President's Rx: Dehydration

Although it is commonly believed caffeinated drinks like coffee can cause dehydration, a recent study by researchers from the University of Birmingham in the U.K. found moderate coffee consumption provides similar hydrating qualities to water. This week Dr. Tedd L. Mitchell explains why it's so important to keep yourself hydrated.

You don't have to be wandering a dessert for hours or playing high-impact sports on a hot day to become dehydrated. We lose water and salts every day in our sweat and the breath we exhale. If you lose too much water and fail to rehydrate, your body could become out of balance.

Dehydration occurs when the loss of bodily fluids, mostly water, exceeds the amount taken in. When a person is dehydrated, more water is moving out of his or her body than he or she takes in through drinking.

Symptoms of dehydration may include increased thirst, weakness, dizziness, confusion, fainting, and decreased sweat and urine output. At the very least, dehydration can sap your energy and make you feel tired.

To prevent dehydration, drink plenty of water before and after you exercise. Otherwise, you can keep yourself hydrated by drinking at between 9 and 13 cups of liquid a day and eating foods high in water like watermelon, grapefruit, soup or gelatin. Although water is best, all fluids count toward your daily total.

Most people can keep themselves adequately hydrated by letting thirst be their guide. If you have questions about your fluid intake, or if you think you may be dehydrated, talk to your doctor.