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Dangerous Dehydration: Why You Should Make Hydration A Habit
Posted on Apr 18, 2013 by Bridget Greenlee (G+)
Sometimes it can be difficult living in desert-like conditions, especially when it's dry and hot in the summer. Many people can forget about staying hydrated and negative health effects can come from this. UMI offers advice on how to keep hydrated in those dry conditions.
Dehydration is a state in which more fluids are exiting the body than entering it, leaving the system lacking water. Whether a person is simply not taking in enough water or whether the body is losing too much water (perhaps due to sweating or sickness resulting in diarrhea or vomiting), dehydration is basically a math problem of net water, or the sum of water lost versus water gained. And since humans are about 75 percent water, dehydration can have a profound effect on the body.
Water lost through sweat depletes the body’s water levels, so hydrating more than normal is especially important in hot climates like the desert. If it is severe, dehydration can become a major problem, affecting many parts of the body. While mild dehydration can be remedied rather easily, severe dehydration may require medical attention. Fatigue, irritability, dry lips and mouth, and headache are signs of mild dehydration. Confusion, faintness, a quick and weak pulse, blotchy skin, increased breathing rate, fever, delirium and unconsciousness signal more severe dehydration. Dehydration can happen to anyone who is not careful, but the condition is more of a danger in high altitudes and to athletes (especially during races and periods of high activity), those with chronic conditions, and the elderly as well as young children.
Effects of dehydration
Many people may not realize how far reaching the effects of dehydration can be. The body’s major systems require water to work properly and the lack of water has an adverse effect from head to toe.
In addition to headaches, a person may feel fatigued when he is dehydrated. His reaction time may also be lowered by as much as 12 percent, meaning that dehydrated driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving. Even mild dehydration affects muscle performance, which can be especially limiting while exercising and or being active.
Digestion & Stomach
Hydration helps the body digest food and is important in keeping the digestive system regular. The stomach also produces watery mucus to guard it from the acid produced during digestion. In a dehydrated state, the production of this mucus is impeded, making the stomach more susceptible to ulcers and irritation.
As to be expected, the skin becomes dry and flaky when dehydrated. In addition to being bothersome, this can lead to irritation and rashes, such as eczema. A hydrated body sweats enough per day to carry away toxins produced by the skin. Without enough hydration, these toxins linger on the skin, causing irritation. The loss of water in cells, in addition to drying out the skin, can also cause the aging process to speed up, making skin look older than it is.
As normally moist mucous membranes in the respiratory system dry out, they are less equipped to fight off airborne intruders, such as pollen and dust, and a person is more likely to contract a virus.
Metabolism is lower in a state of dehydration, meaning that the body will burn off calories more slowly. Additionally, thirst can be misinterpreted as hunger, causing a person to seek out a source of fuel (i.e. sugar), which can lead to unnecessary weight gain.
Cartilage and ligaments become dry and brittle when dehydration sets in, causing them to weaken. Joints also run the risk of becoming inflamed by toxins in a dehydrated body, which can lead to arthritis.
All of these body parts and systems, in addition to blood pressure, cholesterol, kidneys, the urinary system, and more, are negatively affected by dehydration. However, most of these issues only arise when moderate or severe dehydration has already occurred. But knowing the early warning signs can save a body from enduring these harmful symptoms.
When dehydration begins to set in, some people may not feel poorly at all. In fact, some people can experience an endorphin rush in this early stage. Others will not feel well and may experience tiredness, crankiness, a bad mood or a headache. Contrary to popular belief, thirst is not a very good indicator of hydration levels. Whether feeling thirsty or not, a person needs to drink water every day. A good gauge of hydration is urine: if urination is not occurring at least every two hours, or urine is dark in color (it should be close to clear), that’s dehydration. All in all, it is a tricky condition to self diagnose. The best idea is to make a plan and develop lifestyle habits that prevent dehydration from sneaking up on the body.
For a 150 pound person in desert-like conditions and engaging in moderate activity, it is recommended to drink 90 ounces of water per day. A person should increase this recommended water intake if he weighs more, is exercising or exerting himself, especially in hot temperatures, or drinks a beverage with caffeine, salt or alcohol. When exercising, it is recommended to drink a couple of glasses of water two hours before exercising, four to six ounces of water for every 15-20 minutes of exercising, and about two cups of water after exercising for every pound of water the body has sweat off.
How to stay hydrated
To make sure dehydration doesn’t have a chance to sneak up, here are some suggestions that should become habit to stay hydrated and healthy at all times.
- Start the day (that means before coffee or tea) with a glass of water to replenish liquids lost overnight.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables (aim for two to servings at each meal) and less processed food, which lowers water levels in the body.
- Get used to taking regular water breaks throughout the day. Whether it’s after every bathroom break or by setting an alarm on the computer or phone, getting used to a reminder to drink water regularly will help it become second nature.
- Keep skin hydrated by avoiding over-scrubbing and harsh soaps. Gentle, natural ingredients and moisturizers with cocoa butter, shea butter, or jojoba oil will nourish the skin.
- Get kids on a schedule too, to make sure they are drinking enough water, especially when active. Since thirst is not a good indicator, children as well as adults may not realize when they are dehydrated.
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