Diabetes and dehydration

Friday, 25 January 2019

Water is one of the most important nutrients for our body but it is often the most neglected one. It is essential for regulating body temperature through sweating, it lubricates and cushions joints, produces digestive juices, and carries nutrients and oxygen to cells. To keep all these processes happening, water is required in amounts that exceed the body’s ability to produce it. For this reason, we need to constantly drink fluid.

Dehydration occurs when the water content of the body is too low as a result of reduced input, or increased output, or both. Some of the common causes are:

  • Not drinking enough fluid
  • Increased sweating due to hot weather or exercise
  • Diarrhoea or vomiting

 What about diabetes and dehydration?

When you have diabetes, dehydration can also happen with prolonged and sustained high blood glucose levels. This is because your body tries to fix the high blood glucose levels by putting water out of the cells to dilute the glucose in the bloodstream  On top of that, high glucose levels also make you pass more urine. So it is important to monitor and manage your diabetes by speaking with your health care team if your dehydration is related to uncontrolled blood glucose levels.

Signs and symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Thirst
  • Dark-coloured urine
  • Headaches
  • Lethargy
  • Low blood pressure
  • Weakness
  • Confusion (when severe)

When these signs and symptoms start to appear, dehydration might have already gone beyond the point of just mild dehydration. Don’t wait to feel thirsty, drink regularly throughout the day.

Water only takes five minutes to get into the blood when we drink it. So the good news is dehydration can be easily fixed by adequate water intake.

How much do you need to drink?

Many variables affect an individual’s water needs such as temperature, humidity, activity levels, body mass and medical conditions etc. The following recommendations can be used as a guide.

AgeAdequate fluid intake per day
Boys: 9-13 years1.6 L (about 6 cups)
          14-18 years1.9 L (about 7-8 cups)
Girls: 9-13 years1.4 L (about 5-6 cups)
          14-18 years1.6 L (about 6 cups)
Adult women2.1L (about 6 cups)
Adult men2.6 L (about 7-8 cups)

Source: NHMRC, Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand

What is the best fluid to drink?

While the above recommendations include all fluids (tea, coffee, beverages, milk or water), plain water is recommended. Research shows people who choose water as their primary source of fluid have a decreased risk of developing obesity and type 2 diabetes. Adequate hydration also reduces risks of kidney stones, chronic kidney disease and cardiovascular disease.

Tips to stay well hydrated

  • Make water taste better by adding some flavours such as fresh fruit slices or herbs
  • Re-shape your environment into ‘water-friendly’. Always have a water bottle with you
  • Set yourself a reasonable daily target. How many cups or bottles of water are you planning to have as a start?
  • Set a water drinking reminder on your phone
  • Drink water with your meals

Are you worried about whether you will be running to the toilet too much if you drink more? It might be the case when you initially drink more, but it should resolve within a few weeks as long as you are not over-hydrating yourself. Urine colour could be a good indication of hydration status. Aim for a pale yellow colour.

In this summer heat, don’t wait to drink when you start feeling thirsty, drink regularly throughout the day to keep your fluids up.

Keywords: water

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