“Why can’t I drink Soda, Coffee, or Tea when I’m thirsty?”

“Why can’t I drink coffee, tea, or soda instead of water when I’m thirsty?” – George S.

I get that question all the time! Let’s start with the make-up of the human body. Up to 75% of the body is made of water. That water is in our cells, blood vessels, and even the spaces between the cells. We lose that water through daily activities like breathing, sweating, using the restroom, being in dryer environments like during a long plane ride, or being out in the sun for too long. Dehydration occurs when the amount of water leaving the body is greater than the amount of water being taken in to the body.

Our body begins to experience the symptoms of dehydration when only 2% of the body’s water supply has been depleted. These symptoms can include thirst, discomfort, loss of appetite, dry skin, constipation, unexplained tiredness, headaches, muscle cramps, dizziness when standing, and general confusion. The easiest symptom to notice is urine output because there will be less and it will be darker in color. OK, Dr. Smith, where are you going with this?! I asked about coffee, tea, and soda!

Thanks for getting me back on track  Let’s start with sodas. Most soda contains a stimulant called caffeine. Not only does caffeine makes us jittery but it also acts as a diuretic causing urination beyond what would be expected from an equivalent amount of water. Soda also contains phosphoric acid which drains the bones of calcium. This combined with soda’s diuretic effects means more minerals are leaving the body before they have a chance to be absorbed and put to use. Soda also contains at least 10 teaspoons of sugar which is 100% of the daily recommended value for adults. This predisposes a person to diabetes and other pancreatic issues.

Coffee and tea are not so different than soda in that they too have the same diuretic effects due to their caffeine content. While de-caffeinated beverages are an alternative, drinkers should make sure that the process to de-caffeinate must be as natural as possible. Oftentimes, the chemicals used to de-caffeinate the drink can be harmful as well. Your best bet is naturally decaffeinated beverages such as herbal teas.

The main culprit here is the caffeine. It can lead to sleep disorders, irritability, depression, mental confusion, digestive disorders, and most importantly dehydration. This is especially important as we enter the warmer months of the year.  Now is the time to drink even more water than you normally would have during the cooler months.  This spring and summer, I suggest drinking more water to the typically suggested 1/2 one’s body weight in ounces.  The moral of this story: Because the body is made of water, it needs water to function properly.