Today on A.Vogel Talks Menopause, I take a look at 12 signs that you may need more water in perimenopause and menopause and why you can become more prone to dehydration at this time.
For those that have been with me for a long time, you will know that in practically every single blog, I will recommend that you should drink plenty of water. So, why do I place so much importance on drinking water?
Well, dehydration can affect just about every single menopause symptom. So, I thought today that I would go right back to basics to explain why something as simple as drinking enough water every day can make such a huge difference.
How is hydration impacted during menopause?
So, what causes your hydration levels to be affected during menopause? Let's take a closer look:
Less oestrogen: One of the things that I've discovered through reading and researching the relationship between menopause and dehydration is that oestrogen, when you have plenty of it, helps to keep your body well hydrated.
Oestrogen is a little bit like a sponge. When it's racing around your body, it's also helping to keep all that lovely water in your cells. It helps to keep you hydrated. So, when your oestrogen starts to fluctuate and fall during perimenopause and menopause, your body's ability to stay hydrated decreases.
You may not be aware of it, but your body will soon tell you that it's not happy.
Hot flushes and night sweats: If you're getting a lot of hot flushes and night sweats, that would dehydrate you further. That will impact your nervous system and if your nervous system is having issues, it will trigger lots of histamine or adrenaline and that can trigger hot flushes and night sweats too. So, this can become a real vicious cycle.
Other things that dehydrate you: If you're exercising a lot, you can get dehydrated. When there's warm weather in the summer and you don't increase your hydration, that can dehydrate you too, impacting your symptoms.
Signs that you’re not drinking enough water
So, let's take a look at some of the signs to look out for that can indicate that you are not drinking enough water.
1. Your urine is dark and smelly
If your urine looks dark, if it starts to smell as well, that's the number one signal that your body is telling you that it's dehydrated. Healthy urine should be very, very pale and should have little or no odour at all.
2. You're needing to go to the toilet more
It's one of these weird things. When you drink less, you may end up going to the toilet more. But why? Well, as you get more and more dehydrated, your dark, smelly urine can become very concentrated, which irritates your bladder. It can get to the point where your bladder can become quite raw and give you symptoms like cystitis without any infection present.
When that happens, this really strong urine will just keep irritating your bladder, you will very often get a real urge to go to the toilet very quickly, you will go, and you'll only pass a little bit of urine.
This is a standard scenario during the night. Very often, a lot of women have to get up two or three times during the night to go to the toilet. And when they go, they pass very little urine. It can sometimes be a little bit stingy. This is usually just caused by being dehydrated during the night.
3. You're getting lots of hot flushes and night sweats
Again, as I mentioned above, this is a bit of a vicious cycle! Hot flushes and night sweats can dehydrate you, but being dehydrated will put more pressure on your nervous system, which will also trigger more hot flushes and night sweats.
4. You're feeling tired and lethargic
Tiredness, fatigue, and feeling lethargic are classic signs of dehydration! If you're dehydrated, your body just won't want to move.
5. You're struggling to concentrate and experiencing brain fog
This often goes hand-in-hand with feeling tired and lethargic. Brain fog and loss of concentration at the same time every day is another classic sign of dehydration, as well as a sign of low blood sugar level.
Your brain is full of water and is like a sponge. It needs lots of water. It's been shown that if you get dehydrated, your brain shrinks in volume, which impacts how it functions. (1)
Even mild dehydration can affect the proper functioning of your brain and make menopausal brain fog even worse.
6. You're getting headaches
If your brain is physically shrinking due to dehydration, as well as impacting brain function, you can also experience dehydration headaches, which can be similar to tension and thumping headaches.
7. You're getting heart palpitations
Palpitations, again, can be due to dehydration. So, if you are getting palpitations at the same time every day, which often happens in this kind of situation, then, again, it just means that you've probably gone too long without that drink of water.
8. You feel thirsty and have a dry mouth
This is really common first thing in the morning. A lot of women will tell me that they feel as if their tongue is stuck to the roof of their mouth. And, again, this is often caused by becoming dehydrated during the night, especially if you have night sweats.
9. Your constipated
Your digestive tract needs lots of water to process and eliminate all the food that you're eating. And if you're dehydrated, everything just slows down and literally just sticks.
10. You're feeling achy and sore
Joint pain and muscle cramps are both common symptoms of dehydration. Another great signal of dehydration is low back pain. If you're getting a lot of back pain on both sides of the spine regularly, that's very often your kidneys just complaining that they are feeling the dehydration as well.
11. You're feeling low and irritable
Dehydration can greatly impact your mood, something that is already impacted during menopause. It can make you feel low and sad or irritable and angry.
So, if you find you're getting a low mood or irritable, sometimes, a glass of water can fix it.
12. You're feeling hungry and get sugar cravings
They do say that it can be difficult to distinguish between thirst and hunger. So sometimes, if you are starting to feel hungry, if you're getting sugar cravings, then it's a sign that you are dehydrated, and your body is needing water and not food.
How much water does a menopausal woman need to drink?
You need at least 1.5 – 2 litres of plain water a day, over and above other drinks such as tea and coffee. It needs to be plain water to get the best benefit from it.
Water can be boring but you can add natural flavouring to make it more enjoyable to drink. I usually add a couple of frozen strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries to my water to flavour it. You can squeeze in a little bit of lemon and lime or orange juice. You can put mint leaves, cucumber, or grated ginger, just a little bit of something natural to flavour the water to make it taste nicer.
I don't recommend bottles of flavoured water or diluting juice, just because these tend to be full of artificial sweeteners and chemicals.
Simple ways to increase your water intake
Drink a glass of water the minute you wake up: The first thing I do when I get up in the morning is to drink a large tumbles glass of water. I always have it warm because my body doesn't like cold water first thing. So, try drinking a glass of lukewarm water to gently wake your body up, but not shock it. And your body will thank you for that because if it's been dehydrated during the night, that first glass is going to be taken up straight away and help get everything back to normal.
Drink plenty of water throughout the day: You can drink big glasses regularly or sip water throughout the day. Some people find that sipping it through a straw makes it easier than drinking it. I know it took me quite a long time to get used to taking big quantities of water in a go. So, I tended to do it slowly until I was used to it.
Track your water intake: You can get these apps on your smartphones now that will remind you every few hours to have a drink of water and you just tick them off as you drink them. And that will give you a good idea of how much water you've drunk during the day.
Add plenty of water-rich foods to your diet: Foods like cucumbers, salads, watermelon, and fruits contain lots of water.
Don't drink whilst you're eating: This is a big mistake that a lot of people make. Your digestion can already be compromised when your hormones start to fall so the last thing you want to do is to dilute your gastric juices as you're eating.
To avoid diluting your gastric juices it is best to have your last drink half an hour before you eat and then wait half an hour after you've finished eating to drink again. If you have to drink whilst you're eating, try to have as little as possible.
Have a shot glass of warm water before bed: A lot of women come back to me and say that this helps. This is going to be enough to hydrate you. It's great if you wake up in the morning with really sore joints. It's great if you wake up with anxiety or headaches first thing in the morning because these are all caused by dehydration. It also helps to keep your bladder from getting irritated.
I hope you found this one helpful. The number of women who come back to me and are just so astonished at how something so simple can make them feel so much better, I just absolutely love it.
So, if you have any tips on how water has helped you or how you drink your water, then please share them with us. We'd love to hear about it.
Until next week, take care.