Dehydration- All You Need To Know
Let’s start by defining dehydration.
A Slovakian proverb states that, pure water is the world’s first and foremost medicine. As true as this maxim may be, it is equally important to view water as the lifeblood of humanity, and one of its vital keys to survival.
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The well-worn and often-repeated adage immediately comes to mind when one casts their thoughts over the subject of dehydration: the importance of staying hydrated.
Whether one glances the phrase splashed across a page in a Science textbook, or whilst browsing through the Internet and chancing upon a ‘daily reminder’ to stay hydrated; hydration has been – and will continue being – one of the most crucial issues man can focus upon.
But do we focus enough?
Did you see this post about water and lemon?
Here’s an interesting fact: the human body has been proven, scientifically, to be approximately 75% water, and 25% solid matter.
To put these figures into perspective, around 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water. In essence, the human body holds just as much – if not more – water within itself than the planet Earth! And the dependence upon this essential component of living is just as crucial.
This percentage of water must be maintained consistently in order to ensure the normal functioning of the human body as a whole. Once an individual becomes dehydrated, their body will rapidly begin to lose proper functioning.
This is because dehydration causes essential fluids and salts contained within the body to become expelled at an alarming rate. If this expulsion is not appropriately replaced with greater amounts of fluids and essential salts within time, fatal dehydration can occur.
This is because every cell of the human body requires a well-balanced combination of fluids and electrolytes in order to complete vital life processes. As such, cells – scientifically termed the building blocks of life – make up entire living organisms. Hence, if cells are deprived of essential hydration, an entire living organism is negatively impacted.
Surprisingly, dehydration does not necessarily need to occur if someone is sick, or has food poisoning. In fact, even abnormally high temperatures can cause a great degree of water-loss.
Due to Global Warming, the Earth continues to become warmer, reaching unbearable levels of heat in certain parts of the world.
Water is used up during daily activities, such as sweating, salivating, urination, or even breathing!
Despite dehydration possibly resulting in death, pure water is still not consumed as frequently as it should be.
Modern living standards have shifted the focus from clean, desalinated drinking water, to alternative sources of hydration: sugary, carbonated drinks; flavored energy drinks; fructose-laden processed juices; iced teas; and even factory-processed vitamin water – which is, in my opinion, is a joke!
Most of these processed drinks carry addictive chemicals, ensuring that the human body eventually becomes dangerously dependent upon such chemicals. Although these drinks provide hydration, they do not carry the essential salts and nutrients the body absolutely requires in order to ensure its healthy survival.
Easy Means of Identifying Dehydration
According to experts within the fields of Science and Medicine, people often incorrectly assume that dehydration can be detected if one experiences exceptional thirst.
In fact, the symptoms of dehydration might not include acute thirst in certain cases at all.
Regardless, even a slight feeling of thirst should alert an individual of reaching for that cup of water immediately.
The symptoms of dehydration fluctuate between mild and extreme, depending upon the severity and extent of the individual’s dehydration. However, there remain a few notable symptoms to stay wary of.
The color of one’s urine is a strong indicator of the body’s level of hydration; the darker and more unclear the urine, the greater the extent of the dehydration. Additionally, acute dehydration can cause muscular cramps, general fatigue, and persistent headaches. With the passage of time, these symptoms can develop into serious cases of muscular seizures, fits, and nausea.
Prolonged dehydration can also result in inattentiveness, irritability, and frequent mood swings. Decreased skin turgor and elasticity, dry mucous membranes, sunken eyes, and dizziness can all be signs of dehydration. Furthermore, if an infant cries and does not produce tears, this symptom of dehydration cannot be ignored.
With severe cases of dehydration, low blood pressure, unconsciousness, muscular convulsions, and heart failure may also occur. Such symptoms require immediate and urgent medical care.
Who Is At Risk of Dehydration?
Although nearly all human beings remain at risk of dehydration, there are certain groups, and specific situations, which can result in dangerous cases of dehydration occurring. For instance, mountaineers might need to hydrate themselves more frequently than usual, since water-loss at higher altitudes is significantly higher than normal.
• Athletes, specifically those involved in marathons, cycling, sprinting, and competitive sport are at greater risk of becoming dehydrated eventually. Level of activity, heart-rate, and water loss are three dependent, similar factors of increase.
• Infants and children are particularly prone to dehydration, given that their bodies are composed of 70% and 65% of water respectively. As such, young children cannot accurately communicate symptoms, should they occur, and are at greater risk of developing severe or near-fatal cases of dehydration.
• The aged and elderly, with the passage of time, begin to lose the mechanisms within their brains and bodies that alert them of thirst. According to research conducted by the British Broadcasting Corporation, one in every five elderly individuals do not consume enough water each day. When probed deeper, it was discovered that forgetfulness, or a lack of normal social interaction, prompted this pattern. Patients of dementia are six times more at risk of dehydration than other elderly individuals.
• Sick or ill individuals, such as those suffering from kidney or liver failure, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, adrenal gland disorders, or even general sickness are more prone when it comes to dehydration. Alcoholism might also often result in dehydration, given that alcohol behaves as a diuretic.
The Repercussions of Dehydration
Consistent, measured hydration is necessary in regulating body temperatures, aiding digestion, promoting healthy blood-flow, and ensuring the proper removal of toxins and harmful elements from the body. As such, the merits of an evenly, appropriately hydrated human body are innumerable; but what of the effects of dehydration?
Losing above 5% of essential body fluids causes weakness, fatigue, nausea, unfocused vision, and impaired judgment. The heart-rate and blood pressure might abnormally fluctuate, and cause severe headaches or migraines.
Given that steady water consumption is additionally required to maintain healthy body-mass levels, consistent dehydration might also result in obesity.
Furthermore, Type II diabetes, asthmatic attacks, and allergies might flare up as a result of prolonged dehydration.
As mentioned earlier, dehydration significantly impacts muscular strength and performance.
Muscular cramps and convulsions might occur as a direct result of dehydration, given that the human body requires healthy fluid levels in order to maintain an uninterrupted blood supply to the various muscles and organs.
As such, the heart is also a muscle; hence, dehydration can restrict cardiovascular movement, and eventually result in heart failure.
How are inattentiveness, impaired focus, and fatigue connected with acute dehydration?
Essentially, the blood flow to the various cells around the body is impeded; with reduced nutrient-exchange and acidosis taking place, the cells are unable to receive the minerals, nutrients, salts, and fluids required to carry out vital life processes. This pattern can negatively affect cell function within the body.
Body temperatures might become erratic as well; increased body temperatures might result in heat cramps, fainting, or fatal heat strokes.
Perhaps most significant is how drastically dehydration impairs normal kidney function; the renal organs are necessary in expelling all concentrated toxins from the body. When the blood supply to the renal organs is reduced, the kidneys are no longer able to perform proper filtration of fluids.
This impacts urine production, and increases the levels of harmful toxins within the body, such as sodium, potassium, or urea.
The brain – being an organ dependent upon cellular function, and healthy blood-flow – can additionally fall prey to chemical imbalances, and possible injuries.
Dehydration can arise from a range of reasons; some might be as simple as reduced water-intake, whereas other causes are significantly more complex. Burn damage, excessive sweat, or increased activity might be mundane contributing factors.
High fevers might result in acute diarrhea and vomiting; certain diseases might require the intake of diuretic medication; body-mass might also play an important role.
Chronic sickness – such as diabetes, kidney disease, or alcoholism – might result in a hydration imbalance. Furthermore, if adults choose to follow diets as a result of such illnesses, carbohydrate – and fluid levels, by extension – can plummet.
Double or triple the intake of fluids – specifically pure water – if symptoms of dehydration occur. Avoid carbonated drinks, and control water intake through scheduled hydration-breaks peppered throughout the day if you cannot down an entire bottle in one ago.
Oral rehydrating solutions are readily available within the market in the form of powders and tablets; resort to such medication if vomiting and diarrhea occur.
It is recommended that adult men drink 3 liters, and adult women consume 2 liters per day. However, these numbers can vary due to climate, temperatures, levels of activity, and altitude.
For infants or children at risk of dehydration, avoid fruits and fruit juices. Opt for alternative milk foods, and diluted squash. If the dehydration is severe, opt for rehydrating solutions immediately, and measure the dosage as per the age and weight of the child.
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