Allergic to Dogs and Allergies in Dogs Resource

Natural Decongestants and Hydration

The following article in the series Natural Decongestants and Allergies will look at the subject of natural decongestants and hydration and cover issues related to congestion/water/hydration including answering questions such as what is the recommended daily intake of water, what are the symptoms of dehydration and what types of drink keep you hydrated?

Water and Hydration

Though the content of body water varies between individuals and can range anywhere from 45% to 78% of the body weight, depending on various factors such as age or illness, a figure of around 60% is typical for an adult.

Water is essential for life and one of its many functions is to keep your mucous membranes healthy. In the context of congestion, being properly hydrated (as opposed to becoming dehydrated) will help the mucous membranes remain moist and any mucus produced will be thinner and more watery. This can help flush out allergens, reduce the risk of secondary infections and lessen the problem of congestion and discomfort due to the build-up of thick, encrusted mucus or phlegm.

Natural Decongestants and Hydration

How Much Water Should a Person Drink Every Day?

Opinions vary, for example:

  • The Department of Health (UK) recommends consuming 1.2 litres (40.58 US oz) of fluid daily as approximately 1 litre (37.20 US oz) of fluid will be obtained from food and 0.3 litres (10.14 US oz) will be derived from cellular reactions.
  • The British Nutrition Foundation suggests 1.5 litres (50.72 US oz) to 2 litres (60.63 Us oz) a day of fluid.
  • “8 by 8” rule – “drink eight 8-ounce (US) glasses of water a day” – implies consuming 8 x 8 US oz = 8 x 237ml = 1.9 litres (64.25 US oz) of water daily.
  • The average adult should consume 2.5 litres (84.54 US oz) of water according to the British Dietetic Association, whilst the
  • Institute of Medicine (US) suggests the daily total beverages for men to be 3 litres (101.44 US oz) and 2.2 litres (74.39 US oz) for women.

Therefore, providing a definitive answer is not possible as recommendations from various related studies and organizations differ because every person is unique and there are a huge number of possible variables e.g. age, environment, exercise, health etc.

How to Determine if You Are Dehydrated – The Signs of Dehydration

If a person begins to notice any of the symptoms listed below, it may indicate that they are becoming dehydrated:

  • Drowsy/fatigue/lethargy.
  • Dry mouth and eyes.
  • Feeling thirsty.
  • Headaches and/or lightheaded.
  • Skin turgor. When the skin on the abdomen, back of hand or lower hand is squeezed between the thumb and index finger for several seconds and then released, it returns to normal slowly. This signals that the dehydration level is moderate to severe as hydrated skin will spring back quickly.
  • Urine changes. There will probably be less urine and it will be darker in color and have a more pungent aroma. Except for the first urination after waking up, the color of your urine should be colorless or very light yellow.
  • Although babies can experience all the symptoms listed above, in addition, their fontanelle (soft spot on head) may be sunken.

Determining the degree of how dehydrated someone is can be problematic given the variables involved, but one approach is to consider the percentage loss of fluid relative to a person’s body weight:

  • 5% – Mild dehydration.
  • 10%- Moderate dehydration.
  • 15% – Severe dehydration.

Ways to Keep Hydrated – Types of Drinks

Keeping hydrated requires consuming fluids and this can be achieved from a variety of sources:

Coffee and Tea

The 2 most consumed beverages in the world after water are coffee and tea. Popular belief has it that because they contain caffeine, tea and coffee have a mild diuretic effect and are therefore dehydrating when consumed. However, Gardner et al. 2006 review of various studies published between 1990 and 2004 about black tea found, “no consistent evidence that normal tea drinking impacted adversely on mood, mental performance, hydration or iron status”, whilst Ruxtona and Hart 2011 concluded that black tea, “offered similar hydrating properties to water.”  Furthermore, Killer et al. 2014 found, “No evidence of dehydration with moderate daily coffee intake” i.e. moderate coffee consumption provides “similar hydrating qualities to water.

In fact, even though water would seem to be the most natural and healthiest drink, a number of studies have suggested that the health benefits of drinking tea actually outweigh those of drinking just plain water. The presence of various antioxidants such as flavonoids in tea may help bestow heart-protective qualities  as well as have anticancer, weight loss and beneficial cognitive qualities. In addition, the presence of fluoride may help prevent tooth decay. Ruxton and Mason 2011  noted, “a significant association between regular black tea consumption and a reduced risk of coronary heart disease at around three or more cups per day” and one of the study’s authors, Dr Ruxton had previously told the BBC, “Drinking tea is actually better for you than drinking water” and that although very high doses of caffeine dehydrate, “even if you had a really, really strong cup of tea or coffee, which is quite hard to make, you would still have a net gain of fluid.”

Mejia and Ramirez-Mares 2014 study, whilst acknowledging a need for further related randomized controlled studies, concluded, “a growing body of evidence from epidemiological studies suggest that coffee drinking in most people is beneficial and inversely associated with risk for various diseases.” However, the authors are in agreement with the American Academy of Pediatrics 2014 press release concerning, “stimulant-containing energy drinks have no place in the diets of children and adolescents.”


Drinking plain water still has many advantages such as zero sugar or calories and for those who feel the taste rather bland, it can be pepped up by adding a slice or two of lemon or lime. However, debate surrounding the issue as to whether bottled water or tap water is best is still ongoing.

Interestingly, there is little evidence to show that bottled water, which in some cases can be just filtered tap water, is any healthier or safer than water that comes from a tap in most developed countries. Some bottled water has high levels of sodium and calcium, plus certain plastic bottles can leach chemicals, such as xenoestrogen, and bacteria into the water. In addition, bottle water is expensive (cost to produce, transport and purchase) and produces significant plastic pollution when disposed of.

By comparison, although tap water in most developed countries is chemically treated so that it is termed ‘safe to drink’, it can contain traces of  aluminium, chlorine, hormones from the pill and HRT, heavy metals, pesticides, nitrates, solvents and up to a potential 1400 contaminants. It is for this reason that many people choose to use filtration devices for their mains tap water.

Fizzy Drinks, Squashes and Energy Drinks

Fizzy drinks, squashes and sport or energy drinks provide fluid but they can be high in sugar, calories or caffeine and may possibly contribute to a range of possible diseases such as tooth decay, obesity and even certain cancers. For example, the issue that the impact of carbonated soft drinks on gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), Barrett’s esophagus (cells damaged due to acid reflux) and potentially esophageal cancer was raised by Mallath 2004 (Abstact W1354 ) but countered by other studies such as Ibiebele et al. 2008.

Fruit Juices

Fruit juices and smoothies are best when prepared fresh from natural ingredients; when buying commercial versions, choose those that are labelled as 100% fruit juice with no added sugar.


Milk is a good source of fluid especially if you use the skimmed or semi-skimmed milk rather than the full fat version.

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