Thursday, June 25, 2015

How Dehydration Affects Your Body

Dehydration occurs when the body has too little fluid, specifically water, for proper metabolic functions. Because water has a low viscosity, i.e. a very low resistance to flow, it is the primary medium for various enzymatic and chemical reactions in the body. It moves nutrients, hormones, antibodies and oxygen through the blood stream and lymphatic system. Approximately 60% of the average adult human body weight is attributed to water. The quantity of water is highest in organs such as lungs and brain and in fluids such as blood, lymph, saliva and secretions by the organs of the digestive system.

Dehydration occurs when more fluid is excreted from the body than is taken in. The body most commonly loses water during expiration (exhaling), when sweating, during urination, and during bowel movements. Dehydration becomes more prevalent during hot months when people spend more time participating in outdoor activities including yard work and other strenuous activities in the sun and during times of high humidity. Water loss is also a factor whenever someone has diarrhea or is vomiting, and when nausea prevents fluid intake. Diabetics with elevated blood sugar levels often experience frequent urination as their bodies try to rid the body of excessive sugar levels; if they don’t replenish fluids they can become dehydrated. Individuals with significant burns are also at high risk for becoming dehydrated because the skin is unable to stop fluid from seeping out. 

To ensure that your body is sufficiently hydrated so that metabolic functions can occur easily, watch for these symptoms:


By the time you experience the physical sensation of being thirsty, your body is already somewhat dehydrated. Ensure good hydration by drinking the right fluids throughout the day and having a diet that includes water-rich foods, such as celery, watermelon, tomatoes, oranges, and melons. If you experience frequent excessive thirst, it could be a symptom of other metabolic issues. You should seek treatment from the physician of your choice.

Discolored or Heavy-Smelling Urine 
Your urine should be mostly clear with a slight yellow color, high in volume and without excessive odor. When you are slightly dehydrated your urine will appear more yellow in color. When you are about 5% dehydrated, which is considered severe dehydration, your urine will appear orange and may have a strong ammonia smell. Certain medications and supplements may affect urine color and smell. If you are well hydrated and have cloudy looking or smelly urine, check with your physician to verify that you don’t have a urinary tract infection. 

Two of the most common causes of constipation are inadequate intake of water and inadequate consumption of fiber. Many integrative and holistic practitioners agree that a healthy body has an equal number of bowel movements as meals consumed in a day, i.e. food in = waste out. Clear signs that you are not drinking enough water are: straining during a bowel movement more than 25% of the time, hard stools more than 25% of the time, incomplete evacuation more than 25% of the time, and two or fewer bowel movements in a week.

Dizzy or Foggy Headed 
When your body is low on water it impedes blood circulation to the brain. The result can be dizziness. Likewise, just mild dehydration can make it difficult to focus mentally — creating an experience of being foggy headed. If you are having trouble concentrating on a mentally strenuous activity, having a glass of water may help sharpen your mental activity!

Small blood vessels in the brain respond quickly to hydration levels. Dehydration can trigger dull headaches to full-blown migraines. Consuming excessive amounts of beverages that are diuretics, meaning they promote the production of urine, can lead to dehydration; hangovers are the result of the diuretic effects of alcohol. When enjoying alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation and be sure to also stay hydrated with water while imbibing. If you feel like a headache coming on, try warding it off with a glass of water.

Feeling Tired 
Dehydration causes blood pressure to drop, the heart rate to increase and slows blood flow to the brain. These factors combined may create an experience of lethargy. Instead of reaching right away for coffee or another caffeinated beverage for a jump start, try having a glass of water first. If indeed you are dehydrated, the caffeine will mask your lack of energy and dehydrate you even more.

Cranky Mood 
Another possible side effect of dehydration is caused by the neurological reaction of too little fluid in the brain. Dehydration can cause a drop in serotonin levels which can have tremendous affect on mood. If you notice yourself feeling cranky after a long bout of exercise or a stressful day at the office, refresh your body and your mood with fruit infused water.

Bad Breath 
Saliva has antibacterial properties. When you are dehydrated, you produce less saliva which means bacteria can flourish in your mouth. The result of the overgrowth of bacteria is bad breath. Keeping hydrated, along with proactive dental and gum care and the use of a tongue scraper, can help keep your breath from becoming offensive.