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Dehydration – The Facts


When you hear the word dehydration, more than likely you think of the type of dehydration that comes on quickly and can be solved by drinking enough liquids to replenish what was lost.  However, there is another type of dehydration that can actually contribute to a whole host of problems.  This is called chronic dehydration and it’s more common than you might think.

How Can I Be Dehydrated?

To operate efficiently, the body requires at least eight glasses of water per day, or around two litres.  Even more water is needed during hot weather, periods of illness, and when exercising.  Many people don’t get this amount of water, choosing instead to get their intake of liquid through coffee, tea, soft drinks, juice and so forth.  The problem with this is that many of these drinks have a diuretic effect – forcing the body to eliminate more water than is actually entering it, causing dehydration.

It is vital to note that the two most common signs of dehydration – a dry mouth or feeling thirsty – are not actually the first signs.  Once these 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 ageing.  The good news is that these conditions may be alleviated or cured simply by drinking more water.

The Illnesses that may Occur as a Result of Dehydration

The following illnesses or conditions may be brought on by chronic dehydration.  Read on to find out more about the effect that a lack of water can have.

  1. Depression  – an amino acid called tryptophan is required in order for the brain to be able to make serotonin, which is in turn needed to make melatonin.  Water is necessary to transport the tryptophan into the brain, and dehydration can limit the amount of available tryptophan.
  2. Constipation – if there is a shortage of water in the body, the colon will take water from the stools so that it can be re-absorbed into the body.  This results in harder stools that are difficult to pass, and that can irritate the walls of the colon.
  3. Asthma and allergies – in a dehydrated body, the amounts of histamine increase.  As the body tries to prevent water loss, the histamine will act to restrict the amount of water that is lost as water vapour through the simple act of breathing.  This restriction acts on the bronchial muscles and may result in asthma or allergy problems.
  4. Joint pain – the cartilage and joints in the body are mainly made up on water.  When cartilage rubs against each other, some of the exposed cells become damaged and new cartilage replaces the damaged stuff.  Because there are very few blood vessels in cartilage, water transports the nutrients that are needed for this replacement process.  If the body is dehydrated, this process is delayed and pain may occur.
  5. Water rationing – in periods of dehydration, a neurotransmitter called histamine becomes active and works to redistribute water throughout the body.  In the body, the order of priority is the brain, lungs, liver, kidneys, glands, muscles, bones, and skin.  When the body is dehydrated, the histamine ensures that these areas have enough water to function effectively, and to do so, it may take water from other areas of the body.
  6. Fatigue – when the tissues are dehydrated, the activity of the enzymes slows down and a person will lose energy.
  7. Blood pressure disorders – this occurs because dehydration affects the volume of the blood so that it may not be enough to completely fill the arteries, veins, and capillaries.  High or low blood pressure may occur.
  8. Weight problems – people often mistake thirst for hunger, and thus eat foods that are rich in water or more food in general.  Thus it is recommended to drink a glass of water before eating in order to distinguish between true hunger and thirst.
  9. Acid-alkaline imbalances – when the body is dehydrated, the body slows down the enzyme processes, causing the body to potentially become more acidic.
  10. Cholesterol problems – dehydration acts on the body by removing more water from within its cells.  To stop this loss, the body produces more cholesterol.
  11. Skin problems – skin problems may be caused by dehydration as the body needs to sweat out a certain amount of water each day in order to stop toxins from irritating the skin.
  12. Urinary infections – the urine contains toxins and if these are insufficiently diluted by water, they can attack the urinary membranes and cause infections.
  13. Premature ageing – a lack of water can see any “spare water” being taken from the skin and, as a result, the skin will look dry and be more susceptible to wrinkling.

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