do I Have Clear Urine?
- Thirsty And Dehydrated But You’r Drinking 2 Litres A Day?
- You Asked: What Can My Pee Tell Me About My Health?
- Thank you!
- Does Peeing Clear Really Mean You’re Hydrated?
- So, why are we obsessed with checking urine color?
- What Hydration Research Says
- Consequences for Athletes
- The Best Hydration Metric Might Not Be the Most Convenient
- So, should you be bothered about the color of your pee at all?
- Dehydration and Aging
How Can You Tell If You’re Dehydrated?
Your skin loses water by sweating when it’s hot. You also lose moisture through skin in cooler weather because the air is drier. Check your skin for signs of dehydration such as:
- roughness or flaking
- flushing or redness
- cracked skin or lips
- cold or clammy skin
- tightening or shrinking (less plump skin)
Your mouth and tongue may feel dry or sticky when you’re dehydrated. You might also have bad breath.
Your body needs plenty of water to make saliva or spit. When you’re dehydrated, you have less saliva. This causes more bacteria to grow in your mouth. Brushing your teeth and drinking plenty of water helps to get rid of odor-causing bacteria.
You may be able to tell if you’re dehydrated by looking at your urine. Dark yellow to amber urine means you may have mild to severe dehydration. You can usually tell you have healthy hydration levels if your urine is very light in color.
You may also urinate less than normal when dehydrated.
Dehydration can cause or worsen constipation. You may have difficult or fewer bowel movements if you’re not getting enough water. Your stool may look dry or like small lumps.
Water is needed to help digest food and move waste along your digestive tract. Drink plenty of water to stay regular.
5. Thirst and hunger
Thirst is a sign your body needs more water. You may also feel hungrier when you’re dehydrated.
A medical review found that adults who were dehydrated often had a higher body weight. More research is needed on the link between dehydration and hunger. Getting plenty of water may help reduce food cravings. Adults who weigh more also need more water to stay hydrated.
6. Blood pressure
About 55 percent of your blood is liquid. Water loss can lower your blood volume and affect blood pressure.
The American Heart Association lists dehydration as a cause of low blood pressure. Drinking water helps balance blood pressure.
Medical research shows that dehydration can make you feel tired even when you’re rested. Men in a study on dehydration reported they felt fatigue, lethargy, and tiredness. These symptoms may be due to low blood pressure caused by dehydration. Being properly hydrated helps raise energy levels.
You may have a headache even if you’re mildly dehydrated. A study found that women being just 1.36 percent dehydrated triggered headaches.
Headache pain may be linked to low blood pressure due to water loss. Drinking water may help raise blood pressure and ease symptoms.
Dehydration can cause nausea and dizziness. The nausea may lead to vomiting. This makes you lose even more water, worsening symptoms.
Nausea may also be linked to low blood pressure caused by dehydration.
Severe dehydration can lead to fainting. You may feel lightheaded or faint when you stand up suddenly after sitting or lying down. These symptoms may happen when dehydration lowers your blood volume and blood pressure.
11. Heart effects
Dehydration can lead to a pounding heart. A fast heartbeat and quick breathing may be a sign of severe dehydration.
Water loss leads to lower blood volume. This makes the heart work harder to move blood throughout your body. Getting hydrated raises blood volume and returns your heart rate to normal.
12. Brain function
Your brain is more than 70 percent water. Research on men in their 20s found that dehydration slows some types of brain function. It can affect alertness, concentration and memory. Study participants made more mistakes on vision and memory tests when they were dehydrated.
Another study showed that even slight dehydration can cause driving mistakes. This includes drifting across lanes and slowed reaction time while braking. The results found that driving while dehydrated can worsen driving skills as much as if you were at the legal alcohol limit (0.08 percent in the United States), or if you were driving while sleep deprived.
Medical research found that dehydration may make your brain more sensitive to pain. Men in the study showed more pain activity in the brain when they were dehydrated than when they were given plenty of water to drink.
Studies on both men and women found that dehydration made individuals feel anxious, tense, or depressed. Adults reported their mood was lower. Tasks seemed more difficult when they were dehydrated. Mood changes, such as confusion or irritability, are signs of serious dehydration.
Understanding your urine colour is a good way to know whether or not you are dehydrated. What goes in must come out, and what comes out can tell us a lot about our health, specifically the yellow shade of your urine! Although there are other ways to note when you are dehydrated, your urine’s colour can tell you a lot about your hydration status. Many urine colours look similar, but the slight differences between them are important to notice.
What You Drink Affects How Often You Urinate
If you’re drinking a lot of liquid, you’ll naturally have to use the bathroom more frequently. Not all liquids are equal however. Drinks like alcohol or coffee act as diuretics, which means that they make you pee more. Using the bathroom more often can lead to mild to moderate dehydration, so monitoring how often you’re going (as well as urine colour) will help you manage your hydration. Choosing to drink water or oral rehydration solutions, alongside other drinks (alcohol, coffee, even sodas or sports drinks which contain lots of unnecessary sugar) is super important.
Testing Your Urine Colour
Before evaluating the colour of your urine, it’s important to consider how you are testing it. Urine colour will vary when comparing urine in a clear cup versus in a bathroom. Because of the varying levels of water in a toilet bowl, viewing urine in a toilet may be diluted and will change your perceived result. Additionally, if you are using the bathroom multiple times with different toilets it may be difficult to compare the colours due to slightly different levels of water. A toilet with more water will automatically make your urine look lighter in colour than it actually is, falsely indicating hydration.
When Things Don’t Look Normal: What Does the Colour of Your Urine Mean?
Something to note is that your urine may be a different colour than your baseline for a number of reasons. Many medications and medical conditions, or even food dyes, can alter the colour of your urine. If you ever see something that concerns you, such as dark or red urine with no identifiable cause, be sure to contact your physician immediately.
If you start to notice a dark or darkening urine, this can indicate mild dehydration symptoms and means you should manage it quickly with an oral rehydration solution and/or consult your doctor or local pharmacist.
The Urine Colour Chart: Urine Colour from Crystal Clear to Mellow Yellow
This colour gradient can give you an idea of your hydration status based on urine colour:
Clear: You likely are overhydrating. This is acceptable but should not be your default. Feel free to cut back on your water intake.
Pale yellow: A healthy urine colour and sign of ideal hydration. Continue consuming water at your current frequency.
Light straw colour: A healthy urine colour and sign of ideal hydration. Continue consuming water at your current frequency.
Yellow: You are pretty well hydrated but are on the line of approaching dehydration. You could benefit from another glass of water.
Dark yellow: You are presenting mild dehydration symptoms. Drink more water!
Amber: You are dehydrated and definitely not taking in enough water. Drink more water now and consider supplementing your hydration with an oral rehydration solution, like Hydralyte.
Orange or darker: You are showing signs of severe dehydration. Depending on other symptoms, you may need to contact your healthcare provider immediately, who may prescribe you to take an oral rehydration solution among other options for managing your dehydration.
How to Tell if You’re Dehydrated: The Signs of Dehydration
Signs of Dehydration
1. Why am I so thirsty?
Your body has many ways to tell you that you’re dehydrated. Thirst is perhaps the most direct. You probably drink water a few times a day when your body prompts you to, but many of us don’t pay close enough attention to thirst. It’s simple enough to test for dehydration: Take a glass of water and start drinking—if you can drink the whole thing comfortably, you’re probably dehydrated. You should drink 2-4 liters of fluids a day. If you don’t, you run the risk of dehydration . Even feeling slightly thirsty is a good indicator that you should have a drink.
Other dehydration symptoms are also related to thirst, such as having a dry or sticky feeling in your mouth or around your lips. Licking your lips is a great way to test if you’re dehydrated: the drier they are, the more likely you’re dehydrated. You might even find that your eyes feel dry when you blink as well .
2. Why is my Urine Dark?
Your pee is perhaps the clearest indicator of your hydration state.
Urine is made of two things: water, and waste from your body. Healthy pee is a light golden color and of a reasonable amount, perhaps enough to fill a soda can. As you become dehydrated, your body will start to add less and less water to your pee. But, you will still need to get rid of the same amount of waste, so your pee will become more and more concentrated. This means it gets darker and darker in color, you’ll begin to pee less frequently, perhaps only 3 times a day, and in smaller amounts. It might even burn when you pee, or smell particularly strong, because your urine is so concentrated with waste from your body, with not much water to dilute it .
Your pee can also tell you if you’re over-hydrated. The fluids in your body are made up of water mixed with salts. If you produce large amounts of clear pee then you’re probably hydrated with the wrong balance—too much water and not enough salt. It’s important to keep an eye on this too, as proper hydration involves the right water-salt balance.
3. Fuzzy Head?
Being even slightly dehydrated can give you a headache. You might also feel dizzy, or light-headed. However, headaches can be due to countless other things, so it can be hard to tell if your headache means you’re dehydrated. You’ll need to use some other indicators to help.
If you’re feeling sluggish or tired, or you’re struggling to concentrate it might be a sign that you’re dehydrated . As you get more and more dehydrated, your body will start to discourage you from doing anything other than the basics, so that you can conserve fluids.
If you’re still not sure if it’s dehydration that’s bothering you, your general mood might also be an indicator. Grumpy? Irritable? Lethargic? These things can all mean that you’re dehydrated.
Finally, if you’ve recently exercised, or have an upset tummy, there’s a good chance you’re dehydrated.
Think you’re dehydrated? Take action.
Water has an essential role in keeping you at peak physical performance, controlling the temperature of your body, keeping your brain alert, and even keeping your gut in check . If you’re not well hydrated, your body won’t be able to keep up with your normal awesome self. But lots of things can slow you down, so how can you tell dehydration is the problem?
While filling up your water bottle, check in with yourself: Are you feeling thirsty? What color was your last pee? Is your head feeling a bit fuzzy? It’s ok! Just take a swig, and you’ve already taken action.
Each of these symptoms are likely the result of imbalanced fluid intake. You may be drinking too little (or too much!) water, or maybe your electrolyte balance is a bit out of whack. Drinking fluids containing the right balance of water and salts will restore your hydration balance, and get you feeling right as rain. (psst check out Hydrant for how to get the right salt balance. We’ve done all the math and science for you!)
In some cases, dehydration can become so severe that you’ll need to seek medical attention. But by using these simple check-ins as indicators of hydration TLC, you can get your body back on track.
Author: Ailsa McKinlay. Ailsa is a student in Medicine and Theology at the University of Oxford, with special interest in public healthcare and health education.
Why Do I Have Clear Urine?
From drinking excessive amounts of water to having an underlying medical condition, there are many potential causes of colorless, clear urine. Some of the most common include:
Having diabetes can cause a symptom known as polyuria, or excessive urination. This occurs when a person has abnormally high blood sugar. The kidneys will work to excrete excess sugar along with much more water than usual.
Additional symptoms of uncontrolled diabetes include:
- weight loss
- feeling very thirsty
- sweet-smelling or fruity breath
If symptoms go untreated, you can experience dehydration or a life-threatening condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis.
Diabetes insipidus is a medical condition that causes your body to make an excess amount of urine — anywhere from 3 to 20 quarts per day. To put that in perspective, most people only pass 1 to 2 quarts of urine per day.
The condition can cause you to drink large amounts of fluids as a means to compensate for your urine output.
Four main types of diabetes insipidus exist:
- Central. This type is when a person has a history of damage to the brain and the hormone vasopressin isn’t produced normally.
- Nephrogenic. Nephrogenic diabetes insipidus (NDI) occurs when a person’s kidneys don’t respond well to the hormone vasopressin.
- Dipsogenic. The dipsogenic type is caused by a defect in the thirst mechanism, located in the hypothalamus.
- Gestational. This type occurs during pregnancy, when there’s damage or injury to the part of the brain that controls thirst.
Sometimes when you take diuretics, or medications intended to promote urination and lower blood pressure, you can have excess urine that’s clear.
Examples of diuretics include:
- furosemide (Lasix)
- bumetanide (Bumex)
While many medical experts encourage people to stay hydrated, a fine line exists. Sometimes people can drink too much water. As a result, their urine can be very clear.
This is also a concern because too much water can dilute the blood and lower a person’s sodium to dangerous levels. In rare instances, the effects of very low sodium can be fatal.
Conditions such as salt-wasting nephropathy or damage to the kidneys can cause the kidneys to get rid of excess salt which can also cause urine without color.
Women can experience a form of diabetes insipidus in pregnancy called gestational diabetes insipidus. This can occur when a women’s placenta makes an enzyme that destroys vasopressin, a hormone that can influence urine output.
It can also occur when certain hormones interfere with the function of vasopressin. Most cases of gestational diabetes insipidus are mild and will resolve when a woman is no longer pregnant.
These are just some examples of potential causes. Rarer medical conditions can also lead to clear, colorless urine.
Thirsty And Dehydrated But You’r Drinking 2 Litres A Day?
This is such a common scenario and I find I run into people more and more these days who are super dehydrated yet they are carrying around their water bottle with them everywhere and drinking the suggested 2 litres or more a day. In fact, this was me 5-6 years ago, when I knew no better.
You see, we understand that we need to be drinking water and that hydration is the key to glowing skin and shining bright eyes, but if that water is running straight through you and you’re on the toilet every 1/2 hour, this is telling you that your water isn’t being absorbed. Another tell tale sign is that despite all your efforts and the amount of water you are consuming, you are still dying of thirst.
In order for your body to absorb and assimilate water it needs to contain minerals, this is what helps the liquid penetrate into your cells and replenish them. Without those minerals, it is as if the water is heading through a fast running pipe.
It’s important to understand that each and every day you need to address your bodies hydration levels. On average a female needs to consume around 2 litres and a male 3 litres of water that contains minerals. Or to be more precise, 0.033 x your body weight. Water is crucial for proper hydration of your joints, ligaments, muscles and other tissues as well as the key to the proper thermoregulation of your body. The average person loses nearly 3 litres of water via breath, sweat and urine. When you then add in a workout, excessive heat and other factors you will require extra hydration.
Knowing now the importance of hydration, here is the crucial factor to take home with you. It doesn’t matter how much water you are drinking because if your body can’t absorb it, you will remain dehydrated. The other thing to understand is that clear coloured pee is not a sign that you are healthy. In fact, if your pee is clear you could still be dehydrated. Your pee is supposed to be yellow, this means your body is cleansing and detoxifying your system properly and drawing out what it is designed to. Clear colour pee or aiming to have clear coloured pee is not a good idea. We want our body to be functioning optimally and flooding your system with liquid it can’t absorb is going to lead you into a frustrated path and more likely than not in some awkward situation where you are trapped somewhere and needing to go to the toilet disparately.
So how do you become more hydrated and get the benefits from your water?
Natural spring water that is pumped from the earth is called artesian water. It contains all the amazing nutrients and minerals from the earth to help hydrate the body. The problem is today we are either drinking tap water that is heavily chlorinated or naked filtered water stripped of everything……or worse still water bought in plastic bottles that have been sitting in the heat of our cars leaching hormone disruptors into it.
The key is you want to try and replicate this natural artesian water as much as possible and provide your body with mineral-rich water that it can absorb. Now, unfortunately, we can’t all have a fresh water spring out the back of our house so here is the way I tackle this.
First, you need to make sure you are drinking filtered water. Water that has been stripped of any chemicals that might be in your town supply. Then you simply add a pinch (1/8 teaspoon per litre) of Himalayan rock salt to your water. This then adds the minerals back into the water and allows your body to be able to absorb it again. You may notice how when you do this you end up having less trips to the toilet and you aren’t so thirsty.
When you are eating a clean nutrient dense diet without all the added preservatives and additives, we need to remember to add back in good quality salt. This is one of your best mineral supplements you can have. It’s loaded with them. So when you are drinking water without food, add a pinch of salt (minerals) to it and when you are consuming food add a pinch of salt to your food. To ensure your water stays in top form, use glass bottles to carry it around versus plastic which leaches hormone disrupters into your water.
You Asked: What Can My Pee Tell Me About My Health?
Of course, no one’s suggesting you stockpile your pee for further study. But taking a second or two to assess your urine can help you spot both minor and major health concerns.
As you probably know, the color of your urine is a pretty good gauge of your hydration levels, says Dr. Courtenay Moore, a urologist and surgeon with the Cleveland Clinic.
Moore says a pale straw color—almost clear, but not quite—is ideal. If your pee is crystal clear, you’re probably drinking too much H20, which can throw off your electrolyte balance in potentially harmful ways. “Your body can normally regulate its water and sodium levels pretty well,” Moore says. “But if your urine is clear and you’re peeing 20 times a day, you’re drinking water excessively.”
While almost any shade of yellow is considered “normal” when it comes to pee, Moore says darker hues indicate you need to drink more fluids, preferably water. Here’s why: Even slight dehydration can mess with your brain and body in some significant ways, says Dr. Harris Lieberman, a research psychologist with the U.S. Army.
Lieberman has looked into the ways dehydration can affect mood and cognitive function. “We found modest dehydration caused people’s moods to deteriorate,” he says. “People also felt more fatigued, and headaches were more common.” Also, cognitive performance suffers when you’re parched, especially among men. “Stuff like short-term memory, or the ability to pay attention to something for more than a minute or two, tended to drop off,” Lieberman says.
Water is so vital to your health that when you’re short on it, your brain seems to have problems attending to other matters. “Dehydration creates warning signals that the brain translates as a problem—and one you need to take care of promptly,” Lieberman says.
Hydration aside, Moore says she and other urologists worry most about red-colored urine. “It could just be that the person has eaten beets or rhubarb,” she says. “But it could also indicate bladder cancer or a kidney stone, even if there’s no accompanying pain.” If you do feel pain and your pee has a red hue, that’s likely a urinary tract infection, Moore says. In any case, if you ditch beets and the red remains, you need to see your doctor.
Brown or “tea-colored” urine often signals a kidney issue. “Or the person has eaten fava beans,” Moore says. Orange urine could indicate a liver or bile duct condition, while some medications or food dyes can turn your pee blue or green. Likewise, some supplements or multivitamins produce bright yellow urine, almost electric in color.
When it comes to the smell of your pee, “odor is not predictive of much,” Moore says. But extra bubbly or foamy pee could mean you have too much protein in your diet. If the foaming persists, see a doctor about potential kidney issues.
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Finally, if you notice air pockets in your urine, almost like passing gas via your urethra, that’s trouble, Moore says. “It means some other organ—usually the colon—is communicating with your bladder.” Diverticulitis and other health issues could explain air in your pee. Regardless, you need to let your doctor know about it, Moore says.
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Does Peeing Clear Really Mean You’re Hydrated?
Every time I visit the locker room of a pro sports team I make sure I visit the restrooms.
Often I’m genuinely answering the call of nature. But even if I don’t really need to pee, I’ll usually make an excuse to go and take a quick look, out of professional interest.
Now, I know that sounds a bit weird, but hear me out. What I tend to look for is an ‘Armstrong Chart’ pasted up on the wall above the facilities.
Armstrong Charts look a bit like a paint color swatch you’d find in any hardware store. They show a range of 8 hues gradually transitioning from off-white, through various shades of yellow, to finish on a nasty greenish looking brown.
These charts can be found in nearly all bathrooms in elite sports facilities. I’ve spotted them in the toilets of just about every single NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, NCAA College, Premier League soccer and rugby team that I’ve visited over the last 10 years.
So, why are we obsessed with checking urine color?
The Armstrong Charts take their name from Dr. Lawrence E Armstrong, who ‘invented’ the concept of taking a close interest in your urine output and he’s most famous for attempting to validate his chart’s accuracy for predicting hydration status in two papers published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition in 1994 and 1998.
The messaging that accompanies these charts is that if your pee color is within the 1-3 (pale) range, then you’re ‘well hydrated.’ If you’re somewhere in the middle (4-6) you might well need to drink more. And if—heaven forbid—you find yourself in the 7-8 (dark) area; you’re definitely classified as ‘dehydrated’.
In the team sports environment, these posters are often appended with provocative statements from team management. If you’re not in the 1-3 zone, you’re letting yourself down, you’re letting your teammates down and you need to DRINK MORE!
I believe the charts—and the widespread and vigorous promotion of the research that helped to validate them—are the main reason sports people are often obsessed with the color of their pee (and what that means for their hydration status).
But, recent research has cast some doubt over exactly how valid using only urine markers to monitor hydration status might be all of the time.
What Hydration Research Says
I asked the lead author of the recent British Medical Journal paper ‘Dehydration is how you define it: comparison of 318 blood and urine athlete spot checks’, Dr Tamara Hew-Butler (with whom we actually collaborated with on some research into the cause of hyponatremia in sports last year) to give me a quick summary of what she thought the main take home points from her research were for athletes.
Hew-Butler said that “equating dehydration with urine that is “less than clear” (i.e. yellow to brown) has become popular among sports coaches and trainers, because testing urine is cheap and easy. Plus, the color chart is very cool and makes everyone feel as if they’re an expert.”
She added that the science behind these urine color charts mainly came from looking at the accuracy between urine variables (i.e. color versus urine specific gravity versus urine osmolality) with changes in body weight (also cheap and easy to measure).
“Very few studies looked at urine versus blood variables. Studies (like ours) that looked at blood markers of cellular hydration (which is what doctors look at when assessing hydration status in patients) found NO relationship between cellular dehydration (blood sodium above 145mmol/L or “hypernatremia”) and urine concentration” says Hew-Butler.
Our body defends against cellular dehydration by changing the amount of water retained or lost by the body. So, dark colored urine just means that our body is retaining water to protect cell size.
Essentially Dr Hew-Butler says that, while there’s definitely a relationship between how much we drink and the color of our pee, it doesn’t necessarily always correlate with our actual hydration status at a blood and cellular level (where it really matters).
Consequences for Athletes
I find this extremely interesting because I’ve increasingly felt that our obsession with ‘peeing clear’ is not necessarily a completely helpful message to be promoting to athletes. Because the “clear pee = well hydrated” message has been pushed so hard, I’ve witnessed highly motivated athletes over-drinking routinely in a bid to always pass large quantities of transparent urine. They believe that anything less than clear is somehow sub-optimal.
I’ve also seen pressure put on athletes by coaches or sports medicine staff. Sometimes they’ll actively test ‘urine specific gravity’ or ‘urine osmolality’ on a daily basis, with punishments for athletes who present with dark colored urine. This can often result in some significant over-drinking going on before pee tests, and even the watering down of urine samples in the changing rooms. I kid you not. Pro tip: if you’re going to do this, use the hot tap, otherwise the Pee Test Officer may become suspicious when you hand over a cup of stone-cold pee.
Placing such specific and heavy emphasis on urine color as THE critical hydration metric incentivizes athletes to focus on over-drinking, rather than just drinking appropriately. It also fails to adequately promote the message that, although being chronically dehydrated is definitely bad, so too is chronically over-drinking. Hyponatremia (the dilution of the body’s sodium levels due to excessive water), can easily ruin your event, and can even be life-threatening in the extreme.
The Best Hydration Metric Might Not Be the Most Convenient
There’s a proven tendency in sports medicine (and—to be fair—in most walks of life) to focus on measuring and improving metrics that can be easily measured/quantified. This is what seems to have happened in the quest to quantify hydration status, after all, it’s something that most coaches and athletes are, quite correctly, interested in getting right.
The issue, as mentioned in the study above, is that while urine color can be somewhat indicative of hydration status, there is not a linear relationship between actual hydration status and the color of your pee. Numerous other things can affect the color of your pee, including:
- Drinking alcohol
- Drinking a lot of tea, coffee or other mildly diuretic drinks
- Swimming in cold water (due to cold diuresis and/or immersion diuresis)
- Drinking a large amount of plain water in a very short space of time
- Certain medications
Boiling hydration down (pun intended) to an overly simplistic chart misses many important nuances and creates the potential to misinterpret a key message. It can even drive behaviors that aren’t actually helpful. i.e. to promote over-drinking.
It makes me think of the famous quote that is often attributed to Einstein; ‘Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.’
So, should you be bothered about the color of your pee at all?
Despite the weaknesses of the ‘Armstrong Chart approach,’ I do still think that keeping an eye on the color of your pee can be a useful tool in helping to manage your hydration status, as long as it’s not the only tool you use.
If you’re regularly nearer to the ‘8’ end of the scale than the ‘1’, then it might be worth experimenting with taking in a little more water or sports drinks, especially around times when you’re working hard and sweating a lot. See how that makes you feel and whether it’s of benefit.
And if you’re always seeing 1-2 colored pee, then maybe you could think about dialing back your fluid intake a touch to see if you’re over-doing it a bit.
Again, how you feel overall after making these adjustments will give you the best idea of whether you’re better or worse off as a result, and that is of course what actually matters most of all. But I do think it’s important that we start to move away from the overly simplistic idea that if your pee is clear you’re definitely hydrated, and if it’s not, you’re definitely not.
If what you’ve read here has piqued your interest and you’re keen to get a more detailed handle on how your hydration status is fluctuating on a day-to-day basis, I wrote another blog on ‘how to tell if you’re dehydrated.
Dehydration and Aging
Dehydration occurs when your body doesn’t have enough water and other fluids to function normally. Dehydration can happen to anyone, but it is a problem that is more common in people who are older.
Your body loses water every day when you breath, perspire, urinate, and have bowel movements. For your body to work right, you need to keep it well hydrated.
As you age, your sense of thirst lessens and the kidney isn’t able to conserve body water as well. Over the age of 50, you may feel tired and draggy rather than thirsty, and may opt for a nap instead of a tall glass of water. If you remain dehydrated, you can end up suffering complications, some of which can be serious.
Drugs Can Dry You Out
Medications — not only diuretics that make you urinate more water, but also drugs for blood pressure and other cardiac conditions — can compound the effect of dehydration on blood pressure.
These medications are usually taken first thing in the morning and reach their peak effect in the late morning. Sometimes eating a meal high in salt can shift body fluid to the stomach and intestine to aid digestion, which is a perfect recipe for making you faint if you are already dehydrated.
Other, more serious, complications may include heatstroke, swelling of the brain, seizures, kidney failure, and, if you become severely dehydrated, even death.
For mild dehydration look out for:
- Dry, sticky mouth
- Sleepiness or tiredness
- Decreased urine
Severe dehydration, which is a medical emergency, may cause:
- Extreme thirst
- Irritability and confusion
- Very dry mouth, skin, and mucous membranes
- Lack of sweating
- Little or no urination
- Low blood pressure
- Rapid heartbeat
- Delirium or unconsciousness
Thirst sometimes is not a good gauge of how much water your body needs, especially for older adults. A better way to check is to look at the color of your urine: clear or light-colored urine means you’re getting enough water, and dark yellow urine may mean you’re dehydrated.
The best way to prevent dehydration is to make sure you drink enough water and eat plenty of foods high in water content such as fruits and vegetables. Also remember that your body needs more water if you live in a hot climate, you are sick, or you are exercising.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends adults drink almost 2 liters of water a day — that’s about eight 8-ounce glasses. The Institute of Medicine recommends adults drink 3.7 liters of water a day (or roughly 15 8-ounce glasses daily).
Most doctors recommend drinking eight or nine glasses of water a day. If you have a chronic medical condition, such as congestive heart failure, talk to your doctor first about how much fluid you require.
Anytime you are feeling faint, tired, or dizzy, don’t just go lie down. Consider that your body is trying to tell you something — and it could be that it’s thirsty. Go get a glass of water. It could change your whole day!