Most people don't see dehydration as a big deal. Because, for most of us, water is always within reach. But for 11% of the world's population, this isn't the case. And the reality is, the side effects of this condition can be quite scary!
But what is dehydration? And should we be concerned about it?
Dehydration happens when the amount of liquids you consume is less than the amount of liquid leaving your body, and whether you believe it or not, there are some serious effects that can come from dehydration.
The importance of water
The Earth is mostly made up of water and so are our bodies – over 60% in fact. There isn’t a cell in our bodies that can live without water. Humans can survive without water only 3-4 days.
Water does so many things for us: it regulates our body temperature through sweating and respiration, lubricates our joints, and removes waste.
- Increases brain power and provides energy
- Promotes healthy weight management and weight loss
- Flushes out toxins
- Improves your complexion
- Maintains regularity
- Boosts immune system
- Prevents headaches
- Prevents cramps and sprains
- Helps regulate your body temperature
- Prevents backaches
- Improves your heart health
- Prevents bad breath
- Takes edge off hangovers
- Puts you in a better mood
With this in mind, you'd think drinking water would be a daily intentional decision, but most of us don’t drink as much water as we should. Did you know you lose about 64 oz. of water from sweating each day? And 16 oz. of that is just from your feet!
“Under extreme conditions an adult can lose 1 to 1.5 liters of sweat per hour,” Randall K. Packer wrote in a 2002 article for Scientific American. “If that lost water is not replaced, the total volume of body fluid can fall quickly and, most dangerously, blood volume may drop.”
The amount of water you should be drinking a day really depends on your weight, height, and physical activity, but the average person should be drinking about 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids for men and 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women.
Some people need more and some require less. The more water you drink, the more you’ll understand what your body needs. Keep in mind that about 20% of your fluid intake comes from the food and drink at mealtime. A good formula to find out your body intake is found here.
Causes of dehydration
A lack of water intake isn't the only cause of dehydration. It can be caused by other factors as well.
Dehydration can be a side effect of certain medications (it's always a good idea to check the side effects).
Certain foods (such as salty snacks, and sugary treats) that can cause dehydration.
Sickness can also lead to dehydration. For example, a fever will suppress your appetite so you naturally won't consume as many fluids. It's a good idea to try and consume even more fluids when you're ill.
Alcohol can also have a diruetic affect. So, it's always a good idea to balance you alcohol with a glass of water.
Exercising and caffeine (together and separate) can lead to dehydration, especially if your body isn't acclimated to the climate (high altitude or heat).
Ever seen an athlete to keel over on a hot summer day? A lack of water can lead to so many scary results. The intake has to be more than the output.
Symptoms of dehydration
You know your body better than anyone. You can easily detect whether you're dehydrated by being aware of the following symptoms:
Short-term symptoms of dehydration
- Dry/Sticky Mouth
- Muscle Cramps
- Dry Skin
- Dark Colored Urine
- Feeling tired/Low energy
These symptoms are a sign to stop what you’re doing and take a drink. It's never smart to push through without drinking fluids when you begin experiencing these symptoms.
These minor symptoms can turn into serious side effects.
Chronic dehydration happens over a long period of time, weeks or months. Long term dehydration can even damage your organs. Without fluids, your organs will begin to shut down.
The more severe effects include:
Long-term side effects of dehydration
- Decreased blood volume
- Increased blood viscosity (blood becomes thicker)
- Decreased urine output
- Decreased electrolytes
- Decreased kidney function
- Swelling of the brain
- Heat Injury
Details of long-term dehydration
Blood helps transport oxygen to different places of the body. If there's less blood transported, the heart works harder and with less oxygen. When the heart is working harder, there may be more problems later on in life.
Our kidneys filter the waste products in our blood and excrete them through urine. This cellular waste is mostly water diluting the waste. When you have waste build up in the kidneys, this can create urinary tract infections, kidney stones, and other complications. Kidney disease can be one of them.
Electrolytes help to carry electrical signals from cell to cell. When the electrolytes are out of balance, the normal messages can be mixed up. This is when seizures occur. You will have involuntary muscle contractions and sometimes loss of consciousness.
Swelling of the brain can happen if you drink too much water right away after being dehydrated. It is important to pace yourself. Brain cells are never something you want to affect because the consequences can be grave.
Heat injuries happen when you’re exercising or sweating heavily. Heat injuries are more like, “heatstroke, heat exhaustion, etc.”
Some of the symptoms of infants and small children may be different than what adults experience. They will experience dry mouth, no tears when crying, no wet diapers, sunken eyes, irritability. Symptoms of adults include extreme thirst, less frequent urination, fatigue, dizziness, and confusion.
How to prevent dehydration
So, what can we do to prevent all of these problems? Drink water, and drink the adequate amount for your body.
And drink more than you think you need! It helps to own/purchase a reusable water bottle of the appropriate capacity and refill it throughout the day. Some people even carry a two-gallon milk jug full of water.
But our 20 oz or 25 oz water bottles are a little easier to carry. Grab one today to protect yourself from the scary side effects of dehydration.