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Ep. 11: Can coffee lead to dehydration?

July 29, 2019

When water makes up 60% of the human body, finding the balance between too much water and too little is important.  With so many alternatives available today, we often take water for granted, and being aware of the signs and symptoms of dehydration is more important than ever.  Dehydration can result from far more than just going for a long period without drinking or being out in the hot sun.  Consistently being dehydrated can have bad effects on other parts of the body, including kidney function and blood pressure.

One of our Registered Dietitians, Ashley Kannenberg, joins the Pulse to discuss many of the causes and side effects of dehydration and over-hydration, and gives recommendations on how to find the right balance to stay healthy.

Episode Summary

We have all probably heard "if you are thirsty, then you are already dehydrated."  Believe it or not, thirst is one of the first signs of dehydration, so that statement is mostly true.  If you have ever experienced dry mouth, fatigue, rosy cheeks, dry skin, or become warmer, you have probably experienced dehydration.  Without water, the symptoms can worse, eventually leading to dizziness, fainting, confusion, sunken eyes, low blood pressure, and shock.  At that point, you would most likely find yourself in the hospital.

What is the best way to tell if you are properly hydrated?  Check your urine.  Light yellow, hay-colored urine is healthy.  If it is dark and orange-looking, you are dehydrated.  If it is very clear and almost looks like water, then you are over-hydrated.  Although it is rare, over-hydration can also lead to death and have negative side effects.


Not only can dehydration come from exercising, not drinking, or being out in the heat, but it also comes from beverages with caffeine or alcohol.  Both act as diuretics and trigger your body to expel fluids quickly and therefore go to the bathroom more often.  Coffee, tea, soda, and alcohol increase your risk of dehydration.  Additionally, swimming can often lead to dehydration; people continue to sweat while in a pool, even though they do not notice it.  They also tend to ignore thirst and stay in the pool for hours.  Whether it be children playing in a pool or a group of friends tubing down a river, dehydration can easily result from having fun in the water.

It all comes down to paying attention to the signals your body gives.  Sometimes you need something other than water, and sometimes you just need to drink more water each day.  If you find yourself constantly thirsty, it could be a sign of a medical condition.  For any concerns, including this, it is important to meet with your family provider and explore your health further. 

What are other healthy alternatives to water?

Water can always be made more attractive by adding fruits or vegetables, including pieces of lemon, orange, watermelon, or frozen berries.  Ashley personally recommends using lemon and cucumber in water.  If water is boring to you, experiment with some ways to spruce it up using healthy foods!  

You could also try using Crystal Light packets or any flavoring that uses artificial sweeteners.  Anything involving sugar will lead to calorie intake.

Milk is also very healthy for the body, and 3 servings a day is very important. 

Another option is fruit juice, although this comes with a disclaimer.  First of all, it has to be 100% fruit juice.  Second, it should never amount to more than 12 oz a day.  Keep in mind that fruit juice is concentrated, so even 4 oz (half a glass) of fruit juice is made from at least 4 pieces of fruit.  Yes, fruit is healthy for you, but like all things, it is healthy in moderation.  They contain natural sweeteners, which are unhealthy in excessive quantities.  It is easy to reach that excessive limit by drinking fruit juice.


Ashley Kannenberg, RDN provides Nutritional Counseling at Perry Memorial Hospital



Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics

National Academy of Medicine

American Academy of Pediatrics