If adopting one lifestyle change could ease many of your menopause symptoms, would you do it?

What if it were an an easy, painless lifestyle choice for most women to make (though sadly, not all)? Chances are you have it in your house 24/7 and readily accessible most other places.

It’s water.

Drinking more (good) water is the one simple lifestyle change that can possibly improve brain function, make skin, hair, and nails healthier, reduce urinary urgency and bladder irritation, relieve nausea and hot flashes, reduce the intensity and frequency of headaches, and ease muscle cramps.

As we age, our bodies don’t retain moisture as well. In youth, we are 60-70% water; after menopause, women may be only 55% water, which is a substantial drop.

Why so dry?

Estrogen makes it easier for our tissue to retain moisture. As levels of the hormone drop, so does our body moisture.

What does dehydration do?

Dehydration affects your everything.

Let’s start with your brain. According to neuroscientist Dr. Lisa Mosconi, “80% of the brain’s content is actually water. And every single chemical reaction that happens in the brain needs water to occur, including energy production. So, if you don’t have water or you don’t have enough, your brain will just not be able to make energy.”

So not enough water means less energy. But not only that. Dr. Mosconi continues: “Even a minimal loss of water, like 2% reduction, which is not even clinical dehydration, it’s just a very mild dehydration – it can actually cause neurological symptoms, like brain fog, confusion, fatigue, dizziness and even worse. Brain imaging studies have shown that people who are just mildly dehydrated show brain shrinkage as compared to those who are well-hydrated.”

If brain shrinkage doesn’t send you running to the water fountain, some other issues include drier, more brittle hair and nails, skin that’s flaky, dry, and itchy. Headache is common, as are constipation and bloating. Unlubricated joints ache more. Your body thermostat may get (even further) out of whack: Some studies show an increase in hot flashes among women who are chronically under-watered. And drinking more water may help guard against bladder infections, and, somewhat counter-intuitively, incontinence.

How to rehydrate

What to drink

First of all, not all liquid is created equal. While we’ve been told lots of liquids are actively bad for you, they may not be as bad as all that. Carbonation, it appears, doesn’t affect bone density. Caffeine isn’t that dehydrating after all (but an FYI on that – the studies most seem to point to involve all men, and we know caffeine affects women differently).

On the other hand, sodas, caffeinated and carbonated drinks, and sugary drinks don’t provide the same benefits you get from plain water. Diet drinks, it seems, may have risks of their own, including an increased risk of stroke – though more research needs to be conducted to verify a link.

Water contains nutrients, electrolytes, and minerals our brains and bodies need, says Dr. Mosconi, so filtered or otherwise processed water may not contain the same essential nutrients.

Spring water, on the other hand, may be best liquid for your brain and your body, as it contains the most natural assortment of nutrients. Just be sure you’re getting actual “spring” water, which is an FDA-regulated term.  

You should also get hydration from your food, namely fresh fruits and vegetables.

Many liquids can help you hydrate (not alcohol, though, sorry – that is a dehydrator), but they may come with other negatives such as affecting your teeth (fruit juices, sugary soda) or impacting your weight or wallet (fancy coffee drinks).

How much to drink

According to our doctors of physical therapy, Bri and Meagan, divide your body weight in two, and that’s how much liquid you should be consuming in a day. For a 150-pound person, that’s 75 ounces a day.

Oh, and if you suffer from night sweats and hot flashes, you need even more water to make up for the additional loss.

But that’s not all the math: two-thirds of that 75 ounces should be water. The remaining third can be “other,” such as coffee, tea, or juice. The PTs recommend getting a reusable water bottle with the ounces marked on the side to help you keep track of your daily hydration.

A study from 2013 found that nearly half of Americans weren’t drinking enough water. And the older we get, the study concluded, the worse we are about water. Our sense of thirst fades as we get older, so it may be time to track your intake if you’re concerned you’re not getting enough.

How much water do you drink in a day? Have you changed the amount lately, and if so, how has it impacted your menopause symptoms? Share your thoughts with the community in our community forums, on our Facebook page, or in Midlife & Menopause Solutions, our closed Facebook group.


Shannon Perry

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