Are You Actually Hungry or Just Dehydrated? Hunger & Thirst Often Get Confused:
Our Life Depends on Water:
Water is an essential component of our being and without it, we die. We can last, on average, 3 days without water, so it's crucial for our life force. We tend to make sure that we have eaten enough food yet neglect our daily water intake. So why, when water is such an important factor in our health and survival, do we neglect drinking enough of it? New York Times has reported results of a study that showed that 75% of Americans were chronically dehydrated.
Thirst occurs when your body needs water. When you do not drink enough water, your body receives mixed signals on hunger. Dehydration causes you to believe you need to eat when you really need liquid intake. Most of us don’t drink enough water during our waking hours and happily, sip teas, lattes, coffees, sodas, fruit juice etc. Unfortunately, drinks, other than water, tend to contain chemicals that dehydrate us. What our body desperately needs is just simple water.
Confusing Thirst for Hunger:
The truth is most people confuse thirst and hunger. Clinical studies have shown that 37% of people mistake hunger for thirst. Our internal “I’m hungry” and “I’m thirsty” cues can be more subtle than we realise, the thirst signal is also weaker than the hunger signals. Especially When we are only mildly hungry or thirsty, we cannot determine which it is easily, as it’s a fine line between them. When we’ve developed the habit of ignoring our body’s cues altogether, or when we are overworked, busy or on the go, we do not pay attention to the body's signals and more often than not reach out for food rather than water.
Another reason for confusion about whether we’re hungry or thirsty is that much of the time, we don’t wait to actually feel hunger or thirsty before eating or drinking. Instead, we eat and drink because of boredom, we like the taste, out of habit, socialising, and because everyone else is. The constant availability of foods and beverages and the multiple social situations that encourage eating and drinking, make disregarding the signals and confusing hunger and thirst easy to do.
What are the symptoms for dehydration?
We can become mildly dehydrated when your body’s normal fluid levels drop by just 1 to 2 percent and symptoms include headache, fatigue, light-headedness/dizziness and difficulty concentrating- these can all resemble symptoms of hunger. Other symptoms: feeling thirsty, dark strong-smelling urine, dry mouth, dry eyes, decreased urine output and peeing less than 4 times day.
Colour of Urine:
You can verify how hydrated you are based on the colour of your urine. If you’re adequately hydrated, your urine will be a very clear/pale yellow colour. If you’re dehydrated, your urine will be a dark yellow or tan colour. If it’s a dark yellow colour and of a thick/syrupy consistency, that means you’re very dehydrated.
If you do not get enough to drink on a daily basis, you will feel tired. You will also feel hungry because your body thinks it needs food for energy. This sense of feeling tired relates to your body not taking in enough fluids, which help your body function better. Your body's organs need water just as a car's engine needs fuel to run efficiently.
Having a dry mouth is the last signal that your body gives you when you need water. By the time you have a dry mouth, your body is already extremely dehydrated.
Saliva has antibacterial properties, but dehydration can prevent your body from making enough saliva. If you’re not producing enough saliva, you can get bacteria overgrowth in the mouth and one of the side effects is bad breath.
Many people think that people who get dehydrated are really sweaty, but in fact as you through various stages of dehydration, skin can get very dry or may appear flushed as well. Another key skin-related symptom of dehydration is skin that remains “tented” after being pinched and takes some time to return to its normal, flat appearance.
Food & Sweet Cravings:
A persistent sweet tooth may simply be a sign you need to drink more water. when we are dehydrated, it can be difficult for organs like the liver, which uses water, to release glycogen (stored glucose) and other components of your energy stores, so you can actually get cravings for food.
While you can crave anything from chocolate to a salty snack, cravings for sweets are more common because your body may be experiencing difficulty breaking down glycogen to release glucose into the bloodstream to use as fuel. It’s also not uncommon for the body to confuse the feeling of being thirsty with hunger, it is likely you may feel hungry when all you really need is water.
Dehydration can cause you to eat more, but drinking water can help break down fat and burn calories. If you don't drink enough water, you can end up in a weight-loss plateau. A study found that, among adults, poor hydration was associated with higher body mass index (BMI). Researchers speculated that individuals who are classified as obese on the BMI charts may have a harder time staying hydrated. The more you weigh, the more water you need, and to be more likely to eat when the body is actually thirsty.
Diabetes: feelings of dehydration & thirst:
Signs of diabetes include feeling hungry, thirsty, and dehydrate. If your blood sugar fluctuates and is not within normal values, you might have mixed signals of hunger and thirst. You will become dehydrated if your blood sugar remains high, and you will crave food. You will urinate less as you become more dehydrated with high blood sugar. As your blood sugar drops, you will urinate more. It becomes a vicious cycle not knowing if you should eat or drink fluids. Please consult your doctor with any concerns.
Hunger VS Thirst:
Staying hydrated throughout the day helps curb cravings, keeps you alert, and helps digestion. Make sure you’re reaching the daily fluid recommendation. Listen to your body and don’t be tempted to reach for whatever snack is in sight at the first sign of “hunger.” To figure out if you’re feeling is really hunger or thirst, drink a glass or two of water, then wait 15 minutes. If you were truly hungry, you might still feel a stomach pang, whereas if you were just thirsty, you’ll feel satisfied. Once you’ve eliminated dehydration symptoms as a cause of whatever sensations your feeling, then it’s easier to identify hunger. Eating water-rich foods like vegetables, fruits and soups may help tackle both thirst and hunger.
Drinking Water Regularly:
With symptoms that overlap can easily lead to misdiagnosis when it comes to hunger vs. thirst. Pay close attention to these feelings when you have them and think about what you’ve eaten or drank so far for the day.
Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to grab a drink. You are already dehydrated if you feel thirsty. By drinking regular amounts of water, you are allowing your system to be drip-fed water, so that it can use it up as it needs to. This means you are less likely to have periods throughout your day where you are dehydrated.
By drinking more water, more regularly, you will find, over a period of time, that you will start to begin to notice your thirst signals clearly once again. Not having to wait for the dry mouth moment, but rather an instinctive feeling that you haven’t had water for a while.
Once you have mastered understanding the difference between hunger and thirst, as difficult though it may initially seem, you’ll find that your body reaps all kinds of benefits. The importance of staying hydrated should never be underestimated, and if you can avoid overeating in the process you are on track for a healthy and rewarding lifestyle!