“I don’t want to drink just water. It’s so…boring.”

Water, all on its own without fizz or flavors, might seem dull, but to a woman in or approaching menopause, water is more important than ever.

It helps replace the moisture your body no longer produces or retains as well as it did when you were younger. It can’t replace it all, but it can truly help.

Why water?

Being well-hydrated helps with

Cool water can help tame a hot flash and warm water can warm you from the inside out.

According to a study at the University of Connecticut, a drop in hydration of just 1.5 percent – and this is “mild” dehydration, before you even feel thirsty – can reduce your energy, sour your mood, and make it harder to concentrate.

Good rule to keep in mind: divide your body weight in half, and that’s the number of ounces you should drink in a normal day. If it’s hot, or you’re doing strenuous exercise, or hot flashes/night sweats have you sweating in excess, you might bump that up a bit, but 75 oz per day for a 150-pound woman is a good baseline. Two-thirds of that 75 oz should be pure, un-messed-with water.

So, you know what to drink: water (preferably “spring” water). But do you know what takes the water right out of you?

Looking for ways to stay healthier in midlife and beyond?
Work with a Gennev Menopause Coach to develop a personalized Menopause Plan.  

Dehydration in menopause — causes

What causes us to be so much more dehydrated? Well, lack of estrogen, for starters. We’re 60-70 percent water in our youth, but women are perhaps only 55 percent water after menopause because estrogen causes our tissues to retain more moisture. Without the hormone, cells can’t hold as much.

While there’s not much we can do about our declining estrogen levels, we can avoid making the problem worse by being aware of what else causes dehydration.

Alcohol

Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it causes us to have to go to the bathroom more often. And this means lower fluid content in the body. Because we’re running to the bathroom so often, we might mistakenly think we’re well-hydrated and in no need of more liquid. Wrong! Try to down 8 oz of water for every “adult” beverage, and remember that alcohol isn’t a menopausal woman’s friend (hot flashes, poor sleep, etc.). If you’re ready to indulge, go for it, but please be safe (and drink the water too).

Coffee/Caffeine

Another diuretic. Again, diuretics cause us to pee more often. Also, these can be bladder irritants, so you may feel like you need to pee even when you don’t. Because irritation can lead to urgency incontinence, our Docs of Physical Therapy recommend you drink water first in the morning, before coffee, to dilute the stuff that annoys your bladder.

Salt

Salty and sodium-heavy foods are major dehydrators. But you may not always know where salt is lurking. Some things to avoid or limit include cured meats (bacon, ham); bread and bread-like foods such as biscuits, pancakes, and waffles; canned foods; sports drinks (these are intended to replace sodium lost to sweat, so they are intentionally salty); soy sauce. Lots of snacks are salty: salted nuts, chips, cheeses, crackers, etc.

Snack strategy: Many things are salted in the cooking and baking process (rice, pasta), so taste food before adding more salt or just forego the shaker and dip into some pico de gallo instead. Balance out the salty crackers-and-cheese by grabbing a few slices of cucumber, or piling your plate with watermelon or grapes,

 Sugary drinks

Sugary drinks can stop your body from absorbing the water. Even fruit juices can be a culprit, so if you’re drinking a lot of sugary stuff (including the mixers in your cocktails), balance it out with even more pure water.

Your period

If you’re still having one, that is. The weird roller coaster of estrogen/progesterone at cycle time can cause dehydration, especially if you’re experiencing an especially heavy flow.

Medications

Some medications can be dehydrating, so be sure you check with your doc if you should be increasing your water intake while on them.

Low-carb diets

Yeah, this one surprised us too. But it makes sense: carbs like oatmeal, brown rice, whole grains generally soak up moisture as they cook, meaning they bring water in. They also hold moisture in your body. A low-carb diet increases ketones, which can also be dehydrating.  

Over-hydration happens

“Hyponatremia” is what happens when our blood sodium becomes too diluted. We need some sodium in our blood to regulate the water content in and around our cells. If we take in too much water or lose too much sodium, cells can swell up from the excess, causing all sorts of issues, including death. It’s why athletes drink sports drinks when sweating heavily: they’re replacing water, but they’re also replacing necessary electrolytes like sodium.

Hyponatremia is considerably less common than dehydration, so go ahead and drink water; just don’t feel like you need gallons. If your urine is a pale yellow, you’re likely doing just fine. (Remember that supplements and some foods can change the color of urine, so this may not be the best test all the time.)

Plan for your party

Tonight is New Year’s Eve, which means we’ll have a lot of opportunities to take advantage of exactly those things that dehydrate us: alcohol, salty snacks, little sleep, maybe a bit of dancing? Have a plan for your festivities that help you have fun and keep symptoms under control. If you’ve got an Apple watch or anything with an alarm (preferably one that vibrates, as noisy parties are noisy), set it to remind you to drink water. You’ll thank yourself in the morning.

Drinking water can not only help you keep your wits about you (while those around you are losing theirs), but you’ll have more energy to get to midnight and even a bit beyond, and you’ll likely feel better tomorrow than you might otherwise.

And since most of us get to sleep in on New Year’s Day, go ahead and throw back a few extra liters of water before you call it a night (or a morning, we don’t judge) – while you might have to get up a time or two for a bathroom break, starting 2020 with a happier head and tummy may well be worth it.

Getting through New Year's Eve — or any festive occasion — can be tough if you're dealing with menopause symptoms. What are your strategies for survival while still having a good time and not feeling deprived? We'd love for you to share your tips in the Gennev community forums!