If you live with diabetes, you know how important it is to maintain a healthy blood sugar (glucose) level.
Left untreated, high blood sugar can damage blood vessels and nerves in your body. It can also cause complications such as renal failure, blindness, and cardiovascular disease.
But while medication, exercise, and a healthy diet can lower your blood sugar, it’s also important to stay hydrated. High blood sugar can lower fluid levels in your body, which can lead to dehydration.
Dehydration and diabetes can go hand in hand. In fact, thirst and dry mouth – both symptoms of dehydration – are often the first signs of diabetes. However, what is the link between diabetes and dehydration?
This connection has everything to do with how the body reacts to high blood sugar.
Diabetes means that your body does not make or use insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone that allows your body’s cells to take sugar into your bloodstream, and use that sugar for energy.
If your body does not use insulin properly, sugar can build up in your bloodstream. When your blood sugar stays high for an extended period of time, your kidneys need to work harder to filter and remove the excess glucose. This happens with urination.
It is this increase in urination that leads to dehydration, especially if you do not replace lost liquids.
Excessive thirst is a first sign of diabetes, as well as a sign of dehydration.
Diabetes thirst increases when your body loses too much water from urination caused by high blood sugar. Even if you drink regularly, you may still be thirsty or dehydrated.
This is because your kidneys continue to excrete more urine to produce too much glucose. This cycle continues as long as your blood sugar is too high.
Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a complication of diabetes that occurs after prolonged high blood sugar, and is more common in type 1 diabetes.
If cells cannot absorb sugar for energy, your body will start burning fat for fuel. This process removes a type of acid called ketones, and too many ketones in your bloodstream can cause serious problems.
This condition can cause your body to lose a lot of fluids, which can put you in a panic. Severe symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis include:
- dry skin
- flowing face
- muscle stiffness
- coma diabetic
Diabetes insipidus is a completely different condition from diabetes mellitus, and can result from the pituitary gland not producing vasopressin properly, or the kidneys not being able to respond to it. Vasopressin is an antidiuretic hormone, and it causes the kidneys to not be able to retain water.
When this happens, your kidneys will pick up a lot of urine, which can lead to dehydration.
Keeping your blood sugar within a normal range helps your body maintain a healthy balance. But it also helps maintain hydration. Drinking water not only fights dehydration, it can also help your body get rid of excess glucose.
If you live with diabetes, you should drink enough alcohol – about 1.6 liters (L) or 6.5 cups per day for women; and 2 L or 8.5 glasses per day for men.
But while water is an all-around alcoholic beverage and highly recommended for increasing fluid intake and preventing dehydration, other beverages are effective for dehydration as well.
To add flavor to plain water, add a few teaspoons of fresh lime or lemon juice. You can also hydrate by drinking caffeine-free herbal tea, skim milk, and sugar-free coffee.
However, you should avoid energy drinks, fruit juices and sodas. These drinks are high in sugar and can increase your blood sugar. Golden water is fine, as long as it is sugar free.
Keep in mind, too, that diabetes-related dehydration does not always cause symptoms. At times, there are no visible signs of severe rainfall.
Common symptoms of mild dehydration include:
If you have really bad hydration, you may experience low blood pressure, weak pulse, and upset.
Some factors can make dehydration worse or increase your risk as well. This includes being exposed to hot, humid weather and vigorous exercise. Lack of hydration can make it worse when you drink alcohol or caffeinated beverages.
If you have symptoms of dehydration, drinking more water and managing your diabetes can balance your fluid level and improve hydration.
However, see a doctor if you cannot control your blood sugar with medications or lifestyle changes. Your doctor may need to change your diabetes medication.
You should also see a doctor if you have severe symptoms of dehydration such as upset, low blood pressure, and a weak pulse, or if you have symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis. These symptoms include:
- nausea and vomiting
- fruity-scented anail
- shortness of breath
Also, see a doctor if you have signs of dehydration, but your blood sugar is still within normal range.
Diabetes is a chronic condition that can cause serious complications when left untreated. Increased urination and thirst are signs of dehydration, and it’s important to take early steps to rehydrate your body and maintain a healthy blood sugar range.
Left untreated, dehydration can be life-threatening, increasing the risk of renal failure, seizures, and even coma.