Water is essential for living and does more than quench your thirst. It keeps nearly all of your body’s major systems functioning. The human body is made up of approximately 55-65% water.
Dehydration occurs when there is insufficient water in the body, or you lose significant amounts of water quickly. Most of the time, dehydration is mild.
Water is required for every organ system in the body. It helps with temperature regulation, carries nutrients and oxygen to cells, lubricates joints, and moistens tissues in the eyes, nose, mouth, and entire gastrointestinal tract. It aids digestion and helps your liver and kidneys flush out toxins from your body.
- Fatigue, tiredness
- Dry mouth
- Dry skin and lips
- Decreased urine production or dark urine
- Headaches, confusion
- Fast or racing heartbeat
- Low blood pressure
- Muscle cramps
- Lightheadedness or dizziness, particularly when changing positions
- Loss of appetite but craving sugar
How Dehydration Affects Your Brain
Water accounts for around 75% of brain mass and is needed to produce hormones and neurotransmitters and helps with focus and concentration. You only need to be 1% dehydrated to experience a decrease in cognitive function.
How Dehydration Affects Your Mental Health
- Afternoon fatigue
- Sleep issues
- Inability to focus
- Brain fog
How Dehydration Affects Your Digestive System
Our digestive tract uses a lot of water for cleansing, lubrication, and absorption of nutrients. After consuming food, the small intestine absorbs approximately 90% of ingested water, leaving the large intestine to absorb any remaining water. The large intestine is responsible for the leftover absorption of electrolytes, vitamins, and water from waste substances and then forms and eliminates feces from leftover waste.
When the body is dehydrated, the large intestine (colon) will soak up whatever fluids it can from the food you consume to help rehydrate the body, making feces too hard to pass and causing constipation.
Levels of Dehydration
Mild - most commonly occurs due to sweating too much or acute illness. This is easily reversible and usually presents with mild symptoms, like thirst, dry skin, and headache. Drinking extra fluids with electrolytes is usually all required to regain euvolemia.
Moderate - more symptoms like lightheadedness, usually caused by prolonged illness, such as vomiting and diarrhea for days, and requires IV fluids to be given. This is done in urgent care, emergency room, or hospital setting.
Severe - is potentially life-threatening and requires medical attention. More severe symptoms are usually present, such as confusion, seizures, low blood pressure, and decreased urine production.
Once you are experiencing thirst, you are most likely already dehydrated. It is commonly suggested that a person drink daily about half an ounce to an ounce of water for each pound they weigh. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should consume approximately 75-150 ounces of water daily. If you’re living in a hot climate or exercise daily, you should try to consume closer to an ounce of water per pound. Adding electrolytes can help increase fluid retention in the body. Electrolytes work by directing water (and nutrients) to the areas of the body where it’s needed most and help maintain optimal fluid balance inside the cells.
What are Electrolytes?
Electrolytes are essential minerals obtained from the diet and are vital to many critical functions in the body. They assist the body in regulating chemical reactions and maintain the balance between fluids inside and outside of cells.
The minerals that are classified as electrolytes include:
What do electrolytes do in the body?
- The balance of the amount of water in the body
- The balance of your body’s pH level
- The movement of nutrients into cells
- The proper functioning of nerve, muscle, heart, and brain cells
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. Its functions include:
- Conducting nerve impulses and hormone secretion
- Keeping muscle tissue rigid, strong, and flexible
- Maintaining the structure and strength of bones and teeth
Chloride is found in all body fluids, with the highest amount in the blood and in the fluid outside of the body’s cells.
- Regulating muscular and nervous system activity
- Supporting the production and release of hydrochloric acid (stomach acid)
Magnesium is involved in more than 300 different chemical reactions that regulate several functions in the body.
The functions in which magnesium is involved include:
- Blood sugar regulation
- Blood pressure regulation
- Bone development
- Nerve and muscle function
- Maintaining and building strong bones and teeth
- Metabolizing carbohydrates and fat
- Regulating heart rhythm, kidney function, muscle contraction, and nerve signaling
Sodium - We consume most of our sodium in the form of sodium chloride, commonly known as salt.
- Cellular transport
- Fluid balance
- Muscle function
- Nerve function
Potassium - 98% of the body’s potassium is found in the intracellular fluid, making it the most abundant electrically charged particle within the cell.
- Heart function
- Kidney function
- Muscle contraction
A diet with a healthy amount of potassium can counteract sodium’s harmful effects on blood pressure. Unfortunately, most people in the United States consume less potassium than is recommended. Individuals with certain health conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis, as well as those taking laxatives or diuretics are more likely to have a potassium deficiency.
Calcium - Bok choy, Chia seeds, Kale, Salmon, Spinach
Chloride - Celery, Lettuce, Tomatoes
Magnesium - Halibut, Salmon, Legumes, Meats, Nuts, Seeds, Vegetables
Phosphate/Phosphorus - Eggs, Fish, Kidney Beans, Lentils, Peas, Meats, Nuts
Potassium - Leafy greens, Fruits from vines, Root vegetables
Sodium - Beets, Celery, Eggs, Meats, Seafood
It is possible for an electrolyte imbalance to occur if levels either drop too much or become overly elevated. This happens when the amount of water in the body changes. In order for the body to maintain healthy electrolyte levels, the amount of water consumed through food and drink should equal the amount lost in urine, sweat, and other fluids. In other words, an electrolyte imbalance can be caused by dehydration or overhydration.
Supplements containing electrolytes may be beneficial when recovering from or addressing a condition that causes dehydration. Electrolyte drinks may prove to be more beneficial than plain water after strenuous exercise as they replenish both electrolyte and fluid balance. Supplementing with electrolytes may also help with rehydration after prolonged vomiting or diarrhea by replacing the electrolytes lost. My favorite is LMNT (link HERE) or Ultima (link HERE). I also like No Muscle Cramps (link HERE)
Keep Moving Forward 😊 Sarah