Here’s a laundry list of symptoms: constipation, dry mouth, kidney and urinary problems, thirst, bad breath, joint pain, muscle cramps, compromised skin health, decreased immunity, mood and mind problems, sugar cravings, and asthma and allergy symptoms.
While these may seem like a random assortment, they’re all signs of dehydration—some of which may be more surprising than others. A person can experience dehydration at any age for a variety of reasons, but if you’re anywhere from 40 to 50 years old and/or experiencing menopause, you may wondering: Can menopause cause dehydration?
Experts In This Article
- Alyssa Dweck, MD, FACOG, board-certified OB/GYN at the Mount Kisco Medical Group
- Brandye Wilson-Manigat, MD, board-certified OB/GYN, menopause expert, and Cure medical advisor
- Michael Green, MD, OB/GYN and chief medical officer at Winona
- Taniqua Miller, MD, Taniqua Miller, MD, FACOG, MSCP, is the founder of TaniquaMD and an Evernow clinician.
Before we dive into the potential connections between the two, it’s important to understand what menopause is in the first place.
Menopause is a natural biological process marking the end of reproductive years for people with uteruses, usually occurring in their late 40s or early 50s. It is defined by the absence of menstrual periods for 12 consecutive months. Perimenopause, on the other hand, is the transitional phase leading up to menopause. During perimenopause, which can start anywhere from mid-30s to mid-50s, hormonal fluctuations occur, leading to irregular periods and various symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, and mood changes.
Factors that can make dehydration more likely during menopause
There are several physiological changes to the body that happen around the same ages that perimenopause and menopause begin that can make it easy to assume that menopause is causing your dehydration, but there’s more to it than that.
Case in point: “The amount of water that we hold onto declines as we age,” says Taniqua Miller, MD, MSCP, a board-certified OB/GYN, menopause expert, and Evernow physician. This is because it’s common to start losing three-to-five percent of your body’s muscle mass per decade beginning at age 30. “Less muscle mass means less body water content, and thus risk for dehydration,” says Alyssa Dweck, MD, a practicing gynecologist and the chief medical officer at Bonafide Health. “This is a natural phenomenon.”
As a result, dehydration is even more likely with even just the slightest decrease in fluid intake as you get older, according to board-certified OB/GYN Brandye Wilson-Manigat, MD, menopause expert and Cure medical advisor.
To add to that, people typically experience less thirst when they’re older making it more challenging to stay hydrated, according to Dr. Miller. Dr. Wilson-Manigat adds that “because our signals for thirst usually lag what’s happening in our bodies, by the time we become aware, we are playing catch up to our body’s needs.”
What’s more: “The kidneys also become less efficient at concentrating urine [as you age], leading to increased water elimination and further depleting the already-diminished total body water level,” says Dr. Wilson-Manigat.
Menopausal symptoms that may cause dehydration
To be clear, menopause can definitely contribute to dehydration, however. For example, an overactive bladder is a common symptom of menopause, according to Dr. Dweck, and it can lead to peeing more frequently. “In order to mitigate these symptoms, many will fluid-restrict and thus risk dehydration,” she says.
Meanwhile, the physiological changes due to hormonal fluctuations during menopause, aka hot flashes and night sweats, are correlated with estrogen deficiency, according to Dr. Miller. And that causes other symptoms that can be dehydrating.
“Estrogen [is central to] the thermoregulatory zone of the brain in the hypothalamus,” she explains. “As the estrogen decline nearing menopause, the internal thermostat gets disrupted. The body can easily overheat, causing the hot flashes. And in response, the body will produce sweat in order to cool the body.” Just like with exercise, sweat can lead to dehydration if you’re not adequately replenishing.
Temperature regulation isn’t the only part at play, though. Let’s jump back to a decreased sense of thirst real quick. “Furthermore, many women experience fluid retention (thinking bloating, swelling) in menopause, which also dampens the perception of thirst,” Dr. Wilson-Manigat says. As you can guess, all of this is where the dehydration comes in. “Excessive sweating can cause dehydration, especially if the person is not able to keep up with the increased losses,” she continues.
At what stage of menopause does dehydration ramp up?
It’s valuable to note that you may experience dehydration before menopause has fully started (and after it ends). “Dehydration during menopause can begin at any stage, but it may become more noticeable during the perimenopausal and postmenopausal phases,” says Michael Green, MD, an OB/GYN and the chief medical officer at Winona. He explains that perimenopause is typically when hormonal fluctuations start.
Dr. Wilson-Manigat says the cause of your dehydration may vary depending on what stage of menopause you’re experiencing. “Usually in the early part of menopause, hot flashes and night sweats are the issue,” she says. “Whereas later in menopause, it may be due to the changes seen with a lack of estrogen in the urinary system that leads to increased frequency of urination and increased fluid loss through urination.”
What helps with menopause-related dehydration?
Set water goals
Simply being more mindful can be key. Some products can make that job easier for you, from the LifeFuels bottle that gamifies drinking water to the Fabulous app that motivates you to make small changes that will help you meet your goals.
But how much water do you need? “While this is no hard and fast rule, take your weight in pounds, divide it by two, and that should be your target water intake daily in ounces,” Dr. Miller says.
“If water is not your jam, try to spice it up with cut-up fruit, such as strawberries or cucumbers, to give it a little flavor,” Dr. Miller says.
Pay attention to your bathroom habits and other symptoms
First and foremost, know what you’re dealing with. Dr. Dweck encourages monitoring how often you feel the need to pee and the concentration of your urine.
“When urine looks particularly dark and/or frequency declines significantly compared to baseline, dehydration may be the root cause,” she says, adding that significant fluid loss can deplete electrolytes, minerals that balance the water in your body, move nutrients into cells, and move waste out of cells—basically, they help the water you drink actually keep your body hydrated. This can cause fogginess, fatigue, headache, dry mouth, and excessive thirst, too.
Increase your electrolyte intake
As you’re losing both water and electrolytes when you sweat or pee, you should be sure to replenish both of these elements, according to Dr. Wilson-Manigat. Examples of high-electrolyte foods include melons, sweet potatoes, pickles, leafy greens, and avocados, to start.
Dr. Manigat recommends Cure, a hydrating electrolyte drink mix that replenishes potassium and sodium with natural ingredients (and just tastes better than regular water). She encourages at least a serving a day, increasing that frequency if needed until symptoms decrease or resolve.
Furthermore, lots of different fruits, such as lemons, melons, and limes, are great additions when you’re looking to make a homemade electrolyte drink.
Eat more fruits and veggies
“While you may not have the desire to drink water because of decreased thirst, you may be able to compensate for some fluid losses with fruits and vegetables with higher water content,” Dr. Miller says. Examples of hydrating foods include watermelon, cucumber, lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries, peaches, cantaloupe, and oranges.
Limit caffeine and alcohol
This tip is no fun, I know, but it’s one to consider. “Both have diuretic properties that can cause more fluid losses,” Dr. Miller says. She encourages drinking water instead.
While menopause can play a role in dehydration, it’s not necessarily the biggest contributor. “It’s crucial to recognize that dehydration can result from a combination of factors, and menopause may exacerbate risks that already exist,” Dr. Green says.
So do what you can: Drink water and electrolyte beverages, add fruits and veggies to your diet, and avoid dehydrating drinks (aka coffee/soda/alcohol) as much as you can and are willing.
Additionally, knowing what stage of dehydration your body is in based on your symptoms can help you gauge how long it’ll take for your body to bounce back. FYI, dehydration recovery can last up to 36 hours, depending on the stage.