Water is our life force. We all know that we should drink water regularly in order to maintain our overall health. And while the consumption of water is on the rise, it is only the second most popular drink – soft drinks still reign supreme.
Water and your respiratory system
Research has shown that dehydration vastly affects all of the systems in your body including your respiratory system. Drinking water helps to thin the mucus lining your airways and lungs. Dehydration can cause that mucus to thicken and get sticky, which slows down overall respiration and makes you more susceptible to illness, allergies and other respiratory problems.
1. Dehydration makes it difficult to clear out mucus
When you don’t drink enough water, excessive mucus builds up and produces a plethora of side effects in your body. The mucus that forms in the back of your throat (although may be in your nose) triggers coughing, which is your body’s way of trying to expel it. Mucus buildup isn’t dangerous, but it is irritating. It can cause you to feel like you’re gagging or make breathing more difficult. Overproduction of mucus in the lungs occurs when the lungs become inflamed. The mucus that is created can become thick and sticky which quickly produces illnesses in the body and wreaks havoc on the respiratory system.
2. Dehydration can lead to chronic bronchitis
Bronchitis is caused by inflammation of the mucous membrane lining the lungs, which congests the airways and causes coughing. Bronchitis involves the loss of copious amounts of water from the body. Those suffering with chronic bronchitis, most often deal with dehydration as well. A bronchitis diet should include lots of fluids and hydrating foods. These fluids also help the body to flush out toxins.
3. Chronic dehydration can cause breathing problems
Dehydration causes some of the white cells to convert the amino acid histadine into histamine, which triggers allergic reactions. Once re-hydrated, these cells decrease their histamine production, and breathing symptoms dissipate. Water is used in the nasal passages, bronchial tubes, and lungs and to keep them moist. But when you breathe out, moisture from these tissues is expelled and every breath in brings in drying air. Under hydrated conditions water is rapidly replaced.
4. Dehydration can exacerbate asthma
Asthma is respiratory condition marked by spasms in the bronchi of the lungs which causes difficulty in breathing. It usually results from an allergic reaction or other forms of hypersensitivity. When asthma occurs a person’s airways become inflamed, narrow and swell, and produce extra mucus, making it difficult to breathe. Proper hydration keeps mucus thin, which reduces its ability to further constrict airways.
5. Dehydration can trigger allergies
Allergies are caused by a histamine reaction in the body. If you are allergic to pollen, your body views pollen as a danger and overreacts, causing your immune system to produce histamines to fight the irritants.
Histamines also have other functions, including regulating the body’s water supply. A 1995 Dutch study confirmed that dehydration triggers histamine production as a defensive mechanism to preserve water remaining in the body as well as to prevent future loss. When we are dehydrated, histamine production increases and can cause us to have the symptoms of seasonal allergies such as runny nose, sneezing, and itchy eyes. This accelerated histamine production to compensate for the body’s lack of water is easily avoided by simply drinking more.
How to have proper hydration
Staying properly hydrated is one of the key components in maintaining a healthy respiratory system. These three healthy habits can increase hydration:
- Drink a glass of water before each meal. This is a quick and easy way to increase your water intake. When you sit down to have a meal, down a glass of water (this will also help you consume less calories).
- Eat foods with high water contents. Fruits and vegetables are a great way to increase your water intake. This also includes eating things like soups and drinking milk.
- Carry your water with you. Research shows that when water is close at hand, consumption increases. Keep a bottle of water in your purse, your car and at your desk.
There is no formal recommendation for a daily amount of water people need. That amount obviously differs by what people eat, where they live. Your body will tell you when you are dehydrated, listen and take corrective action. A body well-hydrated with water just works more efficiently.