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Dehydration

Water plays a very important role in maintaining various bodily functions. The body’s cells, organs and tissues, all use water for functioning properly. Water helps various organ systems to run smoothly including digestive system, nervous system, blood circulation, regulating body temperature and so on. Blood transports the vital nutrients necessary for each organ with the help of water.

On an average, in general, it is recommended that at least 7-8 glasses of water have to be consumed per day which is approximately 1.5 to 2 liters. However this recommendation is only general and not backed by evidence. One should however learn to recognize signs and symptoms of inadequate hydration, and avoid causing harm to one’s health.

What happens when the body doesn’t get the necessary level of hydration?

The body’s functions will be altered and a condition called dehydration occurs. Dehydration and its effects are reversible in most cases by ingestion of water and in some instances additional nutrients like electrolytes, but in severe conditions it may be fatal. Athletes, pregnant women, people involved in doing vigorous exercises, people living in higher altitudes, those suffering from sickness like diabetes, and older adults are usually at higher risk of dehydration. Here are certain signs and symptoms worth noting:

1.Thirst: The body’s basic way of telling that it is getting dehydrated is with the feeling of thirst. Our body feels thirsty when the level of water required drops down by about 1 percent. Drink water immediately. In cases where you ignore thirst constantly, it may turn out that the body forgets to tell that it is thirsty and gives signals of hunger instead. You may want to eat more sugary foods where actually your body requires more fluids.

2.Darker urine: Darker colored urine and/or mild discomfort while urinating indicates that your body is not getting enough water. On the other hand, clear urine indicates adequate intake of water.

3.Dry mucosal membranes: When the inner layers of the nose, eye and throat start becoming dry, it is an indication that you are required to drink water. When the body doesn’t get enough water, the cells do not get the required moisture and become dry.

4.Low metabolic rate: When you do not consume adequate water, the digestive rate or metabolic rate becomes low and a feeling of low energy and laziness settles in.

5.Increased heart rate: When the body is deprived of water, the water in the blood and hence blood volume is decreased. This results in inadequate transport of oxygen and other important metabolites to the tissues, cause the heart rate to go up in an effort to pump more blood.

6.Muscle weakness and cramps: The muscles need various nutrients and minerals in order to function properly and they need to be moistened so that their elasticity is maintained, but when the water intake is reduced or the body starts becoming dehydrated, then they become inelastic or flaccid making it hard to do even simple work.

7.Dizziness and headache: Water helps in carrying all the essential nutrients to all the parts of the body from the smallest cell to the largest organs so that they will function properly. When dehydration occurs, this process gets disturbed and leads to dizziness and headache.

8.Dry skin and reduced skin elasticity: The skin becomes reddish and loses its elasticity as the moisture level starts decreasing. It may be followed by itching sensation and irritation over the skin as the cells start to lose their ability to function and dead skin starts to accumulate.

9.Fatigue: People who are dehydrated will experience fatigue as the whole of the bodily functions are adversely affected.

10.Inability to concentrate: Persons suffering from dehydration often lack concentration as the brain functions also get disturbed and body develops other associated symptoms like irritation for normal activities.

Written by MedPlus