Could Chronic Dehydration Be Shrinking Your Brain?
Our brains are 80% water. When we fail to replace the fluids lost through sweat, our bodies borrow water from the cells in the brain for use in essential processes elsewhere. This causes the cells in the brain to wither and shrink.
As the brain shrinks it pulls away from the skull, putting stress on the area around it giving us a dehydration headache.
But just how much does the brain shrink exactly?
A team of scientists in the UK found that 90 minutes of sweating without replenishing lost fluids shrinks the brain as much as a year of ageing. It also causes withering equivalent to two and half months of Alzheimer’s disease.
The same study revealed that dehydration not only effects the size of the brain, but how hard it works.
At just 1.1% body water weight loss (about 1.1% dehydration), researchers observed increased neural effort when performing common cognitive tasks, effecting short term memory, long term memory recall, arithmetic and general problem solving.
The good news is these effects can be easily reversed by rehydrating with adequate amounts of fluid.
The bad news is that staying hydrated is sometimes easier said than done. Research suggests that most Australians do not consume sufficient amounts of fluid to replace the fluid that is lost each day and that many of us are walking around in a state of perpetual dehydration.
In adults, chronic dehydration not only impairs cognitive performance but can lead to a whole host of other problems including constant headaches, fatigue, weight gain, digestive problems, kidney stones, depression, and cancer of the bladder, prostate and kidney.
Chronic Dehydration – Treatment
Don’t rely on thirst to determine fluid requirements. On average the thirst response does not kick in until you are 2% dehydrated. Constant dehydration can cause you to lose sensitivity to water deprivation so the thirst response is even further delayed. By the time you feel compelled to drink the adverse effects of dehydration will have already taken hold.
Instead, adopt a proactive approach to fluid intake. Aim to drink about 180-250ml of water every hour throughout the 8 hour work day. During hot weather, labour intensive work or exercise this amount should be increased. The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists recommends workers aim to consume 250mls every 20mins when working in the heat. These are all only recommendations however, and actual fluid requirements vary depending on body type, level of activity, level of personal fitness, and environmental conditions.
For best results, focus on drinking small amounts frequently throughout the work day. Do not attempt to down large amounts of fluid in one go. Your body can only absorb small amounts of water at a time and excess water is held in the stomach making you feel bloated and uncomfortable.
Last but not least, don’t forget your electrolytes. When we sweat we don’t just lose water but also essential salts known as electrolytes. Electrolytes play a key role in water retention and if not replaced, will impede the aborption of water and prevent your body rehydrating.
For fast electrolyte replenishment on the go, add some THORZT electrolyte powder to your drink bottle.