Dehydration happens more often than you think. When you’re not drinking enough water, your body triggers your thirst mechanism to encourage you to replenish lost fluids. In spite of this, many people are believed to be chronically dehydrated.
Dehydration being a common occurrence is quite alarming, as the human body is made up of 75% water. It’s said that human beings in general can only survive for three days without drinking water.
Many people forget to drink water for various reasons, and tend to replenish liquids only after a sweeping feeling of dryness and thirst overwhelms the body. In these cases, and as with any other health-related condition, prevention is always better than cure. By regularly drinking water, an individual can avoid dehydration which, in severe cases, can be life-threatening.
Do you think you’re aware of everything there is to know about dehydration— its causes, and symptoms, both common and unfamiliar? Think again.
Most Common Causes of Dehydration
By strict definition, dehydration occurs when your body is unable to get enough water and electrolytes, or when your body is losing more liquid than it can take in. We typically lose water and electrolytes in the following situations:
- Too much sweating
A vigorous physical activity makes you sweat to restore and regulate your body’s normal temperature. When you sweat, your body secretes water and electrolytes. Not being able to replace these nutrients with water or workout supplements causes dehydration. Experiencing symptoms such as extreme thirst and dry mouth is your body’s way of telling you to drink up.
- Vomiting and Diarrhea
Diarrhea and vomiting leads to rapid loss of electrolytes and fluids. A person suffering from these symptoms typically loses appetite and refuses to drink liquids, making replenishment challenging. In these instances, the delivery of intravenous fluids is the most common remedy.
High blood sugar triggers increased urination, which is common in persons suffering from diabetes. This makes diabetic persons more susceptible to dehydration.
- Fever and Other Illnesses
An individual suffering from fever often experiences increased sweating and loss of appetite, which can result in dehydration. Reduced water intake and increased sweating both contribute to water and electrolyte loss.
- Not Drinking Often
Even if we’re not physically active or aren’t suffering from illnesses, we still lose body fluids on a daily basis. Aside from sweating, the body fluids can leak out through skin respiration and simply by breathing. That’s why it’s imperative to rehydrate regularly, whether you’re a gym buddy, a weekend warrior, or a couch potato.
- Hot Weather
As the temperature rises, our bodies try to regulate our internal temperature by sweating. A hot weather causes you to sweat more profusely, making you lose water and electrolytes faster and contributing to dehydration.
When a part of your body is burnt, blood vessels become damaged, causing body fluids to leak into the surrounding tissues. This results in faster fluid loss and dehydration.
Lesser-Known Causes of Dehydration
Apart from those above, here are other less common causes:
- Fluid Loss During the Colder Months
Many factors aggravate dehydration in Winter. Your body loses body fluids faster because it needs to warm and moisten the dry air that you breathe before it reaches your lungs. As sweat vaporizes swiftly in cold temperatures, you may not notice you’re losing too much fluids amid the layers of clothing you’re covered with. Additionally, you may produce higher volumes of urine as your body reacts to preserve heat.
- Dehydration and Sleep Deprivation
According to a study, about 300 to 400 milliliters of water evaporate on a daily basis when we breathe. Also known as insensible water loss, this process occurs predominantly while we sleep. Unfortunately, we can’t replace the fluid lost during insensible water loss, that’s why our body releases a hormone called vasopressin, to help with water retention. Sleep deprivation can interrupt vasopressin production and, consequently, dehydration.
- Some Medicines Can Trigger Dehydration
Some medications can cause fluid and electrolyte loss. Such types of medicines are classified as:
Diuretics. These types of drugs are typically prescribed to patients with high blood pressure and heart problems. They work by easing the pressure on the blood vessel walls and removing extra fluids in your blood vessels. These extra fluids are removed when you pee. Diuretics, known for its other term “water pills”, are known to increase the frequency of urination.
Laxatives. Taking laxatives doesn’t automatically cause dehydration. But, if you take laxatives more than the prescribed period, it may force your body to remove fluids and stools, which then results in dehydration.
- Air Travel and Dehydration
Have you ever noticed why you feel thirsty while inside an airplane? Your need to replenish fluids is driven by the lack of humidity inside the cabin, where air humidity levels only range from 10% to 20%. By comparison, indoor air humidity could run from 30% to 65%.
Alcohol is liquid; therefore, it can hydrate you. Technically, yes, but only in a temporary manner. What you may not know is that alcohol is also a diuretic, which means it can induce frequent urination. Alcohol then can negatively impact your body’s hydration, as well as electrolyte and fluid balance. If you’re secreting fluids more than what you take in, dehydration can occur.
When you’ve come to a point when you can’t take the alcohol anymore, you may end up vomiting, exacerbating fluid and electrolyte loss. As dehydration causes your blood vessels to contract, you’re highly susceptible to headaches and the dreaded hangover.
Aside from these common and less-common triggers of dehydration, we’d like to ring the alarm on its dangers:
- Dehydration Can Be Life-Threatening
Aside from thirst, common signs of mild to moderate dehydration include:
- Bad breath
- Confusion or brain fog
- Decreased amount of urine
- Dark-colored urine
- Heart palpitations, dry mouth, and swollen tongue
- Muscle cramps
- Sluggishness and fatigue
- Sugar cravings
If dehydration is not checked, it can lead to serious complications such as:
Low blood volume shock (hypovolemic shock). This is a life-threatening condition that occurs when low blood volume leads to low blood pressure, which then drastically reduces the amount of oxygen in your body.
Urinary and kidney problems. Chronic dehydration can lead to urinary tract infections, kidney stones, and kidney failure.
Heat injury. Yes, there’s such a thing, and it occurs when you exercise vigorously under extreme heat or under the sun. When your body’s ability to regulate heat fails, you may end up with this condition. Heat injury varies in severity. In its mildest form, it can lead to heat cramps which count painful cramps in the stomach, arm, and leg muscles, as the main symptoms.
Once electrolytes and fluids continue to stay low, you may experience heat exhaustion, wherein you no longer perspire even as the body temperature rises to 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
In worst cases, heat injury can lead to a life-threatening condition called heat stroke, which may cause organ system failure.
- Children Are More Vulnerable to Dehydration
Children are susceptible to dehydration because they have higher body weight composition of water, they have limited means to cool their bodies, and they typically cannot rehydrate by themselves. Babies also have limited ability to do such.
Older adults, persons with chronic illnesses, and those who engage in heavy workouts under the heat of the sun are also susceptible to this condition.
There are various ways in which our bodies lose fluids and electrolytes. Some are obvious, while some are imperceptible. It’s important to keep our bodies well-hydrated, being that proper hydration is extremely important for our overall well-being. Adequate hydration can promote cardiovascular health, regulate metabolism, and cleanse the body.