How can a lack of water make you eat more?

Water is your body’s primary chemical component and make up on average 60% of your body weight. Every bodily system is dependent on water to function. For example, water flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to your cells and gives you a moist environment for ear, nose and throat tissues. A lack of water in the body, can lead to dehydration. Even a mild dehydration – fluid loss equal to less than 5% of body weight- can drain your energy and make you feel tired. Its physical symptoms include thirst, dry skin, mouth and throat, rapid pulse, weakness, reduced quantity of urine, decreased mental and muscle function and fainting. Fluid loss greater than 5% percent of body weight leads to a pale skin, confused state, rapid and shallow breathing and a weak irregular pulse. If immediate action is not sought, it might result in coma and death.

Each day, we lose water through breathing, perspiration, urine and bowel movements. To make your body function properly you need to replenish its water supply by consuming beverages and foods that contain water. As a general guideline, the Dietary Reference Intake or DRI recommendation is 9 cups of water per day for adult women and 13 cups for adult men.

If you exercise or do any activity that makes you sweat, you need to drink extra water to compensate for the fluid loss. About 1.5 to 2.5 cups should be adequate for short periods of exercise. However, for intense activities lasting more than an hour, fluids containing electrolytes are usually recommended. You could refer to your coach for more information regarding this matter. The environment that you are in, whether it is hot or humid, can make you sweat and requires additional intake of fluids. Also, keep in mind that heated indoor air can cause your skin to lose moisture during the winter season. High altitudes may also trigger increased urination and more rapid breathing, which use up more of your body fluid. Illness is another factor to be aware of because fever, vomiting and diarrhea cause your body to lose additional fluids. In these conditions, you should also increase your water intake.

So, how can a lack of water be making you eat more?

According to the American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, thirst can be commonly mistaken for hunger, even though the body senses these states through separate mechanisms. One explanation for misinterpretation of signals is that eating can bring a sense of solace to thirst because some foods contain water. A second reason is that both thirst and hunger cravings usually come at the same time: during meal times. Another reason is that with dehydration comes a feeling of fatigue. Many times we interpret this feeling of lethargy as being due to a lack of energy fuel (sugar) and this produces a false sense of hunger. Then, if we do “mistakenly” consume food, our body needs additional water to manufacture digestive juices to digest the food. This produces a vicious cycle due to a misinterpretation of thirst signal for hunger. If one consistently mistakes thirst for hunger, it can definitely affect his eating plan. A lack of water can stimulate the appetite, making adhering to your eating plan very difficult. Therefore, it is crucial to stay adequately hydrated throughout the day. Here are some tips to help you avoid this:

–          It is typically not good to use thirst alone as a signal for when to drink. It is possible that by the time you become thirsty, you already may be slightly dehydrated.

–          Remember that as people get older, their body is less able to detect dehydration and send the brain signals of thirst.

–          Hydrate yourself before, during and exercise.

–          If you are having an alcoholic beverage, have with every drink a glass of water for hydration. The same goes with your cup of coffee and tea.

–          Reduce your consumption of packaged or prepared foods to a minimum. These foods consist of high levels of salt. This results in quick weight gain because of water retention in the body.

–          Measure out your intended water intake at the beginning of each day. Place the glasses or bottles of water throughout the house or office in areas that you are likely to frequent. The more you see the water containers, the more you will be likely to drink during the day.

–          When feeling hungry, drink a glass of water and wait 10 minutes to see if thirst was stimulating your appetite instead of true hunger.

–          Consume foods that contain a larger percentage of water such as lettuce (95%), watermelon (92%), broccoli (91%), grapefruit (91%), milk (89%), orange juice (88%), carrot (87%), and apple (84%).

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