Staying hydrated when you have diabetes can help to offset high blood sugar’s impact on fluid levels.

If you’re living with diabetes, you know how important it is to maintain a healthy blood sugar (glucose) level.

If left unchecked, high blood sugar can damage blood vessels and nerves in your body. It can also cause complications like kidney failure, blindness, and cardiovascular disease.

But while medication, exercise, and a healthy diet can lower your blood sugar, it’s also important to stay hydrated. High blood sugar can reduce fluid levels in your body, which can lead to dehydration.

Dehydration and diabetes can go hand-in-hand. In fact, thirst and dry mouth — both signs of mild dehydration — are often the first indicators of diabetes. But what’s the connection between diabetes and dehydration?

This connection has everything to do with how the body responds to high blood sugar.

Diabetes means that your body doesn’t make insulin or use insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone that allows your body’s cells to absorb sugar in your bloodstream and then use that sugar for energy.

If your body doesn’t use insulin properly, sugar can accumulate in your bloodstream. When your blood sugar remains high for an extended period, your kidneys must work harder to filter and remove the excess glucose. This happens by means of urination.

This increase in urination leads to dehydration, especially if you don’t replace lost fluids.

Diabetes thirst

Excessive thirst is an initial symptom of diabetes and a symptom of mild dehydration.

Diabetes thirst increases when your body loses too much water from urination caused by high blood sugar. Even if you drink often, you might still feel thirsty or dehydrated.

This is because your kidneys will continue to produce more urine to flush out excess glucose. This cycle continues as long as your blood sugar is too high.

Diabetic ketoacidosis

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a complication of diabetes that occurs after prolonged high blood sugar. It’s more common in type 1 diabetes.

If your cells can’t absorb sugar for energy, your body will start to burn fat for fuel. This process produces a type of acid called ketones. Too many ketones in your bloodstream can lead to serious complications.

This condition can cause your body to lose a large amount of fluids, which can send you into shock. Severe symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis include:

  • dry skin
  • flushed face
  • headaches
  • muscle stiffness
  • vomiting
  • diabetic coma

Keeping your blood sugar within a standard range helps your body maintain a healthy fluid balance. But it also allows you to stay hydrated. Drinking water not only fights dehydration, it can also help your body get rid of excess glucose.

If you’re living with diabetes, you can try to drink plenty of fluids — about 1.6 liters (L) or 6.5 cups per day for women and 2 L or 8.5 glasses per day for men.

Water is a great all-around drink, and healthcare professionals highly recommend it to increase fluid intake and prevent dehydration. However, other drinks are also effective for dehydration.

To add flavor to plain water, you may add a few squeezes of fresh lime or lemon juice. You can also stay hydrated by drinking caffeine-free herbal teas, skim milk, and sugar-free coffee.

However, you may wish to avoid energy drinks, fruit juices, and sodas. These beverages contain a lot of sugar and can further increase your blood sugar. Sparkling water is OK as long as it’s sugar-free.

Keep in mind that dehydration associated with diabetes doesn’t always cause symptoms. Sometimes, symptoms aren’t apparent until the point of severe dehydration.

Common symptoms of mild dehydration include:

If you have severe dehydration, you might experience low blood pressure, a weak pulse, and confusion.

Some factors can worsen dehydration or increase your risk, too. This includes exposure to hot, humid weather and strenuous exercise. Dehydration can also worsen when you drink alcohol or caffeinated beverages.

If you have signs of mild dehydration, drinking more water and managing your diabetes can help balance your fluid level and improve hydration.

Even so, speak with a doctor if you’re unable to manage your blood sugar with medication or lifestyle changes. Your doctor might need to adjust your diabetes medication.

You can also consult a doctor if you have severe symptoms of dehydration, such as confusion, low blood pressure, and a weak pulse, or if you have symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis. These symptoms include:

  • nausea or vomiting
  • fruity-scented breath
  • shortness of breath
  • confusion

Also, you may want to talk with a doctor if you have signs of dehydration, but your blood sugar remains within an expected range.

Below are some commonly asked questions about diabetes and water.

How fast does water lower blood sugar?

Water does not directly lower blood sugar levels. Rather, it does not raise blood glucose levels. This is beneficial if you have diabetes and your blood sugar levels are high, as it allows you to flush more glucose out of your blood.

Is drinking cold water good for diabetes?

As water contains no carbohydrates or calories, it’s the perfect drink if you have diabetes. It won’t raise blood glucose levels and will keep you hydrated.

To stay hydrated, you can drink cold or hot beverages with water, including tea, chai, and low sugar hot chocolates.

What should people with diabetes drink first thing in the morning?

If you have diabetes, water is all round the best drink to have in the morning. You may avoid drinks with a high sugar content to prevent your blood sugar levels from rising.

Should people with diabetes drink water at night?

Excessive fluid intake can lead to a person with diabetes needing to urinate more frequently than usual at night. This is known as nocturia. Therefore, it is not advisable to drink water before bedtime.

Diabetes is a chronic condition that can cause serious complications when left untreated. Increased urination and thirst are signs of dehydration. It’s important to take early steps to rehydrate your body and maintain a healthy blood sugar range.

If left unchecked, dehydration can become life threatening, increasing the risk of kidney failure, seizures, and even coma.