Because depression is a multi-faceted condition with several causes, involving multiple parts of your body, it would be an overstatement to say that all depression is affected by dehydration. However, in many cases, dehydration could be a contributing factor worth considering.
Dehydration Decreases Serotonin Production
Depression is often connected to insufficient levels of serotonin, an important neurotransmitter which largely determines mood. The amino acid tryptophan is converted to serotonin in your brain. An adequate amount of water is needed for tryptophan to be transported across the blood-brain barrier. Hence, dehydration limits the amount of tryptophan available to the brain and consequently, serotonin levels.
In addition to dehydration’s negative effect on tryptophan, it can also negatively impact other amino acids in the body. In Kissing The Black Dog, Wayne Ellis writes:
Dehydration also depletes other essential amino acids contributing to feelings of dejection, inadequacy, anxiety, irritability.
Lack of Water Diminishes Energy in your Brain
Another way that depression and dehydration are linked is that dehydration can decrease energy production in the brain. According to F. Batmanghelidj, M.D., in Your Body’s Many Cries for Water:
Pathology that is seen to be associated with ‘social stresses—fear, anxiety, insecurity, persistent emotional and matrimonial problems—and the establishment of depression are the results of water deficiency to the point that the water requirement of brain tissue is affected.
Batmanghelidj says that the brain uses electrical energy that is produced by the water drive of energy-generating pumps. He explains:
With dehydration, the level of energy generation in the brain is decreased. Many functions of the brain that depend on this type of energy become inefficient. We recognize this inadequacy of function and call it depression.
Dehydration Increases Stress in your Body
Stress is one of the of the biggest factors known to contribute to depression. In the book Hexagonal Water: The Ultimate Solution, M.J. Pangman writes “Dehydration is the number one cause of stress in the human body.”
Dehydration can cause stress, and stress can cause dehydration. When stressed, your adrenal glands pump out increased cortisol, the stress hormone. Under chronic stress, they can become exhausted. Your adrenal glands also make the hormone aldosterone, which helps to regulate your body’s fluid and electrolyte levels. As adrenal fatigue progresses, aldosterone production drops, triggering dehydration and low electrolytes.
Drinking plenty of water can help minimize the negative physiological and psychological effects of stress.
So, How Much Water Should You Be Drinking?
While drinking water will not miraculously cure all types of depression, it may be a crucial missing link for many people who are chronically dehydrated. According to The Mayo Clinic, you want to strive to drink half of your body weight in ounces of water daily generally. For example, if you weigh 180 lbs., you would want to drink about 90 ounces of water to adequately hydrate your body.
However, ideal daily water need depends on many factors, including weight, gender, stress level, illnesses and other health conditions, climate, and how much and how vigorously you exercise. A few of the instances in which water intake should be increased include:
- Prolonged or intense exercise
- Hot or humid climate
- Illnesses with fever, vomiting or diarrhea
- Chronic health conditions
- Pregnant or breastfeeding mothers
You can check your hydration status by monitoring the color of your urine. Urine would be a very pale yellow in individuals who are properly hydrated. Urine that is dark yellow or tan in color indicates dehydration. Proper hydration is particularly important for high-risk groups, such as the elderly, people with diabetes, and children.
It’s important to note that drinking other fluids, like juices, coffee, tea, soda or alcohol, does not take the place of water. Water is water and is irreplaceable in the body. In fact, all of those liquids can actually contribute to the condition of dehydration in the body.
You do get some water from your food, primarily fruits and vegetables. But even with a diet abundant in these, food typically only accounts for about 20 percent of your total fluid intake.