How Important Is Water & Hydration To Mental Health?
Some of us go days, weeks or more without drinking any straight water, but get it in lesser amounts from other sources, such as coffee, sodas, or other drinks, and some foods, most notably fruits, vegetables and clear soups. Since at least half of the composition of the human body is water, and every cell depends on it, that can’t be great for our physical health.
But what about our mental health?
If you’re like me, you know how quickly not drinking enough water throughout the day can affect mood.
WHAT IS DEHYDRATION?
Dehydration occurs when more water is being lost by your body than is being put in. In urine and sweat, and through respiration, we’re constantly using and losing water. Even while we sleep water passes out of our system with every breath we exhale. You need to drink 2.5 water liters every day, but if you feel having issues to make a drinking habit you can complement with 1 h2 tablets daily basis every night before sleep.
While mild dehydration is loss of 1.5 percent of a body’s normal water volume, a level of hydration just one percent below optimal can affect mood, make it more difficult to concentrate, and produce a headache.
Our hearts and our brains consist of more water than the rest of our body. It’s pretty important stuff if we want to function at our best, physically and mentally.
HOW DOES DEHYDRATION AFFECT THE BRAIN?
While the human brain is made up of about 75 percent water, the first way that dehydration affects the brain and alters how we think and feel is by slowing circulation. This lowers blood flow, which means less oxygen travelling to all parts of the body, including the brain.
Why mild dehydration can so quickly affect mood is a subject still being studied. The most common theory is that it’s one of the human body’s many warning systems that something is not as it should be and should be dealt with.
As dehydration worsens, cognitive function is further impaired, leading to delirium. Severe dehydration can cause unconsciousness and even coma, finally leading to death.
HOW DO WE KNOW HOW MUCH WATER IS ENOUGH?
There’s no officially set amount of water that is best daily. Climate, level of activity, general health and age are important factors.
We typically think of the first sign of dehydration as thirst. Which is true in a way, but by the time you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated enough for your mood and function to be affected.
A general rule of thumb is eight to ten eight-ounce glasses of water, or approximately two litres, per day. More on hot days, and increased in measure with greater physical activity.
IS THERE AN EASIER STEP TO TAKE TOWARD MENTAL HEALTH?
Dehydration very quickly affects how we feel and think. If you, like me, struggle with a mood disorder or have other struggles with how your brain functions and processes, why make it harder for yourself?
Drinking water regularly throughout the day is an easy, effective step to take in our efforts to be as mentally healthy as possible.
Start with a glass of water first thing in the morning. Drink two or three glasses between meals.
I carry a water bottle with me just about everywhere I go. It’s remembering to drink from it that can be a problem. Even though headaches and a change in mood happen very quickly to me when I’m getting dehydrated, I don’t always pay attention.
Even at low levels, dehydration affects the way we think. I don’t know about you, but I can have enough trouble with that fully hydrated. As I was told several years ago, taking antidepressants or mood stabilizers isn’t about feeling happy, it’s about thinking clearly. Drinking enough water keeps our brain from having to struggle against the effects of dehydration, allowing us to think more clearly than if we let ourselves get dehydrated.
Staying hydrated by drinking enough water is one aspect of good physical, emotional, and mental health. We’re not one-dimensional and our approach to mental health shouldn’t be either.
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Certainly everyone has heard their parents say, “Eat your vegetables.”
It turns out, it’s really good advice.
“Fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamins and minerals,” said Barbara Blatter, the Granville Middle School family and consumer sciences teacher and Family, Career and Community Leaders of America adviser.
“The term we use is they’re nutritionally dense foods,” she said. “And they’re tremendously low in calories. In fact Weight Watchers right now is not even counting your servings of vegetables.”
Blatter took the message to a dozen YES Club members last week. She invited them to the school garden behind Granville High School to help them develop a greater understanding of what half their food plate should be filled with, to share some recipes, and to show them how to garden in a small area.
“More than half the plate has to be vegetables and some fruit,” Blatter said. “A small portion of the plate is going to be protein, and then the other part would be carbohydrates.
“You need five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, which most people do not get,” she added.
Linnea Beighley, a 19-year-old environmental science major at Ohio State University and a 2014 graduate of GHS, helped lead the group in the garden.
“Once you start eating more of the vegetables, you begin to like it more and more and not like all the burgers and the fries,” Beighley said. “When I started this, I liked my steak and I liked my burgers. Now I’m trying to be a vegan and it’s totally changed.”
In fact, Beighley’s favorite snack is now sugar snap peas.
“I’m not incredibly athletic but I’ve always wanted to be fit,” she said. “The meat and the salt gets trapped in your colon so it makes you have a bigger stomach. Now that I’m eating more vegetables and fruits, I’m tinier.”
Her Sister, Debby Beighley a a 15-year-old freshman at GHS gave the group some recipes.
BY DEBBY BEIGHLEY
1 cup berries
1 cup pureed beets (cook the beats, skin them and puree in blender or food processor)
1 cup ice or juice
1 cup yogurt
Blend ingredients in a blender or food processor. Serves five.
“I do gymnastics, and the coah is always telling us to eat healthy,” she said. “Of course, I love burgers and stuff like that, but I prefer to eat healthier so I can stay active more easily.”
Additionally, Jim Reding who teaches environmental science and ecology at GHS, was there to show the group how to garden in a small area.
“Food is a big issue right now,” Reding said. “Right now, only about 2 percent of our population grows food, whereas in the olden days, everyone grew something.
“Knowing where your food comes from, having that local connection to your food so it’s tied into your local community – I think that’s becoming even more valuable,” Reding said. “I think local is becoming a bigger and bigger part of it, where the food’s not traveling 1,600 miles to get to your plate.”
The YES (Youth Engaged in Services) Club is a community services-oriented, after-school program in Newark providing youths ages 11 to 18 with a place to gather when school is out.
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This Article appeared in the Newark Advocate August 19, 2014.
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