So many of you have experienced this: you juggle a million things and get it all done. You live on takeout and Diet Coke or another diet soda – too busy to cook! Then all of a sudden, things start falling apart. You start forgetting things, gain weight and feel fatigued despite getting enough sleep at night. Believe it or not, this is a common presentation of mild dehydration in my office. “Dehydration?” you will protest. “How can that be? I am drinking tons of diet soda isn’t it just a flavored seltzer?” The answer is: Not at all. It is well established that most sodas have caffeine, which acts as a diuretic. But Diet Coke and all other diet sodas pack a double whammy: they contain caffeine and zero calories sweeteners, and both act as diuretics.
Most common sweeteners like Aspartame, Splenda, and NutraSweet, work like a magnet on water molecules, drawing fluid from the body’s cells. My advice to these folks complaining of a brain fog and tiredness: quit soda, drink 6-8 cups of filtered tap or bottled spring water daily and balance your diet with fresh fruits and vegetables as they are all high in water content. You will feel the difference in your energy and concentration within 7-10 days. And your extra pounds and bloatedness will be gone within a month.
Truth be told, dehydration is especially common in the summer and it comes in many “flavors” – brain fog and fatigue are just
some of the symptoms I frequently encounter in the office. I also see many patients with constant joint and muscle aches. These
folks come in asking for arthritis and autoimmunity testing but after a careful evaluation, I often diagnose them with moderate
dehydration. And for good reason: Aging desensitizes the brain to thirst signals. Research shows that after 30 years of age, thirst sensors in the brain’s hypothalamus and pituitary gland become less responsive. Factors like chronic stress and low intake of Omega-3 fatty acids-found in foods like salmon and sardines – can further impair those sensors. People with this type of moderate dehydration should drink about 8-9 cups of filtered tap or spring water daily. Mineral water is not a good option because it has too much salt and electrolytes and that is not an issue here. Shortage of H2O is what needs to be addressed ASAP though. If you are an athlete who engages in rigorous physical exercise, consult with your doctor regarding the use of sports drinks and electrolytes in your regimen.
Dehydration can sneak up on you also when you are taking antihistamine medications. Claritin (loratadine), Allegra (fexofenadine) and Zyrtec (cetirizine) work by suppressing the action of histamines, inflammatory biochemical that produce symptoms like sneezing, itching, or watery eyes. Ironically, histamines normally also serve as a safeguard against dehydration. If water intake dips, histamine levels rise slightly to slow fluid loss from the body. To stay optimally hydrated during allergy or mosquito bite itchy season , use antihistamines only when needed, rather than automatically taking one every day.
As you can see, the body can become dehydrated without even registering thirst. To avoid developing symptoms like fatigue, brain
fog, and body aches, it is important to sip water throughout the day, and especially in the summer. When spending time in outdoor heat, take mini breaks to drink water in the shade. This will help cool the body and prevent sweating off too much water. Now that you are equipped with more information, have a safe and healthy summer!
Dr. Kogan is a Concierge Holistic Internal Medicine doctor in Naples. Her website is CustomLongevity.com