Drinking plenty of water is important for everyone, but it can be particularly vital for people with diabetes to make sure their water intake is high enough. According to the Institute of Medicine, thousands of Americans are chronically dehydrated, and that includes many people who suffer from diabetes, which leaves them at risk for serious health issues.
More than half of the human body is made up of water. Not drinking enough water leads to more concentrated blood, which means an increased number of milligrams of glucose per deciliter of blood. People who aren’t drinking enough water experience an increase in their blood sugar levels, and even as little as 25 mg/dL more can cause problems with overall health and HbA1c over time.
Putting long-term health risks aside, being dehydrated on a regular basis can also put you at risk for more acute and dangerous health problems. Working out too hard or being outside for too long in extreme heat, when combined with dehydration, can drastically spike your blood sugar levels and lead to diabetic ketoacidosis, a life-threatening condition that must be treated quickly. Similarly, if you were to fall ill with the stomach flu, your mild dehydration could turn to severe dehydration and cause diabetes complications in no time, possibly landing you in the hospital.
So hydration is important, but what can you do about it? What are you doing wrong, and what lifestyle changes can you make to improve your hydration?
The short answer is that you need to drink more water. Many people try to substitute coffee or soda in place of water in their daily life, but these drinks are not good substitutes for hydrating with water. Coffee can increase your insulin resistance due to its high caffeine content, and sodas, even diet sodas, are loaded with artificial sweeteners and chemicals that are also capable of contributing to insulin resistance, forcing your body to work harder to keep your blood glucose balanced.
If you must drink something besides water, aim for something like unsweetened and caffeine-free tea. But no other beverage has the same health benefits as plain water. It’s best to try to drink plain water as much as possible. Try adding ice or using a water filter to make it more palatable if you’re not a fan of the taste.
Water is also good for other facets of your health. For example, studies show it can contribute to the achievement of weight loss goals, improved digestion, and better circulation, among other things.
There is such a thing as too much water, but most of us are far from hitting that threshold. Talk to your doctor about how much water you should be drinking each day for optimum health.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?