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YES! At last it’s starting to feel a little bit summery outside. It’s been great to be able to actually get outside comfortably and feel the sunshine and dig in the dirt. That’s my idea of fun in the sun anyway, digging in the dirt gardening. I spent literally all day yesterday outside weeding, planting, wheelbarrowing, mulching, raking, pruning — and today woke up with a whammo of a headache, not to mention a few body aches. My problem? I was so busy digging, I didn’t do enough drinking.

I focused on my flowers and forgot to hydrate my cells.

So, while I drank my water this morning, I did a little research into dehydration headaches. The Institute of Medicine says when we don’t have enough fluid in our bodies, the hundred trillion cells in our body start to shrink and shrivel, including those in our brain. Our brain is 85 percent water so that makes it super sensitive to depletion. When our brain cells lose water, our brain literally pulls away from our skull, which triggers pain receptors in our meninges, the membrane that surrounds our brain. So, if someone tells you your dehydration headache is all in your head, they’re right!

Not having enough fluid in our body also thickens our blood which can monkey with our blood pressure. That’s no good.

Not only do our cells shrivel without water, they can start to malfunction. A good way to witness that is your outdoor plants.  Have you ever gotten home from a long, hot day at work and your outdoor plants have gone limp? Or return from a summer weekend away to find your petunias nearly toasted from too much heat and not enough water? If you don’t water them in time, they go from limp to lousy to lost. Same thing happens with the cells in our body. They can go on autopilot for a bit of time thanks to mother nature, but at some point, we have to pay attention to how much we are watering them.

The fix to your underwatered cells? Start sipping. But not slamming. Just like your outdoor plants need a sprinkle of water daily, not a deep douse or they’ll flood in their pots, slow, steady sipping of water is a much more effective way for your body to absorb water than guzzling it. If you drink too much, too fast, it will go right through your gut and out before it does any good. Over-hydration can also swell your cells and dilute your blood’s sodium level which can lead to a condition called hyponatremia, or low sodium concentration in your blood. It’s all about balance!

Those same folks at the Institute of Medicine tell us that gals should take in just over 90 ounces of water a day and guys about 125 ounces.  Here in the gym at Rejuv Medical, we advise our clients to drink half their body weight in ounces per day which is a good, customized rule of thumb. We also say to stick to water and steer clear of high-sugar fluids such as fruit juices and sweet teas. Pop, both regular and diet, is a definite no-no for many reasons. Some of the folks in the hyponatremia camp will vote yes for sports drinks because they help you replace electrolytes (sodium and potassium) that you lose when you sweat, and they have a point, but again the 21 grams of sugar per 12 ounces is something to consider as well.  Careful salt supplementation can help equally as well to avoid hyponatremia.

You don’t necessarily have to drink your entire water goal. Juicy foods like watermelon, apples, citrus fruits, even lettuce and broccoli can help do the trick. Plus, the fiber in those foods is fantastic for our systems as well!  Don’t fall into the trap of store-bought smoothies claim to be healthy — some of those bottled beverages contain as much sugar as five glazed doughnuts!

Our goal? Get water into our cells. Water is the ultimate mechanism for us to remove toxins and oxidants from our bodies. We all have them just by living, breathing and eating so there are none of us who are immune from the need to detoxify and constant, fresh hydration is the ticket.

One hydration study that I read said being well hydrated on a cellular level slows down and can even reverse biological aging. Well, I’m not sure that drinking fresh water is the fountain of youth, but it certainly is a great habit to get into if you want to keep your insides as vital as possible. Here’s what I do know, two-thirds of our body is water and almost all of that is within our cells and lymph system. Replenishing it often feels great. So listen to your body. Don’t let it go dry.

So whatever you like to do in the sun, boating, golfing, running, sunning – be sure to drink up. And fill that red solo cup with water. It’ll do you good. And prevent brain shrinkage.

Written by: Kirsten Freeman