We’ve heard it all our lives, “Drink plenty of water”, but what happens to our bodies when we neglect to follow that age-old wisdom? A scary vision of being trapped in the desert or being lost at sea comes to mind. Purely agonizing thirst. However, prolonged mild dehydration can wreak havoc on your health and wellbeing. Here’s a look at the causes, symptoms and repercussions of dehydration, as well as some tips for keeping your body nourished with it’s life essential; H2O.
What is Actually Happening in the Body
Lets start at the beginning, remembering that our bodies are made up of 50-65% water (sorry guys, it’s not the fictional 85%). Simply explained, each cell, tissue, and organ relies on water for optimum health and performance, so when H2O is depleted the body begins to change. The bodies water reserves are divided into two groups; intracellular, inside the cell, which accounts for 60-65% of body water andextracellular, outside the cell, accounting for 35-40% of body water. Intracellular would be the fluid inside the cellular walls and an example of extracellular would be blood. Once the body senses a shift toward dehydration fluid is moved from the intracellular compartments to the extracellular compartment, in order to stabilize osmotic pressure. This process causes the volume (or size) of the cell to shrink. Once fluid is transferred from the cell to the extracellular fluid it can be lost from the body in multiple ways such as sweat, urine or tears. Without consuming fluids regularly the body continues to attempt stabilizing osmotic fluid, pulling supporting fluid and essential hydration from a cellular level.
Causes and Symptoms of the Dreaded Dehydration
Generally, the causes of dehydration are simple; vomiting, diarrhea and sweating. Additionally, frequent urination can play a part in dehydrating the body. Sweating is the one we will focus on today, as the summer months are sure to induce plenty of it. It’s easy to forget that you sweat. Moving about your day, running errands, exercising or general to and fro-ing makes it easy to slip through your day without enjoying the refreshing water your body craves. If we add the summer heat to the mix it’s understandable that people end their day feeling worn out, drained and parched.
Symptoms of dehydration range from mild to severe. Familydoctor.org offered this handy list of signs to be aware of:
- Little or no urine, or urine that is darker than usual (This symptom is usually suggestive of severe dehydration)
- Dry mouth
- Sleepiness or fatigue (Again, severe dehydration)
- Extreme thirst
- Confusion (Severe)
- Dizziness or lightheaded feeling (Severe)
- No tears when crying (*This one would terrify me)
One fun test I like to try is the “Skin Snap Test”. To check for proper hydration pinch the skin just below your thumb on your wrist. If it snaps back to flat you’re doing well. If it remains protruding or raised get some water into your bod right away.
All the Perks of Proper Hydration
- Give your heart a break. Proper hydration means your heart doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood throughout your body.
- Lower that stress level. Did you know 85% of your brain is water? That’s a lot of vital tissue looking for a drink. Keeping hydrated means the brain, and body, can relax and do their jobs.
- Builds lifestyle endurance. Muscles work longer and stronger when properly hydrated. This means you can keep moving past your afternoon slump, and look forward to making the most of your evenings, when you’ve kept your cells plump with H2O.
- A natural fountain of youth. As mentioned above, cells plump when hydrated. Fine lines and wrinkles will become much less noticeable when you’re properly watered.
- Move it. Keeping your digestive system regular relies on water. There’s no denying a bound-up body can ruin anyones day.
- Water also promotes cardiovascular health, cleanses the body of toxins and helps keep your mouth healthy and clean.
Now You Know so What’s Next?
An accepted standard of “8 glasses a day” is a safe point of measurement regarding what your intake should be. Larger or smaller bodies will require different amounts, but this general number is a great starting point. Bottled water is the easiest way to stay on top of your hydration throughout the day, but I think it goes without saying that this leads to a massive amount of unacceptable waste. Consider purchasing a BPA-free water bottle and making it your travel companion. Once you’re in the habit of reaching for your bottle of water you’ll wonder how you ever did without it.
If you exercise you’ll need to drink more water than the standard, so remember to keep tabs on how much you’ve taken in and how you’re feeling.
Feeling hungry? Grab a glass of water before a snack. Hunger can be a signal of impending dehydration, so take the first step and avoid a parched body later in the day.
Lets raise our glasses to water and enjoy all of the benefits of a healthy, happy body and mind!