Dangers of Dehydration
Take The Quiz
The human body can only exist for 5-7 days without water, thus dehydration must be taken seriously. Just exactly what does dehydration mean? Medically, dehydration is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition in which the body contains an insufficient volume of water for normal functioning. To operate efficiently, most people say the body requires about eight large glasses of water per day, based on an estimate of fluid loss during a normal day. Even more water is needed during hot weather, periods of illness and when exercising. Many people simply do not take in this amount of water, preferring instead to get their intake of liquids through coffee, tea, sodas, beer or wine.
The problem is that most of these drinks have a diuretic effect which forces the body to eliminate more water than it is actually taking in – causing dehydration. In fact, some believe there is an epidemic of chronic dehydration in the US due to our caffeine and alcohol consumption.
Some symptoms of dehydration include:
Feeling dizzy and lightheaded • producing less urine and darker urine • anger, impatience • tiredness • flushed face • irritability • anxiety • depression • snoring • insomnia • short attention spans • cravings for coffee, tea, and alcohol (all diuretics).
The two most common signs of dehydration, a dry/sticky mouth or feeling thirsty – are not actually the first signs. When these 2 symptoms occur you are already dehydrated. In chronic dehydration a person may suffer from problems such as gastritis, heartburn, arthritis, headaches, depression, weight problems and even premature aging.
Dieting can also sap your water reserves. Beware of diets or supplements, including laxatives and diuretics, that emphasize shedding “water weight” as a quick way to lose weight. Losing water weight is not the same thing as losing actual fat. Remember, drinking water does NOT add calories to your diet and is great for your overall wellbeing.
So what can we do to keep healthy and hydrated? Well, the good news is that these conditions may be alleviated or cured simply by drinking more water. People with normal heart and kidney functions should slowly increase their water intake by drinking two glasses of water one-half hour BEFORE each meal. Then two more glasses of water one to two hours AFTER each meal. Drinking water with a meal dilutes your ability to digest your food.
However, don’t overdo your water intake, which can also be dangerous. Rehydration needs to occur over time, not by overloading your system. The essential thing to remember is “little and often.” A small glass every hour throughout the day is far more beneficial enabling you to utilize the fluid appropriately instead of rejecting it through overload.
Possible health problems associated with dehydration include: Asthma, Allergies, Heartburn, Migraines, Constipation, Obesity, Fibromyalgia; High Blood Pressure, Lower Back Pain, Type II Diabetes.
Also, be aware that intense exercise coupled with severe dehydration and hot temperatures or long sun exposures may cause, on rare cases, rhabdomyolysis . Read more on CF journal, Rhabdomyolysis Revisted.
If you lose enough water to be seriously dehydrated, you also become deficient in electrolytes – the mineral compounds, like salt, needed to maintain a healthy fluid balance and regulate body temperature.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the following dietary response to serious dehydration caused, for example, by diarrhea or emergency. It is designed as a fast replenishment of fluid and electrolyte levels:
Anti-Dehydration Treatment Method: Take two glasses. Into the first put 8 ozs of orange juice, a pinch of salt and half a teaspoon of Honey. Into the second put 8 ozs of bottled or distilled water and one-quarter teaspoon of baking soda. Sip from each glass in turn until they are empty. Remember: there is no quick fix solution and you will still need to drink plenty of water every day to keep hydrated.
How to Stay Hydrated: Plan to start and end your day with water. Even when sleeping, your body loses water. Drinking a glass of water when you first wake up and last thing before you go to bed can help balance what you lose while sleeping. Also, your body loses water during the day when you perspire, urinate and breathe. If you are more active or are working/exercising in a hot or humid environment, you will need to replenish lost fluids: don’t underestimate the amount of fluids you lose from perspiration. In one hour of exercise your body can lose more than a quart of water, dependent upon exercise intensity and air temperature. Therefore, you should drink before, during and after exercising. For most workouts, water is the best fluid replacement.
And remember: don’t go overboard with water. If you have too much water and too little sodium you can enter into a state known as hyponatremia – which can cause brain cells to become swollen with water, leading to confusion, seizures, coma or death. This can happen to people participating in long distance events who drink large amounts of water but don’t replenish electrolytes (including sodium). So, if you’re participating in an endurance activity, be sure you also consume a sports drink or other energy food that you body can easily digest to provide you with the electrolytes you need!
An easy way to determine whether you are hydrated is simply by the color of your urine. This should be very pale yellow (some medications or supplements may affect this). A dark color indicates that your kidneys are working too hard to concentrate the urine and a greater likelihood that you need more water.
In conclusion, water is vital for good health and there is no substitute for it. Years of chronic dehydration cannot be reversed overnight by simply drinking a couple glasses of water. Rather, water intake should be gradually and consistently increased.
THE QUIZ: Are you drinking enough liquids for your health?
1. How many cups of non-caffeinated, nonalcoholic fluids, other than water, do you drink everyday?
a) 0 b) 1-3 c) 4-6 d) 7-9 e) 10-12 f) 13 or more
2. How many 8-oz glasses of water do you drink every day?
a) 0 b) 1 c) 2 d) 3 e) 4 f) 5 or more
3. How many cups of caffeinated beverages do you drink every day?
a) 0-3 b) 4-5 c) 6 d) 7 or more
4. How many alcoholic beverages do you drink a day?
a) 0 b) 1-2 c)3 d) 4 e)5
5. How many cups of soup do you eat every day?
a) 0 b) 1 c) 2 d) 3 or more
6. How many servings of fruit (1 piece fresh/raw or 1/2 cup cooked/canned) do you eat every day?
a) 0-1 b) 2-4 c) 5 or more
7. How many servings of non-starchy vegetables (1 cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked) do you eat every day?
a) 0-2 b) 3-5 c) 6 or more
Dehydration QUIZ Answers:
1. a = 0, b = 2, c = 5, d = 8, e = 11, f = 13 (add points)
2. a = 0, b = 1, c = 2, d = 3, e = 4, f = 10 (add points)
3. a = 0, b = 2, c = 3, d = 5 (*subtract points)
4. a = 0, b = 1, c = 3, d = 4, e = 5 (*subtract points)
5. a = 0, b = 1, c = 2, d = 3 (add points)
6. a = 0, b = 1, c = 2 (add points)
7. a = 0, b = 1, c = 2 (add points)
Your Hydration Score:
-10 to -1: You are a Human Raisin.
You are so dry it will take you days to rehydrate. Start by drinking a sports drink to return your fluid and electrolyte levels to normal. Decrease or eliminate caffeine and eat at least 5 servings daily of fruits and vegetables. Then start a fluid plan.
0 to 5: You are Parched
Your body still thinks it’s in the Sahara Desert, but it senses relief in sight. Decrease your caffeine intake and drink more water.
6 – 9: You are down a quart
You’re so close, just a little extra effort is needed. Drink a few more glasses of water each day and stick to your fluid plan.
10 – 12: Hydrated
You’re body is balanced. You are drinking just enough fluid, but make sure you maintain your fluid plan.
13 plus: Congratulations! You’re totally fluid!
You’ve left the dried fruit and desert behind you and are swimming home. You look great and feel fabulous! You’re able to perform at peak levels, so keep up the good work!