To better understand how hydration levels affect everything from fatigue and concentration to depression and anxiety, we consulted Kim Rose, RDN, CDCES, CNSC, a registered dietitian.
The relationship between hydration and mood
“Food is a dynamic opportunity that affects your mood,” Rose begins. (If you’ve ever experienced hangover, you probably know this very well.) “But food is not the only thing that can affect your mood and mood. Your hydration status can also.
Rose goes on to say that “the brain is the seat of the mind and that the mind influences mood.” And since the brain is made up of over 70 percent water, it makes sense that a dip in this percentage has the potential to affect your emotional and mental health. In fact, a 2018 study found that men who drank less than two cups of water a day had a 73% increased risk of depression, while women had a 54% increased risk. The researchers also observed a “dangerous but not statistically significant association” with stress – although the association is not completely ruled out. They also reported that participants who consumed more than five glasses of H2O daily had lower scores of depression and anxiety compared to the two-cup group.
“Some of the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder include headaches, fatigue and irritability,” says Rose. “Dehydration can increase headaches and water – or lack thereof – can affect knowledge, perception and energy levels.”
In addition, another small study measured the impact of inadequate hydration levels in healthy young women. The researchers reported not only an increased likelihood of headache symptoms due to mild dehydration, but also negative mood swings, increased perception of difficulty working and decreased ability to concentrate.
With that in mind, if you want to promote a good mood and enhance your cognitive function, you should definitely make sure you drink – and continue to drink – plenty of good old H2O.
Additional signs of dehydration
While mood swings and cognitive decline may indicate that you need to be more hydrated, there are other signs of dehydration that are worth knowing. “Confusion, inability to focus and dizziness are initially insidious signs of dehydration that affect both the mind and the mood,” warns Rose. In addition, he explains that the uncharacteristic dryness of the skin, mouth and tongue are normal indicators of dehydration.
In more extreme cases, severe dehydration carries serious risks to your physical safety. “If these signs are ignored, dehydration can lead to complete loss of consciousness,” he warns. To avoid getting to this point, it is essential to hydrate consistently and be careful when any of these signs or symptoms occur.
So how much water Really need?
Of course, this question comes to mind when you are reminded to drink and stay hydrated. However, for those of you who like your answers as clear as an iced glass of H2O, I’m afraid the answer is not so simple. In short: It depends.
“The desired level of water intake varies depending on age, biological sex, activity level and whether you consume foods with a high water content,” says Rose. While general ranges also vary between sources, the Institute of Medicine advises that men aim for about 13 cups a day, while those identified as women can remain adequately hydrated with nine cups.
Above all, it is important to stay in tune with your body, be aware of any signs of possible dehydration and drink accordingly.
3 RD approved tips to boost your hydration * and * mood levels
It’s one thing to know that you probably need to drink more water – but it’s another to do it. With that said, here are Rose’s top three tips to increase your daily water intake (and really enjoy it) while supporting your mood, cognitive function, energy and overall health in the process.
1. Invest in a great water filter
First of all, it is always a good idea to help save the oceans and reduce your exposure to microplastics by avoiding disposable bottled water as much as possible. And if the quality of your faucet is not ideal in terms of safety and / or taste, it is definitely worth investing in a high quality filtration system, such as a Berkey filter. “Fun fact: Berkey removes over 200 pollutants so you know the water you’re drinking and hydrating is safe – meaning it does not contain bacteria, pesticides, viruses, lead, other heavy metals and more,” she says. Rose. And there is no doubt that having ready frozen, already filtered water makes staying well hydrated much more welcoming and effortless.
2. Soak your water
While many people love the taste of cool, crunchy, simple H2O, some people need an extra incentive to tap into their hydration mentality. “If you find the water taste boring, mix things up a bit, soaking your water in fresh fruit and herbs,” suggests Rose. Her personal infusion includes cucumber, citrus and mint, though experimentation is the name of the game here. Mix and match the fresh products of your choice or see other water-soaked recipes for inspo. “Great-tasting water makes life easier,” Rose adds – “and we could all use more convenience and less stress, right?”
3. Get creative to cool off
With summer in mind, Rose shares her latest tip to enjoy increasing your water intake. “To cool down and stay hydrated during the hot summer months, add a flavor to your ice cubes,” he suggests. “You can experiment with chamomile ice cubes to create a calming effect or add your favorite jazz berry to your drink with the added benefit of extra energy.”
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