Our bodies need water to stay healthy. Here we look at why fluids are such an important part of our diet, how dehydration can impact Parkinson’s symptoms and how you can stay hydrated.
Why is it important to stay hydrated?
Drinking plenty of fluids can help remove waste products in urine, transport vital nutrients around and control body temperature. It also helps your joints move more smoothly and is important for healthy skin.
Staying hydrated is important all year round, not just when the weather is warmer.
What is dehydration?
A person can become dehydrated when their body is losing more fluid than they’re taking in. If you feel thirsty, this means you're already dehydrated.
Signs of dehydration include:
- feeling thirsty
- feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- feeling tired
- going to the toilet less than usual
- producing dark yellow, strong-smelling urine when you go to the toilet
Older people may be less aware they’re becoming dehydrated because the sensation that makes you feel thirsty reduces. This means you may not always realise you need to have a drink until you’re already dehydrated.
Dehydration and Parkinson’s symptoms
Dehydration can make some Parkinson’s symptoms worse, including:
Low blood pressure
Some people with Parkinson’s may have problems with low blood pressure (also called hypotension). The symptoms of low blood pressure are most likely to happen when there is an increased demand for blood in your body, such as if you’re dehydrated. The lack of fluids and salt in your body makes it harder for your autonomous nervous system to regulate your blood pressure.
Constipation is when your stools become hard and difficult to pass, or when you have bowel movements less frequently than you’ve had before. It’s common in people with Parkinson’s. If you’re dehydrated, this can cause stools to become harder and more difficult to pass.
If you have difficulty swallowing, you may drink less, which can lead to dehydration.
Some Parkinson’s medications can also make you feel or be sick, which can cause dehydration.
How can you treat dehydration?
You should start drinking fluids if you begin to feel dehydrated.
Feeling usually tired, confused or dizzy could be a sign of serious dehydration. If you have these symptoms, or have dark urine or aren’t going to the toilet as often as usual, you should call the non-emergency NHS helpline for advice:
- 111 if you live in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, or the following areas in Wales: Hywel Dda, Powys, Aneurin Bevan and Swansea Bay (including Bridgend).
- 0845 4647 (NHS Direct) if you live in other parts of Wales.
It may be harder for you to drink if you feel or have been sick, but taking smaller, more frequent sips of water can help. You may also need to replace the sugar, salts and minerals your body has lost. A pharmacist can recommend a treatment for this.
How can you stay hydrated?
There are lots of ways you can stay hydrated:
- Aim to drink 6 to 8 mugs or glasses of liquid each day. Water is the easiest way, but any fluid counts. This includes fruit juice, milk, decaffeinated tea and coffee, or diluted or sugar-free squash.
- Eat foods that have a high water content, such as cucumber, melon, grapefruit, grapes and berries. Soups, custards, jelly and ice lollies can also help.
- Try to avoid alcohol and caffeine as they can make you go to the toilet more and lead to dehydration.
- Keep a water bottle with you and sip it regularly throughout the day. If you’re out and about, take a water bottle with you.
- Don’t forget to drink plenty of water before, during and after physical activity and exercise.
- Track how much fluid you’re drinking during the day by keeping a chart.
- Set an alarm to remind you to have a drink.
- Take a glass of water to bed at night, so you can have a drink when you first wake up in the morning.
- Drink a whole glass of water with your medication.
- If you have trouble swallowing, try drinking using a straw.