Diabetes and Dehydration
Diabetes is characterized by high blood sugar levels due to deficient production of insulin by the human pancreatic cells. Dehydration and diabetes go hand-in-hand. Common diabetic symptoms include increased thirst (polydipsia) and a dry mouth, raising the question of the probable link between diabetes and dehydration.
Drinking a sufficient amount of water is essential to keep the body hydrated and get rid of excess blood sugar (glucose) in the bloodstream. High sugar levels for prolonged periods increase work for the kidneys for blood glucose elimination.
Risk factors for dehydration include inadequate water intake, extremely hot and humid weather, alcohol or caffeinated beverage consumption, strenuous physical exercise, diabetes insipidus, vomiting and diarrhea.
Symptoms of Dehydration
Dehydration does not have major symptoms; however, minor symptoms include headache, dry mouth, increased thirst, dizziness, fatigue, dry skin, and dark-colored urine. Severe dehydration may lead to weak pulse, increased heart rate, confusion, lethargy, and hypotension (low blood pressure).
Diabetes thirst increases when the body loses a substantial amount of water through frequent urination (to eliminate blood sugar). Therefore, in uncontrolled diabetes, despite an adequate water intake, one could continue to feel thirsty and dehydrated.
In diabetics, dehydration could be a symptom of extreme hyperglycemia and a condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). DKA is observed among type 1 or insulin-dependent diabetes, in which ketones can rise to dangerous levels with the rise in blood sugar levels. The combination of ketoacidosis and dehydration could be especially dangerous and could lead to diabetic coma if left untreated. In addition, Hyperosmolar Hyperglycemic Nonketotic Syndrome (HHNS) could occur in case of blood sugar levels of 40 mmol/L.
What is the recommended water intake for diabetics?
The recommended water intake can be different for men and women. A diabetic male must drink two liters of water per day whereas a diabetic female must consume 1.6 liters of water per day. Besides water, several other diabetes-friendly drinks such as lime water, infused water, herbal tea, sugar-free coffee, or skimmed milk could maintain hydration as well as treat the tastebuds.
However, carbonated drinks, energy drinks, sodas, and juices that contain high amounts of sugar and therefore, must be avoided as they can spike blood sugar levels. Even energy drinks can be harmful to diabetics, despite the other benefits that they have to offer. In case of severe hydration. electrolytes need to be replenished along with water.
Other Benefits of Staying Hydrated
Staying hydrated entails several health benefits such as prevention of infections by maintaining immune functioning, improved body metabolism, joint lubrication, nutrient delivery to body cells, body temperature regulation, and ensuring normal bodily functions. Good hydration can improve moods, sleep, and cognition. Good hydration is essential for healthy skin (decrease skin dryness and acne), normal bowel movements.
Despite good water intake, if you feel dehydrated, doctor consultation is highly recommended. Appropriate changes in oral hypoglycemics or anti-diabetic medications and incorporating good lifestyle habits such as regular physical exercise, a nutritious and balanced sugar-free diet, and smoking cessation could improve blood sugar levels.