Dehydration, Water And Your Well-being

Desiccated, cracked ground.

How much liquid does your body need daily?

Do you sometimes suffer from unusual symptoms for which your doctors can’t find a cause? Could it be that simply not drinking enough liquid, or drinking the wrong kinds of liquids, is having a noticeable effect on your body?

There’s an easy step you can take to see if dehydration is the cause. That is, to note down the amount of liquid you drink each day.

Many people surprise themselves by this one single action. Perhaps you’ve made yourself a cup of tea or coffee and then been distracted by some task or other? Or possibly you’ve felt thirsty but had something urgent to do and ignored the hints that your body is giving you because you’re busy. The thirst seems to pass, but you suddenly feel fatigued or that familiar headache comes on.

Research suggests that each person needs to drink over 10 cups of water daily just to let their body perform its basic functions properly. That’s the amount everyone uses up through the natural processes of breathing, perspiration and waste elimination. In other words, your body needs a constant supply of liquid: it requires ongoing hydration. Many people think dehydration is something that only happens in extreme circumstances, but the facts indicate that it’s an everyday problem facing millions of ordinary people, even though they have permanent access to drinking supplies. Why is that?

Quantity, yes; but quality counts too

It’s not just about drinking enough, it’s about what you drink. If your daily intake is mainly in the form of drinks containing caffeine, which have a diuretic and dehydrating influence, then you might not be hydrating your body properly, even if you are drinking the suggested amount each day. Alcohol has an even more drastic dehydrating effect.

Here are some of the symptoms that can occur even in cases of mild dehydration: headache is top of the list, since it’s one of the most frequently reported warning signs. If tests don’t identify another cause, it’s time to consider how much - and what - you’re drinking. Constipation is frequently another indicator of a link to dehydration. Fatigue, too, which medical practitioners know is a very regularly reported symptom in doctors’ surgeries, can result from lack of hydration. If you’ve ever suffered from the type of fatigue that can overtake you suddenly at certain times of day, particularly in the afternoon, then consider whether you’re drinking sufficient liquid – and whether it's the right quality too.

Water and your body: how it works

Every parent knows that new-born babies enter the world as fresh, new beings, requiring caring attention to the needs of mind, body and spirit to ensure the best start in life. What may be less well-known is that every baby constitutes 90% water. The percentage declines with age, but even as an adult, it’s 75% of what and who you are!

It makes sense, then, that every single cell in your body requires water and can potentially suffer harm through dehydration. Starting with the obvious, water is essential to your body fluids, which extend through your blood, lymph and digestive systems. Your body needs nutrients to function and these are carried through fluid in your body. Fluid is also key to waste elimination from your body, hence the frequency of constipation symptoms in cases of dehydration.

Bottle with straw filled with lemon. Half lemons lay around the bottle. ocean and blue sky in the background.

What happens when you deny your body the right amount of precious fluid is that it starts to ration what’s available and distribute it to the most needy areas, as it can’t store water for emergencies. Anyone who has studied First Aid or been a first responder will know that this is also what happens to the blood supply in cases of blood loss through serious injury. Hence, the areas which your body identifies as low priority begin to suffer and those dehydration symptoms begin.

Less obvious are the ways in which dehydration affects other parts of your body. Your body temperature, for instance, and the lubrication of your joints. Water protects your vital organs too. Possibly most importantly of all is the supporting link between water, DNA and ageing. This makes it clear that paying attention to the quality and quantity of liquid you drink is one of the best ways to ensure well-being from the start.

How can dehydration cause such serious issues?

There’s a potential link between low liquid intake and some very serious disorders of the blood, as well as digestive problems and even some asthmatic and arthritic conditions. Lack of proper hydration results in slowing of the body’s key enzyme activity, causing fatigue. If the body begins to ration water, then it’s moved away from the colon, resulting in constipation. The digestive juices secrete less, leading to indigestion, heartburn and even gastritis and ulcers. The blood thickens, resulting in higher blood pressure as the heart has to pump harder to circulate the blood. Cholesterol levels can rise as a response to water loss in the cells.

There’s an effect on the airways, too, since water is lost through respiration and if it’s rationed, the airways will become constricted, causing breathing problems. Major detoxification processes through the liver, kidneys and bladder are affected. The skin suffers also, since this is of course your body’s largest organ which is constantly passing out toxins. Even your cartilage undergoes problems as it consists mainly of water.

Then there are the toxins that your body would usually remove as a matter of course. This process too is one of the victims of dehydration, since under stress the body will begin to store the toxins in out-of-the-way places until the liquid crisis, as your body perceives it, is over.

Your body always tries to do what's best for you

Ironically, all these potentially harmful effects are your body’s response to dehydration. Ironic, because your body is always trying to function optimally for you, but simply can’t do so if it’s not properly hydrated.

If, after reading this far, you’re concerned about the quality of what you’re drinking, it’s time to find out why ionized water has become a daily choice for many people; and why it’s in standard use by hospital doctors in Japan. That will be the subject of our next feature.

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These information were not written by the American Food and Drug Administration, or any other official authority. This site and its products do not promise to diagnose and cure diseases, or protect you from them. Always consult your doctor when you are sick.