Dehydration And Its Effect On The Body

27 Jul 2022

We take for granted the water balance our bodies strive for every day, but dehydration is a condition that anyone can experience. Up to 60% of the human adult body is made up of water. Even mild dehydration (between 5% to 6% of body fluid loss) can cause noticeable symptoms such as dry mouth, headache, or dizziness. Moderate levels of dehydration are in the range of 7% to 10% fluid loss where you can feel effects on your skin (becomes dry), kidneys (produce less or no urine), and heart (low blood pressure or faster than normal pulse). Severe dehydration (over 10%) is life-threatening due to electrolyte abnormalities, and you must seek medical attention immediately.

What is dehydration?

Dehydration is a state of your body when you are losing more fluids than you are taking in. It leads to an imbalance in the organism and it can no longer carry out its normal functions. If you continue disregarding the replacement of lost fluids – you will eventually get to a point of dehydration. Mild to moderate dehydration can be easily reversed by drinking more water or other hydrating fluids, but if you are in a state of severe dehydration – you will need medical treatment. What are the symptoms and feelings of dehydration?

We are all familiar with the dry mouth and tongue symptoms of dehydration but there are a lot more signals that we have to be aware of when talking about dehydration. Depending on the age group there are different signs to look after. Here are some of the most common indicators of dehydration.

Dehydration symptoms for infants and young children

1. Dry mouth and tongue

2. Crying without tears

3. No wet diapers for 3h or more

4. High fever

5. Sunken eyes/cheeks

6. Sunken soft spot on top of the skull

7. Restlessness or irritability

8. Unusually sleepy or drowsy

Dehydration symptoms for adults

1. Dry mouth and tongue

2. Feeling very thirsty

3. Urinating/sweating less than the usual

4. Dark-colored urine

5. Dry skin

6. Feeling tired/dizzy

Symptoms for severe dehydration

1. Lack of urination

2. Feeling of confusion for no particular reason

3. Irritation or disorientation

4. Feeling much sleepier or less active than usual

5. Can’t keep down fluids

6. Bloody or black feces

7. Fainting

8. Rapid heartbeat/breathing

9. State of shock

What causes dehydration?

Living a busy life can lead to mild symptoms of dehydration. We often forget about water consumption in the workplace but coffee and carbonated drinks are not enough for our organism to thrive. In some developing countries lack of access to safe drinking water can be the cause of dehydration. In cases when you are traveling, hiking, or camping with limited access to water supplies – you might also feel some level of dehydration.

Other than the typical causes of dehydration – some others include the following:

Vomiting/diarrhea – sudden vomiting or diarrhea can cause huge amounts of water to exit the body without the chance of restoring the balance fast. In a very short amount of time, you can lose fluids, essential electrolytes (sodium, potassium, and chloride), and minerals.

Excessive sweating – during cardio exercise or caused by extremely high temperatures – you lose a lot of water through sweating. The more intense you train your body or if you live in hot and humid weather, the more sweat your body will produce.

Fever – the higher the fever, the more dehydrated you will become.

Increased urination – some medications can cause you to urinate more. Usually, these are diuretics or medications related to your blood pressure balance. Another reason for increased urination could be undiagnosed or uncontrolled diabetes.

Alcohol/caffeine intake – fluid loss is influenced by high alcohol or caffeine intake when not balanced with enough water intake.

What illnesses are related to dehydration?

Some diseases have a tight relationship with dehydration. As mentioned above – undiagnosed or uncontrolled diabetes increases the risk of dehydration because people who have these illnesses urinate frequently. Cystic fibrosis and kidney chronic conditions also lead to imbalanced body fluids. Stones in your kidney affect the acidity of the urine because of the calcium carbonate crystals that form the stones. In this case, it is also essential to hydrate your organism.

If you are in a state of dehydration and you also have a blood circulation disorder such as POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome) you might experience dizziness, brain fog, and even chest pain. Part of POTS treatment includes increased doses of fluids and also salt intake.

In case you lose a high number of electrolytes because you are dehydrated your blood pressure might go up which causes hypertension. Not treating this side effect can harm your kidneys. If you don’t maintain a normal level of fluids – your kidneys will either produce too much urine or too little sodium.

Tips on how to stay hydrated

Fluid balance is an integral part of your body because it helps your body run its normal functions such as breathing, sweating, digestion, blood pressure levels, brain and kidney functions, etc. Here are some golden rules on how to stay hydrated.

1. Drink water after you wake up and before you go to sleep

2. Drink water 30 minutes before and after a meal

3. ‘Eat your water’ by consuming loads of fruits and vegetables

4. Try different water temperatures (hot or iced tea)

5. Infuse flavor into your water – preferably with slices of fruits (lemon, orange, grapefruit, etc.) or vegetables (cucumber), or herbs (mint, ginger)

6. Bring your water bottle everywhere you go (in the office, on hikes, going on a walk)

7. Keep a glass of water close by at all times

8. Hydrate yourself before, during, and after exercise

9. Pre-portion your daily water intake

10. Monitor your daily water intake

Key takeaway

Since your whole body needs water to function properly – you must not neglect your daily water intake. Your organs will be thankful if you provide them with enough fluids so they function normally. Keep a water bottle by your side to stay healthy and thriving. In the Medrec:M app you’ll find great fluid tracking functionality along with advice on your average recommended daily intake and guidance to help you stay hydrated every day. You can download Medrec:M for Android or iOS devices.