How Dehydration Damages Your DNA & Your Performance

How Dehydration Damages Your DNA & Your Performance / Alessandra Edwards

For many people, the end of the year marks the finish line they need to drag themselves across. Mentally and physically, it can feel like ‘if only I can get myself to the holiday break….’.

It’s a time of year when the work-hard / play-hard mindset can have a big impact on how productive and successful the next year can be. If you’re fed up with this yearly cycle of yuletide exhaustion and are determined not to show up on January 6th with excess baggage of self-loathing and self-indulgence, do something about it now. As they say, hope is not a plan.

Hydration is the Foundation of a Peak Performing DNA

We’ve all heard that our body is mostly water and we need proper hydration for wellbeing. What is less known is that hydration is essential for the proper functioning of our genes. Our DNA needs to be in a specific shape in order for its instructions (encoded in genes) to be decoded. Water surrounds our DNA to support its characteristic double helix function. Without this shape, cells would not be able to decode the instructions nor pass them onto future generations, ultimately leading to the extinction of our species.

10 Symptoms of Dehydration Affecting Your Performance

Apart from the usual well know signs of dehydration such as thirst and a dark coloured urine here are 10 other symptoms of dehydration that can really impact your performance:

  1. Fatigue: Dehydration is a common cause of tiredness. Studies looking at progressive dehydration have found increased sleepiness and decreased alertness. Especially at the 3pm energy drop, make sure you drink a large glass of water as a pick-me-up.
  2. Difficulty focussing: Even a mild 2% drop in hydration impairs cognitive performance that involves attention and short memory.
  3. Chills: This is a symptom many people do not know about. When we are dehydrated, our body begins to limit the blood flow to our skin. As a result, chills start to occur across our body.
  4. Irritability: Feeling cranky and ready to snap? Dehydration has been shown to trigger neurological changes that lead to increased feelings of anger and frustration. Drink yourself calm (without alcohol of course).
  5. Lightheadedness: If you’re significantly dehydrated, this can lead to a decrease in blood volume and subsequent low blood pressure. This may leave you feeling woozy and with a spaced out feeling.
  6. Sugar Cravings: Dehydration has been linked to changes in metabolic function, increasing your risk of elevated insulin and blood glucose dysregulation. This is particularly significant if at DNA level you have increased risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. If you don’t know your genetics, a good indication is whether you tend towards yo-yo levels of energy throughout the day.
  7. Sleep: Dehydration has been shown to affect our sleep/wake cycle potentially affecting our chances of a good night’s sleep. It can also make us more prone to experience cramps and restless leg syndrome.
  8. Headache: There are a few reasons why dehydration can cause headaches. Firstly, when our body doesn’t have enough water, it impacts our serotonin levels. Secondly, our small blood vessels in the brain respond to hydration so without it, we are left with aches and migraines.
  9. Irritability: Feeling cranky? Lacking patience? Dehydration has a direct impact on our mood and concentration. This frustration can usually be fixed by giving your body the hydration it’s begging for.
  10. Bad Breath: Ok, strictly speaking, this may not really impact your performance but it may give you food for thought once your colleagues and neighbours still insist on maintaining 1.5m social distance especially FROM you. Our breath is directly impacted by dehydration due to our saliva. When we are dehydrated, our saliva decreases and bacteria begins to grow. So, to help keep your breath minty fresh, be sure to drink plenty of water!