The Link Between Dehydration, Blood Sugar, and Diabetes
You already know water does a body good. Here’s why it matters for glucose management, too.
April 20, 2021
Article Summary: The Basics of Hydration
We’ve all been drilled on the eight-glasses-a-day rule (which isn’t exactly right, as we’ll explain later), but do you actually know why drinking enough water is so important? When you’re well hydrated, your body tends to work as it should, so you may not even recognize the benefits. But here’s what all that water does for you, 24/7:
- Keeps your heart, brain, and muscles working properly
- Helps carry nutrients to cells
- Increases energy
- Lifts mood
- Aids in weight loss
- Eases headaches
- Regulates body temperature
- Prevents infections
- Improves sleep quality
- Clears bacteria from your bladder
- Relieves constipation
If there was a drug that accomplished all that, with zero side effects, who wouldn’t take enough of it? So let’s all drink up. How much? “Most healthy people need between 30 and 50 ounces of water per day—the eight glasses a day rule has been debunked as truly arbitrary,” says Maziyar Saberi, PhD, systems physiologist and Chief Scientific Officer of January AI. “That said, everyone’s different, so exactly how much water your body needs may vary, depending on factors including the climate where you live, your activity level, and your health status.” The very basic urine test is often a helpful visual guide. If your pee is light to clear, it’s usually a sign you’re well hydrated. If it’s a darker yellow and more concentrated, it may be a signal that you’re slacking on H2O. Now let’s get into specifics, focusing on the role of water in managing blood sugar.
How is hydration related to diabetes?
High blood sugar can make it harder to stay hydrated. We’ll explain why: When you have diabetes, the concentration of sugar in the blood versus in your cells is higher than it should be. This is the case because not enough insulin is created to move sugar out of your blood and into your cells, or the insulin you produce is no longer able to do the job effectively. The end result is that more sugar stays in your blood than is healthy. When this happens, your kidneys try to step in and help by flushing out some of the extra glucose with your urine—and water is pushed out with it. As a result, those with high blood sugar levels often report feeling chronically thirsty if their blood sugar levels aren’t well managed.
Proper hydration, on the other hand, can balance out this water loss. A 2011 study “Low Water Intake and Risk for New-Onset Hyperglycemia” in the journal Diabetes Care found that water intake was inversely associated with the risk of developing hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). In other words, the more water study subjects consumed, the lower their risk of extreme glucose spikes. On the other hand, those who reported drinking less than half a liter per day (that’s less than 2 eight-ounce glasses) were at increased risk.
Why is hydration important for diabetes?
Feeling chronically thirsty is one of the telltale signs of diabetes. As we mentioned before, the unmanaged blood sugar that comes with the disease has a downstream effect on your body’s ability to stay hydrated. Basically, more urine production also equals more water loss.
When you don’t have diabetes and become dehydrated, you may feel sluggish, headache-y, or generally weak. It’s not a great situation, but it’s also generally not a life-threatening emergency. For people with diabetes, on the other hand, dehydration can be very serious, and potentially fatal.
You probably don’t need more proof that water is important, but here’s this: One 2012 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition of more than 300 participants with obesity found that amping up water lowered blood sugar levels. When study subjects were instructed to replace two of their daily beverages with water for six months, they raised their overall intake of H2O and showed a significant decrease in fasting glucose levels, compared to those who didn’t swap out sugary drinks.
How to fight dehydration for diabetics, and for everyone
Whether you have diabetes or not, staying well hydrated is a key part of a healthy lifestyle. And everyone can help fight dehydration by drinking more water and cutting down on sugary drinks. That said, if you do have diabetes, you’ll want to attack this from both sides: Increasing your water consumption, while also working to keep your blood sugar levels stable so your kidneys don’t increase urine output and water loss.
A few simple ways to get started:
- Swap out at least one sugary drink per day with water or unsweetened tea. Put simply: Stop drinking your carbs (ie, no more soda!).
- Invest in a large, reusable water bottle and keep it nearby, wherever you are. Just seeing it in your bag or on your desk will make you think: Drink!
- Chug a glass before meals (bonus, you’ll feel fuller, faster).
- Eat well-balanced, high fiber, low carb meals that keep your blood sugar levels stable.
- Monitor your blood sugar levels to avoid spending too much time above or below your target ranges. A continuous glucose monitor (CGM) makes it easy to see your levels throughout the day.
- Increase your consumption of water-rich fruits and veggies (they all count towards your water goal), like these that are comprised of at least 80% water:
• Bell Peppers