All About Dehydration

Dehydration means your body does not have as much water and fluids as it should. Many bodily ills and malfunctions can be traced to dehydration. Dehydration can be caused by losing too much fluid through excessive urination, sweating, vomiting, or diarrhea, and by not drinking enough water or fluids.

Dehydration quickly becomes serious and can be fatal. Because our blood plasma is mostly water, when you become dehydrated, your total blood volume drops as well. Your heart must pump faster and harder to deliver the same amount of oxygen to the cells. As you become more dehydrated, your mental functions become impaired and eventually you become nauseous and begin to vomit, which further increases dehydration. Once you lose 5 percent of your total body weight through dehydration, your body's ability to function properly is decreased by 30 percent. If you continue to dehydrate beyond this point, you will become increasingly weaker, confused and dizzy and eventually slip into a coma and die if fluids are not immediately replenished.

Signs of Dehydration

It is important to note that although these symptoms are listed as early signs, there are in fact no warning signs because once you experience symptoms, you are already dehydrated.

Earliest Signs/Symptoms

  1. • Thirst Headaches
  2. • Flushed face
  3. • Sleepy or irritable
  4. • Dry, warm skin
  5. • General weakness and lack of energy
  6. • Small amounts of dark, yellow urine
  7. • Dry mouth and tongue with thick saliva
  8. • Dizziness made worse when you are standing
  9. • Cramping in the arms and legs
  10. • Few or no tears when crying (especially in infants)

Moderate to Severe Signs

  1. • Low blood pressure causing fainting
  2. • Severe muscle contractions in the arms, legs, stomach, and back
  3. • Bloated stomach
  4. • Joint pain and inflammation
  5. • Sunken eyes
  6. • Lack of skin elasticity (a bit of skin lifted up takes a long time to go back to its normal position)
  7. • Rapid, deep breathing
  8. • Convulsions

Apart from the obvious immediate dangers of dehydration, especially to young children and seniors, chronic dehydration can have serious and lasting effects. Too often, people believe that because they drink soft drinks, coffee or other beverages containing water, they are hydrating their bodies. But the opposite is actually true. Caffeine found in coffee and regular teas or soft drinks, is a diuretic that naturally pulls water from your body.

Alcohol can also lead to severe dehydration. In order to break down alcohol, your body requires water. As such, the kidneys must produce more urine to flush it out, which is why when you drink, you constantly find yourself in the restroom. Unfortunately this excess water must come from somewhere and since your brain is close to 95 percent water, it becomes the most available source. Just as you have seen what happens to a plant that is deprived of water, your essential brain cells, too, begin to dry up and die. Once you become severely dehydrated, you experience a headache, nausea and even dizziness, typical signs of a hangover.

Dehydration and Joint Pain

When your body becomes dehydrated, you may begin to experience joint pain. This is simply because cartilage is comprised mainly of water. As we move our joints, the cartilage surfaces glide overtop one another, naturally removing any worn or exposed cartilage cells in the process. By design, cartilage tissue contains very few blood vessels, which are normally required to transport vital nutrients for cell repair and maintenance. As such, water is needed to carry these nutrients to the cells. So, as the fluid levels decrease, the body's ability to repair or fix any damaged cartilage cells also decreases. Inevitably, this leads to joint pain as the abrasive damage continues without repair.

When you become chronically dehydrated, you can also experience severe back pain. Like most of the body, the spinal joints are comprised of mainly water. Water not only acts as a lubricant between any contact surfaces of the vertebral joints, but it is also stored in the disc core within the intervertebral space. This water essentially supports the weight caused by the compression of the upper body. Research shows that this water volume actually supports 75 percent of the upper body weight, the other 25 of which is supported by the fibrous materials surrounding the disc core. When water levels drop, not only is there less lubrication between the spinal discs but as well, the spine's ability to effectively support the tremendous upper body weight decreases resulting in pain and inflammation.

A good indicator of whether you are dehydrated is the color of your urine. Urine should be clear or only slightly colored. Dark urine is a sign there is insufficient water in your body and your kidneys are working overtime to concentrate the urine.

The only way to hydrate your body, without medical intervention, is through drinking water. You should always try to drink pure, preferably ozonated, or at least filtered water. Research shows that you should drink one cup of water a day for every 14 to 20 pounds of body weight (14 pounds for more active people). At a minimum, the average adult should drink at least 8, eight ounce-glasses of water per day. The good news is that as you begin to consistently drink more water, your body will become more accustomed to proper hydration and your body will begin to naturally signal you as soon as you start to dehydrate.

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