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The surprising effects of dehydration

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The surprising effects of dehydration

[How not drinking enough water can affect everything from joints to body weight.]

Yesterday I was hanging with some health-conscious friends and their cherubic children, when they played a pretty neat trick on the kids.

(Don’t worry - it was well intentioned.)

They told the kids to stretch out their fingers and pinch the skin on top of a knuckle. If it stayed standing up, they were seriously parched - and should drink more water immediately.

Of course, this bit of skin is tough and leathery enough to hold a pinch for a while, regardless of hydration.

But to the kids, this physical ‘proof’ was enough to get them quaffing water with enthusiasm.

I thought it was a hilarious ploy to encourage healthy drinking habits, but also got me thinking about the real signs of dehydration - and how even a slight H20 deficiency can wreak havoc in the body.

Water is life

Hydration is one of our Five Foundations of Health for a reason: without water, there is no life.

Getting your intake right is one of the simplest and easiest ways to feel better… yet, so often overlooked.

There are billions of chemical reactions taking place in the body in every moment. And you know what they all require? Water.

Water is in every cell, organ and tissue; regulating temperature, lubricating joints and surfaces, circulating nutrients, assisting with detoxification, aiding digestion and keeping you alive.

Being even 20% short of your daily fluid requirements can leave you:

Not thinking straight


Fatigued and de-energized

With dry lips, mouth, eyes and skin

Feeling irritable

Hungrier than usual (did you know that thirst also triggers hunger pangs?)

Prone to injury

Toxic (the liver needs water to get rid of toxins, and without enough, they’re reabsorbed)

Long term, dehydration can:

Promote weight gain - a combination of toxicity, increased hunger and low energy caused by dehydration can promote body fat storage and leave you feeling blah

Lead to muscle tightness, stiffness and soreness - water is needed to nourish these tissues and keep them plump, supple and resilient

Increase the risk of joint and tissue injury - when there’s not enough water to go ‘round, your body scavenges it from joints and connective tissue, leaving them vulnerable.

Even longer term? Who’s to say. But surely feeling good in the moment is enough to inspire a healthy respect for hydration.

But wait! Too much water is dangerous, too.

Right now is probably a good time to acknowledge that there’s a sweet spot for fluid intake.

More is not always better, and water in excess is also a problem. Our cells need sodium and minerals to function, and our digestive secretions don’t take kindly to being diluted either. Too much water throws this delicate balance out, and can be lethal in high enough doses (known as hyponatremia).

It’s important to discover the perfect ‘dose’ for you, and start meeting it daily - that is, until your natural thirst cues kick in and staying hydrated becomes a cinch.

(Many of us are so disconnected from physical sensations - hunger, thirst, fatigue, satiation - that we need to ‘re-learn’ how to trust, and be guided by, our bodily wisdom.)

How much water do you actually need?

Here’s a handy chart we made using a petite gal of 55kg as an example. Use the formula to calculate your own needs, accounting for activity levels, weather and intake of tea/coffee/stimulants.

Quality matters

Just like carrots ain’t carrots, and not all eggs are created equal, there’s better and worse water, too.

For urbanites (like most of the Enliven cohort) accessing town water rather than rain, we recommend investing in a good quality filter. If it can remove fluoride, all the better.

Adding a pinch of himalayan/sea salt to your water is also a great idea to maintain sodium/mineral balance and aid in hydration - especially if you’ve been sweating it out.

If you have questions about brands of filter we recommend, or anything else regarding hydration, just ask.

We’re always available on Facebook (well, when we’re not sleeping, eating, meditation or training), or give us a tinkle at the studio.  

So, cheers to you, your hydrated cells, and another rock solid Foundation of Health.



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To your health,

Michael Wilson


Senior Exercise Practitioner

Holistic Health & Nutritional Coach

Manual Therapist

Functional Movement Specialist

Rehab Trainer

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