Do you have a dry brain? Chances are, if you have, you’re not aware of it, so here are a few pointers to those tell-tale warning signs.
We freely drink tea, coffee, coke, squashes and alcohol, but few of us drink the recommended amount of water – 2 ½ litres daily or about eight or nine 8oz glasses of water for the average adult.
So, while exercise, sweating, eliminating waste and even breathing, together use about 2 litres of body water per day, it’s clear that most people suffer a shortfall on a daily basis.
Why does it matter? Even a slight lack of water leads to numerous symptoms in the body, such as a dry mouth and muscle cramps. However, one organ that is particularly susceptible to dehydration is the brain.
Even with mild dehydration, subtle changes in brain function can be detected. You may find your short term memory becomes foggy and fatigued, you lose concentration or you have trouble focussing. In short, a dry brain is a less efficient brain.
The brain itself is 80% water, which fuels the organ’s electrical energy, thought, memory and nerve transmission, helping to deliver nutrients to the brain and remove toxins.
However, the brain cannot store water, it just uses it, so that’s why it’s important to replenish water stocks in your body at regular intervals. If you go for more than 6-8 hours without drinking water, your grey matter shrinks forcing the brain to work harder. Energy levels, mood, alertness, processing and cognition are also compromised and, if left unchecked over time, dehydration can have a negative impact on work, school and college performance.
Research by a team of UK scientists studied the brains of teenagers after an hour and a half of cycling. While some wore sweat-inducing clothing, including a bin liner next to the skin, others wore shorts and t-shirts. The scientists found that the overly-dressed cyclists lost around 2lb in sweat – and their brain tissue had shrunk away from their skulls.
Researchers Matthew Kempton and Ulrich Ettinger, of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, said: ‘We saw a general shrinking of the brain tissue. Fluid-filled cavities in the middle of the brain expanded and there was a corresponding shrinking of the brain tissue. The people who lost the most weight had the most shrinkage of the brain.’
Shockingly, on average, the amount of shrinkage equated to 14 months of age-related wear and tear, or the withering away associated with two and a half months of Alzheimer’s disease. Once you’ve become aware that you aren’t taking in enough water, it’s easy – just drink more and drink regularly. Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning, replace some of your customary drinks with water, drink before and during meals and with alcohol and, when you feel like a hot drink, add mint, lemon or lime to hot water.
And don’t forget that if you are feeling thirsty, you are already dehydrated.