Diabetes And Dehydration: Why Drinking When Thirsty Isn’t Enough

People living with all types of diabetes already have a lot to keep in mind in order to maintain their best health. Regulating blood glucose, being mindful about exercise, and planning ahead when they’re going to be away from normal food sources are already on the daily to-do list. That seems like plenty, but diabetes also puts people at a higher risk of dehydration, and grabbing a drink when you’re thirsty may not be enough to stay sufficiently hydrated.

During a blood sugar spike, the high levels of glucose in the blood signal the kidneys that glucose needs to be excreted. The kidneys respond by flushing out excess sugar through urine. This helps rid the body of excess glucose, but it also gets rid of precious water. As the kidneys continue to flush glucose, too much water will be drawn away from the blood and cells if water is not replaced, and dehydration will set in. This explains feeling thirsty when blood glucose is too high.

Woman Drinking Water
Photo: AdobeStock/auremar

So just have a glass of water when you feel thirsty, right? Unfortunately, that may not be a foolproof plan. According to the American Council on Exercise, thirst is a sign that someone is already in the beginning stages of dehydration. And because thirst is already a symptom of diabetes, people living with diabetes may become accustomed to thirst and therefore less sensitive to it. The body’s ability to detect thirst may also decrease with age. Those with diabetes should, as usual, be prepared to plan ahead.

Luckily a hydration plan should be quite doable when compared to a diabetes management plan. Here are some things to keep in mind:

1. Establish Your Baseline

While exact recommendations of water intake vary, a good rule to use is to think about how much you weigh in pounds, divide that number in half, and whatever you’re left with should be the number of ounces of water you should drink each day. A person that weighs 150 pounds should plan to drink about 75 ounces, or just over 9 cups, per day. Keep in mind your needs increase if you’re exercising, sweating more than usual, or in a dry environment.

Diagram of kidneys
Photo: AdobeStock/psdesign1

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2. Watch The Signs

The easiest way to check your hydration level is to take a look at the color of your urine. Clear or light yellow urine is a sign of good hydration levels whereas darker yellows are a sign to increase your water intake. Other signs of dehydration are fatigue, headache, light headedness, and dry mouth/dry eyes. Severe dehydration can cause low blood pressure, confusion, and/or lethargy. Treatment for severe dehydration may require a hospital visit.

3. Stay Motivated

Instead of worrying about the ill effects of dehydration, stay motivated by thinking about how staying hydrated can help you feel great. Staying hydrated can:

Our bodies are comprised of about 60% water, and they need to stay that way in order to function at optimal levels. Staying properly hydrated can be more challenging for those living with diabetes, but it’s worth it to feel your best. When it comes to hydration, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so keep a water bottle handy and create a game plan that includes hydrating before thirst hits in order to feel your best.

Want to stay hydrated and fund diabetes research? Check out the cute water bottle below to do both at once!

Photo: The Diabetes Site
Photo: The Diabetes Site
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