by Rachel Welch
The human body is made up of approximately 60% water. Nearly every part of the human body relies on water to operate, from creating saliva, lubricating joints, and flushing out waste (1). Together with water, electrolytes are crucial to maintain hydration levels and keep things operating healthily. It should come as no surprise that your body's level of hydration directly impacts much of your overall health. From cognitive performance to physical performance, water is a crucial component in keeping things running properly. This leads to the discussion of what can happen to the body when it is dehydrated
What is Dehydration?
Dehydration occurs when you don't take in enough water, or lose more than you take in. This can lead to a number of health concerns and symptoms in adults such as:
● Excessive fatigue
● Extreme thirst
● Less frequent urination
In children and infants, dehydration is also very serious and may be accompanied by different symptoms.
● Fewer tears when crying
● Fewer wet diapers
● Dry mouth or tongue
● Irritability (2)
The Dangers of Dehydration
In addition to the unpleasant symptoms of dehydration, they can lead to serious health concerns. Some adverse effects of not taking in enough water and managing your electrolyte levels may be aggravated during times of exercise, for example. When we exercise, we sweat and lose more water and electrolytes than when we are at rest. This can put you at a greater risk of dehydration side effects if you do not hydrate adequately.
Heat injury can be brought on by a lack of hydration.
This often occurs in warmer temperatures, and/or during times of vigorous physical activity. This may begin with cramps, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke which can be life-threatening.
If phases of dehydration are common and recurring, the body may become more prone to urinary tract infections, kidney stones, and even kidney failure (2). Additionally, regular dehydration can lead to excessive fatigue, as the body has to work much harder to do basic things when it doesn't have enough water to help it function. Not taking in enough water can also lead to weight gain through overeating.
Dehydration may lead some to feel hungry and lead them to eat unhealthier food as their body craves water.
Thirst is often confused with hunger. If you find that you're constantly thirsty, you may think that you need to eat more than what is actually necessary. Furthermore, you may choose and crave higher calorie and less healthy foods, as your body searches to make up for the craving for water.
Dehydration also has the potential to lead to and aggravate skin issues. Our skin is the largest organ in our body and therefore, needs ample amounts of water to be at its best. When your body is dehydrated, your skin also feels the effects. This leads to excessive oil gland production, which can lead to blemishes and acne.
Psychologically, dehydration may cause mood changes such as irritability, low mood/depression, or lack of motivation.
If you do not take in enough water on a regular basis, your physical and mental health will suffer in many ways. So, how do you know how much water you need?
Water and Electrolytes
The proper amount of water varies for each person based on weight, lifestyle, diet, and activity level. That being said, it is helpful to make an effort to drink water and liquids throughout the day. Recent studies suggest that all beverages help to contribute to your overall hydration, and some researchers have debunked the myth that caffeinated drinks are dehydrating (4).
While other beverages such as coffee, juice, and tea may also contribute to your hydration, classic water is still the healthiest choice. Sugary drinks like sodas, for instance, may contribute to inflammation and health issues. If you aren't a fan of classic, flat water, a healthy alternative to sodas and sugary drinks is sparkling water. Luckily, for those of us who enjoy sparkling water, research has shown that our cans of bubbly, flavored water are equally as hydrating as flat water (5). As long as you don't mind the side effect of bloating, sparkling water is an equally hydrating option!
In addition to gulping down water throughout the day, we can also gain beneficial hydration from eating certain foods.
With the first 4 foods in that list alone, you have a very hydrating salad option! So, if you're tired of drinking cups or cans of water, consider eating foods that will also contribute to your overall hydration (6).
In addition to drinking water, it is important that your body has enough electrolytes, which also aids in proper hydration. Electrolytes are important minerals in the body that help to create energy and assist in healthy muscle function. Additionally, electrolytes have been found to help with migraine prevention. Some examples of these beneficial minerals are:
● Bicarbonate (3)
Don’t take water for granted.
Hydration is an important and beneficial priority for your health! Through recognizing the signs of dehydration and prioritizing water intake, you will ensure you don't experience any of the unpleasant side effects of dehydration. Furthermore, to ensure you stay healthy and hydrated, remember to consume hydrating foods, and maybe consider taking an electrolyte supplement. By making hydration a priority, your body and mind will thank you!
- USGS. (2019). The Water in You: Water and the Human Body. Retrieved from Usgs.gov website: https://www.usgs.gov/special-topic/water-science-school/science/water-you-water-and-human-body?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects
- Mayo Clinic. (2018). Dehydration - Symptoms and causes. Retrieved from Mayo Clinic website: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dehydration/symptoms-causes/syc-20354086
- West, H. (2018, October 24). Electrolytes: Definition, Functions, Imbalance and Sources. Retrieved from Healthline website: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/electrolytes#functions
- Harvard Health Publishing. (2020, March 25). How much water should you drink? - Harvard Health. Retrieved from Harvard Health website: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-much-water-should-you-drink
- Does Sparkling Water Hydrate You? (2020, April 7). Retrieved October 2, 2021, from Healthline website: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/does-sparkling-water-hydrate-you#bottom-line
- The top 20 most hydrating foods. (2019, August 7). Retrieved October 2, 2021, from www.medicalnewstoday.com website: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325958#carrots
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