“The most important things to do in the world are to get something to eat, something to drink and somebody to love you.” – Brendan Behan
– by Talkspace User
I’ve always been pretty educated about the health benefits of exercising and eating right. Having doctors in the family resulted in my having way too much knowledge about various health issues, and the impact of maladaptive behaviors that can cause them. But, strangely enough, I was never taught about the overwhelming health hazards of not drinking enough of plain and simple water.
The fact is the brain requires proper hydration to function properly, because brain cells have to maintain a delicate balance between water and other elements. If that balance is disrupted, cognitive health may be negatively affected.
I find it rather strange that my therapist and I don’t talk about the importance of water consumption for mental heath. Though, we do talk about the importance eating right, exercising, and finding balance between working and relaxing. But water, the most important substance our minds and bodies require to work properly, somehow remains on the outskirts of the conversation.
Has your therapist inquired if you drink enough water?
About 75-80% of our brains, and 60% of our bodies are made up of water, most of which is contained in the blood. If we don’t drink enough fluids, the overall volume of the blood decreases, which means our hearts have to work twice as hard to pump it. This can cause high-blood pressure, which has been shown to cause mental impairments and accelerate cognitively degenerate diseases.
Dehydration has a direct link to depression.
Not having enough fluids in the body impairs the transport of tryptophan, an essential amino acid, across the blood brain barrier where it is then converted to serotonin. Insufficient levels of serotonin have been directly linked to depression. Lethargy and low levels of energy often characterize depression, and dehydration causes the body to withhold directing water to the muscles, making these symptoms that much worse.
Furthermore, maintaining proper levels of hydration can assist in regulating cortisol, a stress hormone, which in abundance can disrupt the proper function of numerous body systems. Dehydration increases cortisol in the body, thereby impacting the blood flow and glucose (sugar) delivery to the brain. This can cause long-term negative effects in regards to neurotransmitter production, including serotonin and dopamine. So, it’s crucial to drink enough water for proper stress management.
But there’s more.
Not drinking enough water can also cause problems with long-term and short-term memory. It can plummet our ability to do simple math and engage in abstract reasoning. And although scientists are baffled as to why, when our bodies are low on fluids, we become a lot more prone to moodiness. Though, interestingly enough, men and women seem to respond to dehydration rather differently.
So, my dearest therapist, how much water should I drink to maintain optimum physical and mental health?
Dear Therapist is an ongoing series of articles. Check out the other posts here!
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Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts (therapists and psychiatrists of various specialties) to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.
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