Our body is around 60% water. This percentage could vary with gender, age, and body type. However, without a doubt, water is crucial to carry out various body functions.
But what happens when you start losing a lot of water?
Chapped lips. Feels-like-death dry throat. Tight skin.
These are some apparent signs of the onset of dehydration. The loss of fluids keeps your body from functioning properly and may lead to various health conditions such as constipation, dry skin, dizziness, headache, and more.
Let’s learn more about dehydration, its causes, signs, and ways to rehydrate your body.
What is Dehydration?
Dehydration is the lack of the required amount of fluids in your body. This deficiency leads to the malfunctioning of the body – the body losing its ability to function properly.
There are defined levels of dehydration – mild, moderate, and severe. These levels are proportional to the reduced level of fluids in your body.
What Causes Dehydration?
Our body loses water every day through sweating, urine, saliva, and tears, etc. And if your water intake is less than the required amount by the body, it leads to dehydration.
You can lose more body fluids via:
- Fever and too much exercise (sweating during fever and exercises releases water and salts from your body)
- Peeing more than often (as happens with diabetics)
Sometimes, you don’t drink enough water because you are too busy to make time for it or you don’t feel thirsty for a long time. You could also be suffering from a medical condition like sore throat, which triggers throat pain when you drink or eat anything. Either way, the fluid level in your body goes down and the signs of dehydration start appearing.
What are the Signs of Dehydration?
Symptoms of dehydration appear differently in different individuals. However, below are 14 common signs of dehydration- you may witness some or all of these symptoms if you’re dehydrated.
- Damaged Skin
Your skin gets affected by dehydration in extreme weather- either hot or cold. In summers, it loses moisture due to excessive sweating. In winters, the atmosphere is dry with reduced humidity that puts you at risk of dehydration if you don’t drink an optimal amount of water.
If you meet the following symptoms, it’s a red flag that you might have fallen prey to dehydration:
- Flaky or rough skin
- Cracked skin and chapped lips
- Tight or shrunken skin
A study suggests that your body may feel drained of energy even when you are rested. Male participants of this study were reported to feel lethargy, burnout, and tiredness. These were indicators of low blood pressure because of the absence of fluids in the body. Drinking water helped participants to restore their energy and beat fatigue.
You’re more likely to bear the pain of constipation if your body is dehydrated and the condition may worsen if left untreated. Constipation makes bowel movements difficult and the stool you pass might also appear dry or in small lumps.
That’s because water is one of the most essential substances that improve the digestion of food. It also helps move the waste along your digestive tract. So, it is recommended to increase your water intake to stay hydrated.
- Bad Breath
Since your throat is squeaky dry when you are dehydrated, chances are you may also experience bad breath.
Your body requires a lot of fluids to make saliva. And when you are dehydrated, it produces way less of it than it normally would. It amplifies the growth of odor-causing bacteria in your mouth. In such scenarios, you may find yourself brushing teeth more than often but still couldn’t get rid of the odor.
Some people may experience headaches even upon mild dehydration. A study found that women having dehydration by a mere margin of 1.3% got headaches.
Headache can also be linked to the fluctuation in blood pressure. It’s observed that low blood pressure triggers headaches in some people. However, water consumption balances the blood pressure and relieves the headache.
- Fluctuating Blood Pressure
Blood plasma (the liquid portion of blood) itself is 90% water and constitutes about 50% of the blood volume. It means that fluid loss can drastically affect your blood pressure by lowering your blood volume.
The American Heart Association regards dehydration as one of the primary causes of low blood pressure. Maintaining fluid intake helps maintain blood pressure.
- Hunger and Thirst
Thirst is an obvious indicator that your body is craving more water intake. It is also observed that dehydration in adults leads to obesity. However, solid research is needed to firm up this claim.
Stating the rather obvious: drinking plenty of water reduces your craving for food and you might already feel full.
Side note: Well-built adults require more water to maintain hydration.
- Mood Swings
Researchers have suggested that both men and women tend to feel anxious, depressed, and/or tense when dehydrated. Healthy adults reported that they felt low, got irritated easily, and doing simple tasks seemed impossible to pull off. Such mood swings are symptoms of severe dehydration.
Nausea is a known cause of vomiting and vomiting causes loss of ample fluids from the body. It means that nausea can worsen dehydration in your body.
Nausea is also associated with low blood pressure. It can be well understood by the fact that the lesser the body fluids, the lower will be the blood pressure.
- Malfunctioned Brain Functions
Our brain is more or less 70% water. Many studies have been conducted on the effects of dehydration on the effective functioning of the brain.
Research performed on young men in their twenties proposed that dehydration slows down some brain functions. It can largely affect your focus and memory.
Another study found that even a slight level of dehydration can make people commit mistakes while driving. For example, the participants of this research were drifting across lanes while driving. Some also showed a declined reaction time to make the car come to a halt.
This study highlighted alarming results – a dehydrated person is at the same risk of unsafe driving as a person stoned at 0.8% alcohol (the legal alcohol limit in the United States).
- Heart Problems
Ever heard of a pounding heart? It’s usually a fast-paced heart rate, which can be a result of dehydration. Moreover, quick breathing can also be one of the indicators of dehydration.
Since fluid loss leads to low blood pressure, it requires the heart to exert more pressure to get the blood flowing across the body. Intaking fluids restores the escalated heart rate, thus balancing the blood pressure to normal.
- Body Pain
A study found that dehydration can potentially make you more susceptible to pain. Your brain cells become more sensitive to pain-induced signals.
Researchers have also stated that dehydrated men responded to pain more than they would in normal hydrated circumstances.
If you are severely dehydrated, you’re most likely to faint. The primary sign is feeling dizzy when you stand up straight right after sitting or lying down.
- Urine Color
It all boils down to this: the color of urine. Pay close heed to it.
It is one of the most obvious symptoms of dehydration. You are at a typically good level of hydration when passing very light to light-colored urine. While the dark yellow to amber urine highlights that you may have mild to severe dehydration.
Assessing Dehydration through Urine
Frequently monitoring the hydration level spares you the adverse effects of dehydration. Though there are many methods to assess dehydration such as a skin test or observing nail color, you may not get accurate results with them.
However, studies have declared examining urine color as an efficient tool to diagnose dehydration. More so, it is now widely used in clinical settings.
Keeping in mind the promising results of urine color assessment, let’s break down this process. For this, you have to match the color of your urine to the color on the chart given below. The lower the number is, your chances of being dehydrated are mild. You can measure your hydration level as follows:
- The lightest to light-colored urine represents that you are not dehydrated.
- The yellowish color highlights that you are moderately dehydrated.
- Dark colors onwards show you are severely dehydrated.
How to Avoid Dehydration and Rehydrate Your Body?
Now that you know the cause and symptoms of dehydration, it’s time for you to rehydrate your body. And it’s all about giving your body enough fluids. So, make sure to:
Drink Enough Water
Dehydration is more likely to affect you in hot weather. That’s because you lose a major portion of fluids through sweating during the workout or other physical activities in summer. So, make sure that you drink enough water during summers. And never wait until your throat goes parched, drink water throughout the day.
It’s specifically beneficial for elderly people to drink water throughout the day because they lose part of their sense of thirst with age. And by the time they may feel a tinge of thirst, chances are they have already hit the road to dehydration.
Rehydration Through Diet
In addition to water, you also need to have a balanced diet to rehydrate your body. It includes consuming food that has enough salt, vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, i.e.,
Fruits and vegetables- Fruits and vegetables are a perfect healthy snack for hydration as they contain 80-90% water content. Some fruits with the highest water content include melons, berries, grapes, oranges, cabbage, carrots, spinach, and lettuce.
Juice and other Fluids- If you find it hard to drink plain water, you can consider consuming detoxed drinks, fresh fruit juice, milk, and soups.
Milk and Yogurt- Studies show that skim or low-fat milk work more efficiently to hydrate your body than plain water. Likewise, yogurt is loaded with sodium and potassium and contains about 85-90% water- making it an efficient diet to rehydrate your body.
Smoothie- You can also make a smoothie from frozen fruits and vegetables. Just combine your desirable frozen fruit with milk or Greek yogurt, and you are all set for a nutrient-packed smoothie.
Coffee and Tea- Taking moderate amounts of coffee and tea is proven to be equally hydrating as water. It also serves as an energizer.
Oral hydration- Specialized water-based formulas contain electrolytes like sodium, potassium, chloride, and a little quantity of sugar to provide you with a good level of hydration.
Water is present in almost all of your body cells and is essential to carry out various body functions. From blood to the skin to teeth and bones, it constitutes around 60% of your body.
So, make sure to drink enough water and eat a balanced diet if your body is dehydrated. However, if you develop symptoms of severe dehydration (stomach cramping, fainting, heatstroke, hallucinations, etc.), make sure to get proper medical help.