Scientists have identified a strong connection between dehydration and depression, noting that even mild dehydration will affect your moods. Two studies from the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Connecticut demonstrate that it takes relatively little dehydration (1.5 percent loss in the body’s normal water volume) to alter your energy level, mood, and ability to think clearly.
The study also found that consuming water has a “significant impact” on alleviating depression and supporting mental sharpness. It can also help with sleep disorders. One of the study’s lead researchers, Lawrence E. Armstrong, professor of physiology in UConn’s Department of Kinesiology, found that when the subjects were dehydrated, they were more irritable and fatigued. According to Dr. Armstrong, not drinking enough water can also cause headaches, sleepiness, and confusion.
Numerous similar scientific studies support the UConn hydration report, identifying the many benefits of adequate water consumption. Nutrition expert Kathleen M. Zelman enumerates some of the benefits of proper hydration. Water intake helps to:
Balance body fluids. Bodily fluids help to support digestion, absorption, circulation, creation of saliva, transportation of nutrients, and body-temperature regulation.
Support weight loss. For many years, water consumption has been recognized as an effective weight-loss strategy. Water is a zero-calorie method for helping yourself feel full so you’ll eat less food.
Maintain muscle mass. Cells that don’t sustain the proper balance of fluids and electrolytes cause muscle fatigue. That’s why drinking ample fluids during exercise is essential. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that people consume about seventeen ounces of fluid about two hours before exercise. During exercise, you should drink fluids at regular intervals to replace fluids lost through perspiration.
Sustain kidney function. Fluids are responsible for moving waste throughout the body. Blood urea nitrogen is the chief waste product. It dissolves in water and thus can easily move through the body and the kidneys, where it is released into urine. A sign your body is properly hydrated can be found in the urine. When you’ve had enough fluids, urine will be odorless and light in color. If your body has not received the fluids it needs, the kidneys retain fluid for other purposes, and urine has a more concentrated color and odor.
Aid digestion. Sufficient hydration allows proper flow along your gastrointestinal tract and decreases possible constipation. When fluids are inadequate, the colon takes water from stools to provide hydration, and constipation is the result.
So how much water consumption will help you thrive? You’ve probably heard the mantra that you should drink at least eight eight- ounce glasses of water each day (i.e., sixty-four ounces). Well, there is a lot of truth to that. Don’t forget that our bodies are composed of approximately 60 percent water. We need a lot of water to keep our biological machine humming along in good health.
Actually, I believe we all need a bit more water than that, depending upon body weight. What I advise my clients is that they drink the equivalent of half their body weight in ounces of water each day. For example, if you weigh 176 pounds, you should drink 88 ounces per day—that’s the equivalent of eleven eight-ounce glasses of water. The trick is to start early in the morning and have a water container near you during the day—even while you are driving.
And just to be clear: I am talking about water, not just liquids. So if you have juice or coffee with lunch, don’t count those ounces toward your daily water intake. Remember that a lot of the liquids we rely on each day—coffee, soda, black tea, beer—contain either caffeine or alcohol, both of which are diuretics. In other words, they actually do the opposite of what water does: they dehydrate you rather than hydrate you.
Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE in Edmonds, Washington, voted a top ten facility for the treatment of depression in the United States. Dr. Jantz pioneered Whole Person Care in the 1980’s and is a world-renowned expert on eating disorders, depression, anxiety, technology addiction, and abuse. He is a leading voice and innovator in Mental Health utilizing a variety of therapies including nutrition, sleep therapy, spiritual counseling, and advanced DBT techniques. Dr. Jantz is a best-selling author of 39 books and has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN.
 Colin Poitras, “Even Mild Dehydration Can Alter Mood,” UConn Today, February 21, 2012, https://today.uconn.edu/2012/02/even-mild-dehydration-can-alter-mood/.
 This list is adapted from Kathleen M. Zelman, “6 Reasons to Drink Water,” WebMD, May 8, 2019, https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/6-reasons-to-drink -water#1.