How Dehydration Affects Cognitive Function (Plus How to Stay Hydrated)

How Dehydration Affects Cognitive Function (Plus How to Stay Hydrated)
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Although many people only think about dehydration, a condition that occurs when a person doesn’t drink enough water, in the summer, you can get dehydrated any time of year.

It’s common

Anyone can experience dehydration, but children, infants, the elderly, athletes, and those who are chronically ill, or live in a very warm climate, are at a greater risk, says Dr. Becky Campbell, board-certified doctor of natural medicine and doctor of chiropractic.

More than a physical ailment

Dehydration can greatly affect a person’s physical wellness.

For example, if you don’t drink enough water, you could have issues with your vision, feel muscle spasms, have neck pain, vomit, and experience cardiovascular issues, says Campbell.

Dehydration may also affect metabolism, digestion, blood flow, kidney function, and body temperature regulation, adds Corey Phelps,  nutrition expert and personal trainer.

In addition to harming a person’s body, dehydration also can affect the way a person thinks, and it can harm their overall mood.

The human body is roughly 60 percent water, so staying hydrated is vital, explains Phelps.

“The effects of dehydration influence pretty much every critical function in the body beginning with the brain.”

She adds that the brain is comprised of more than seventy percent water. So, when the balance of water in the body is upset, dehydration results. “Dehydration shrinks brain size and negatively impacts cognitive function as well as motor skills,” adds Phelps. “In other words, reaction time and concentration are diminished as well as working memory and recall.”

Stay hydrated with food

Drinking enough water is essential to preventing dehydration, but there are certain foods that also are great for maintaining optimal hydration levels, says Campbell.

If a person thinks they may not be drinking enough water, or are looking to supplement their water intake during any hot time of year, the following foods could help:

Celery
Lettuce
Cucumber
Zucchini
Tomatoes
Kiwi
Watermelon
Oranges
Grapefruit
Pineapple
Peaches
Bananas
Spinach
Kale

“Another great option is pre-soaked chia seeds,” adds Phelps. “Chia seeds can hold up to 12 times their weight in water. In essence, consuming soaked chia seeds can really up your H2O consumption and retention.”

How to quickly rehydrate

Although water consumption can sometimes get away from us, Campbell stresses that it’s important to try and not get dehydrated in the first place. “[Try] to stay ahead of it,” she says. “By the time you are feeling thirsty, chances are you are already dehydrated, so it is important to keep drinking water throughout the day.”

However, if you are already dehydrated, try to drink something that can rehydrate the body quickly. Campbell suggests drinking coconut water. “It is an excellent source of natural electrolytes. [It can] refuel your body with what it needs, especially in the case of dehydration.”

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