Just as a wilted flower bursts into bloom after a quenching rain shower, so does the human body thrive when well hydrated. We all know hydration is essential for everyday health and wellness, but it becomes even more important as we transition through menopause.
Not only can hydration help relieve some of the discomfort associated with menopause, but dehydration may actually cause or exacerbate certain menopause symptoms. Let’s take a look at why hydration matters during menopause, as well as some tangible ways to stay hydrated.
Hydration Can Help Reduce Certain Menopause Symptoms
Water is essential for life and is responsible for critical bodily functions like regulating temperature, lubricating and cushioning joints, and removing waste.1
In fact, the average human body is made up of 60% water — but this percentage may drop to 55% for women after menopause.2
During menopause, your hydration level takes on extra importance because as mentioned, it can either alleviate or exacerbate certain menopause symptoms. According to Bonafide Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Alyssa Dweck, “With menopause and age, body water content drops, in part due to lower estrogen levels. Staying hydrated is important for any age. It’s particularly helpful for those managing menopausal hot flashes and night sweats who experience perspiration, which can be excessive and cause dehydration to occur.”
Some of the symptoms that hydration may help to relieve include:
Some menopausal women may experience pain while urinating as a result of estrogen loss and increased vaginal dryness or skin thinning.3 Consuming lots of fluids has been shown to help relieve some of this urinary pain and irritation.4 Increasing fluid intake works to dilute the urine, and can help inhibit the growth of certain bacteria that may irritate the bladder and cause pain.5 “Hydrating well prevents the urine from getting very concentrated and could potentially help with associated bladder irritation,” Dr. Dweck explains. “In addition, adequate hydration helps flush the urinary tract and for this reason may play a role preventing infection.”
Since estrogen stimulates the production of collagen and oils that keep skin plump and moist, women may find their skin getting dry and itchy as estrogen levels drop during menopause.6 During menopause the skin also starts to lose some of its ability to retain water, which can also contribute to dryness. Adequate water intake can help moisturize your skin from the inside out, since water is the main component of our body’s cells and tissues. Hydration can help promote collagen production even during menopause.7
Changing hormone levels during menopause are often associated with migraines and other types of headaches.8 Because underlying dehydration may worsen headaches, drinking water may help relieve them.9 Headaches can also be associated with dehydration experienced alongside menopausal hot flashes. During a hot flash, you may lose additional water due to increased perspiration, so staying hydrated becomes even more important.
Dehydration Can Make Some Menopause Symptoms Worse
While hydration can help relieve some menopause symptoms, dehydration can make some symptoms worse. Some of the menopause symptoms that can be exacerbated by dehydration include:
You only need to be 1% dehydrated to experience a 5% decrease in cognitive function.10 For women dealing with menopausal brain fog, dehydration could make symptoms worse. studies have shown that there is a link between dehydration and the brain’s ability to function, which can negatively affect executive functions, the ability to pay attention, and important motor functions.11
Fatigue is a symptom experienced by many menopausal women. The issue could be poor sleep, caused by everything from night sweats to insomnia. But fatigue can also happen during the day and is sometimes caused simply by the hormonal fluctuations of menopause. The culprit may even be dehydration itself since water is necessary for a well-functioning body and mind. Whatever’s to blame, check in with yourself the next time you’re feeling lethargic. Making sure you’re drinking enough water should be one of the first steps in combatting fatigue.
As levels of inflammation-lowering estrogen decline during menopause, some women may experience joint pain and swelling.12 Dehydration can cause a substance called uric acid to build up in the joints, making joint pain even worse.13
How to Properly Hydrate During Menopause
You’ve probably heard the advice to drink eight glasses of water a day. Dr. Dweck agrees, adding that the standard eight glass/day rule still applies for women in menopause. “Plain water, with or without electrolytes, is best,” she says.
This standard rule aside, there are certain conditions that may require you to increase your fluid intake:14
Your body loses fluid through sweat, so it’s a good idea to try to make up for the loss by drinking water before, during, and after a workout. Staying active is even more important during menopause: exercise has been shown to help elevate mood, enable you to get a better night’s rest, or even help reduce the risk of certain medical conditions, such as heart disease. Keep moving but keep up with your fluid intake to avoid dehydration.
Just as with exercise, sweating excessively on hot days may lead to fluid loss that requires extra hydration. Hot summer weather can also increase the occurrence of menopausal hot flashes in certain women. If you’re going to be out in the summer heat, consider keeping a fan or water mister bottle with you in order to keep your skin temperature regulated and help avoid a hot flash.
Illness or Other Health Issues
If you’ve been ill your body may need extra water. “Every cell in the body needs water for optimal function; this includes the cells in the immune system,” says Dr. Dweck. “A fever causes excessive perspiration and water loss, as do typical symptoms of a GI bug, like vomiting and diarrhea. Replenishing water is super important.”
In general, experts advise using the color of your urine as a means of determining your hydration level. If your urine is pale yellow and clear, you’re probably well hydrated; if it’s dark and concentrated, you may need more fluids.15
What Are the Best Liquids for Hydration?
You can’t beat water for optimal hydration, but you don’t have to gulp down glass after glass to get enough of this essential liquid. You can also take in water by eating fruits and vegetables that have a high-water content. Watermelon contains 92% water (hence the name), while strawberries and cantaloupe are around 90% water. Cucumbers and lettuce are also very hydrating.16
If you have been sweating — whether from exercise, warm weather, or menopausal hot flashes — you may want to consider a beverage like coconut water or a sports drink that can help you restore lost electrolytes. Studies show that rehydration after sweating can be achieved only if electrolyte losses as well as water are replaced.17
Which Beverages Should Be Avoided?
Are there beverages women should avoid when trying to stay hydrated during menopause? The good news is that moderate amounts of coffee and other caffeinated beverages aren’t likely to dehydrate you. Caffeine can act as a diuretic, meaning it may cause you to urinate more frequently. Research suggests, however, that you’d need to drink more than five cups of brewed coffee per day for caffeine to have a significant diuretic effect.18
Alcohol, on the other hand, possesses stronger diuretic properties and can quickly dehydrate you, so alcoholic beverages should be avoided or moderated.19 Alcohol may also affect the body differently during perimenopause and menopause. According to the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), drinking beyond moderation (which typically means no more than seven drinks a week), can become problematic and potentially worsen menopausal symptoms.
Hydration Tips for Menopausal Women
To help reduce menopause symptoms like dry skin and avoid worsening symptoms like brain fog, make an effort to listen to your body’s thirst signals. Keeping a water bottle on your desk or in your bag can help remind you to hydrate, even when on the go. If you use a fitness-tracking device or app, you may even be able to track your fluid intake and set reminders for yourself to drink.
- Stachenfeld NS. Hormonal changes during menopause and the impact on fluid regulation. Reprod Sci. 2014;21(5):555-561. doi:10.1177/1933719113518992
- Jin J. Vaginal and Urinary Symptoms of Menopause. JAMA. 2017;317(13):1388. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.0833
- Lai HH, Vetter J, Song J, Andriole GL, Colditz GA, Sutcliffe S. Management of Symptom Flares and Patient-reported Flare Triggers in Interstitial Cystitis/Bladder Pain Syndrome (IC/BPS)-Findings From One Site of the MAPP Research Network. Urology. 2019;126:24-33. doi:10.1016/j.urology.2019.01.012
- Palma L, Marques LT, Bujan J, Rodrigues LM. Dietary water affects human skin hydration and biomechanics. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2015;8:413-421. Published 2015 Aug 3. doi:10.2147/CCID.S86822
- Perrier ET, Johnson EC, McKenzie AL, Ellis LA, Armstrong LE. Urine colour change as an indicator of change in daily water intake: a quantitative analysis. Eur J Nutr. 2016;55(5):1943-1949. doi:10.1007/s00394-015-1010-2
- Singh R Jr. Fluid balance and exercise performance. Malays J Nutr. 2003;9(1):53-74.