Water, Depression, and Anxiety
Can drinking plenty of water help alleviate depression and anxiety?
Several approaches can be taken to help manage mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Common approaches to managing mental health include: counseling, medications, removing stressors from your life, exercising consistently, getting enough sleep, proper diet, meditation, yoga, etc. The list goes on.
There is one simple remedy that’s been right in front of you all along, that you may not have picked up on yet: Helping your depression and/or anxiety by staying adequately hydrated throughout the day.
Every system in the human body counts on water to function, and the brain is no exception. In fact, about 75 percent of brain tissue is water. Research has linked dehydration to depression and anxiety, because mental health is driven primarily by your brain’s activity. Long story short, dehydration causes brain functioning to slow down and not function properly. It is important to think of water as a nutrient your brain needs.
How dehydration contributes to depression
Depression is a complex mental illness that has many moving parts in the inter-functionalities between your brain and body. Though it would be overly simplistic to say that dehydration is a direct cause for all types of depression, dehydration and depression are causally connected in many ways; in fact, one resulting symptom of chronic dehydration actually turns out to be depression.
Dehydration causes depression in at least three ways:
Dehydration Saps Your Brain’s Energy. Dehydration impedes energy production in your brain. Many of your brain’s functions require this type of energy become inefficient and can even shut down. The resulting mood disorders that result from this type of dysfunction can be categorized with depression.
Social stresses such as anxiety, fear, insecurity, ongoing emotional problems, etc., including depression can be tied to not consuming enough water to the point that your brain’s tissue is affected.
Dehydration impedes your brain’s serotonin production. Depression is frequently related to subpar levels of serotonin, which is a critical neurotransmitter that heavily affects your mood. Serotonin is created from the amino acid tryptophan, but sufficient water is needed.
Dehydration can also negatively impact other amino acids, resulting in feelings of dejection, inadequacy, anxiety, and irritability.
Dehydration increases stress in your body. Stress is one of the most prominent contributing factors to depression, along with a sense of powerlessness and inability to cope with stressors.
Dehydration is the number one cause of stress in your body. In fact, it’s a self-perpetuating cycle: dehydration can cause stress, and stress can cause dehydration. When you’re stressed, your adrenal glands produce extra cortisol, the stress hormone, and under chronic stress, your adrenal glands can become exhausted, and resulting in lower electrolyte levels.
Drinking sufficient water can help reduce the negative psychological and physiological impacts of stress.
Dehydration and anxiety
As with depression, dehydration rarely causes anxiety as a cause by itself, but not drinking adequate water puts you at risk for increased anxiety symptoms now, and possibly the development of higher anxiety levels in the future. In short, dehydration causes stress, and when your body is stressed, you experience depression and anxiety as a result. Therefore, you want to ensure you are properly hydrated daily, especially if you are naturally anxiety-prone.
Water has been shown to have natural calming properties, likely as a result of addressing dehydration’s effects on the body and brain. Drinking enough water is an important step in managing your anxiety. Even if you’re not experiencing anxiety, drinking sufficient water can create feelings of relaxation.
Dehydration and panic attacks
Panic attacks are common results of high anxiety caused by dehydration. Panic attacks typically have physical triggers, and one of those triggers is dehydration. When dehydration occurs, if you’re prone to panic attacks, you can easily begin to panic, even to the point of feeling like you’re dying.
When dehydrated, you expose yourself to many of the symptoms that trigger panic attacks, such as:
- Increased heart rate
- Muscle fatigue and weakness
- Feeling faint/lightheaded
While keeping yourself hydrated may not stop the panic attacks, they may become less frequent, or at least some of the triggers may be diminished.
How can you tell if you’re dehydrated?
Some dehydration signals are pretty obvious, but not all. Signs of dehydration you may or may not have been aware of include:
- Increased hunger. Hunger and thirst signals come from the same part of the brain, so it’s no surprise that they might be confused. Hunger, even when you know you’ve eaten enough, probably means you need to drink some water, not eat more.
- Dryness. Dehydration is reflected in common signs of dryness, including dry, itchy skin, dry mouth, chapped lips, etc.
- Headache. Lack of water facilitates a shortage of oxygen supply to the brain, resulting in a headache.
- Fatigue and weak/cramped muscles. Muscle weakness, spasms, cramping, etc., are common signs of dehydration.
- Bad breath. Bad breath usually means you need some water to refresh yourself. Dehydration induces dry mouth, which means you’re not producing enough saliva to help your mouth fight off odorous bacteria.
- Rapid heartbeat, rapid/shallow breathing, fever, cloudy thinking. These can be signals of severe dehydration, and you may need to seek medical attention.
How much water should you be drinking every day?
Your ideal daily water intake depends on your gender, stress levels, weight, climate, exercise levels, whether or not you’re sick, etc. But a rule of thumb is 11.5 cups (92 oz.) of water per day for women, and 15.5 cups (124 oz.) for men. If you have a hard time stomaching plain water, try adding a squeeze of lemon or lime juice. Avoid beverages as much as possible that contain sodium, as sodium dehydrates you: soda/diet soda, energy drinks, etc.
You should ramp up your fluid intake accordingly if one or more of the following apply to your situation:
- Engaging in long, intense workout sessions
- Illnesses with fever, diarrhea, vomiting
- Hot or humid climate
- Pregnant/breastfeeding mothers
- Chronic health conditions
You can verify how hydrated you are based on the color of your urine. If you’re adequately hydrated, your urine will be a very clear/pale yellow color. If you’re dehydrated, your urine will be a dark yellow or tan color. If it’s a dark yellow color and of a thick/syrupy consistency, that means you’re very dehydrated. Drink some water!
Keeping yourself adequately hydrated is not a cure-all for depression or anxiety. You will definitely want to seek the assistance of a mental health professional.
But getting in the habit of drinking enough water daily will definitely help alleviate many of the causes and symptoms of mood volatility. Think of it as a viable part of the foundation of your long-term mental health management plan.
Are you struggling with depression and/or anxiety? Both are treatable, and their treatment usually leads to an improved sense of overall wellness and better sleep. If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.
Leave a ReplyWant to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!