Why is Hydration Important
Our bodies consist of approximately 60% water, so as you might guess, water performs many functions that are crucial to our survival. First and foremost, water is a building material that is vital to the life of every cell in our bodies. It lubricates joints, regulates body temperature, provides shock absorption for the brain and spinal cord, helps metabolize and transport food through the bloodstream, and flushes waste out of the system via urination.
In general, an adult male requires about 3.2 quarts of water per day to survive. An adult female needs about 2.3 quarts per day. You may be thinking, "there is no way I drink that much water every day." Well, first of all, this is the amount of water that is needed to survive, and second, we not only get the water we need by drinking it, but the food we eat contains a high content of water as well.
Many people turn to sports drinks in an attempt to prevent dehydration while exercising or performing activities out in the heat; however, these drinks have very high sugar content and processed minerals that have decreased nutritional value. Yes, drinking enough fluids is essential, but you need to drink quality fluids that have a positive impact on your body. You need healthy hydration.
What Are Dehydration Symptoms
Dehydration occurs when you are losing more water than your body is taking in. This means your body is lacking the water that it needs to perform vital functions. Not only can it be hazardous, severe dehydration can be life-threatening without proper medical attention. Dehydration is most critical in young children and older adults. Young children most commonly become dehydrated as a result of severe vomiting and diarrhea. Older adults have a lower volume of water in their bodies to start with and often have medical conditions or take medications that may increase their risk of getting dehydrated.
Symptoms of Dehydration in Children
- Listlessness or prolonged irritability
- No tear production when crying
- No urination in a diaper for three hours
- Sunken eyes and cheeks
- Dry mouth and tongue
- Sunken soft spot on top of head
Symptoms of Dehydration in Adults
- Dark-colored urine
- Decreased urination
- Extreme thirst
What Causes Dehydration?
In some cases, dehydration is caused by something as simple as not taking the time to drink enough water or being sick and not feeling like eating or drinking. Other causes of dehydration include:
- A sudden and severe onset of nausea and vomiting - this can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalance very quickly because large amounts of fluid are leaving the body very quickly.
- A fever - the higher the temperature, the greater the risk of dehydration. This becomes most dangerous when a fever is present with vomiting and diarrhea.
- Excessive sweating - when doing vigorous activity in very hot weather, it is imperative to replace the fluids that you are losing through sweat.
- Frequent urination - this can be due to uncontrolled diabetes, certain medications such as blood pressure medications and diuretics.
If Left Untreated Dehydration Can Cause:
- Decreased blood volume - can cause a decrease in blood pressure and reduced oxygen to the tissues, which can be life-threatening.
- Seizures - due to electrolyte imbalance.
- Heat Injuries - such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
- Kidney Problems - such as kidney stones, urinary tract infections and eventually kidney failure
Treatment For Dehydration
The only effective method for treating dehydration is to replace the fluids and electrolytes that have been lost. For older adults drinking an oral rehydration solution is useful as well as the intake of additional fluids. Fruit juices should be avoided for those experiencing diarrhea, as fruit juices can make diarrhea worse.
For infants and children, the use of an oral rehydration solution is recommended, starting with a teaspoon every five minutes and increasing the amount from there.
If the signs of dehydration do not resolve after sufficient fluids have been given, it is crucial to seek medical advice. In instances of severe dehydration, an intravenous drip of salt and fluids given at the hospital will act quickly to restore hydration in the body.
Of course, the best treatment for dehydration is to avoid becoming dehydrated in the first place. People often don't drink enough water because they don't like the way it tastes, or they just get busy and don't realize that they aren't drinking enough water or fluids throughout the day.
Sports drinks that are loaded with sugar are not the answer as they provide too much sugar and not enough electrolytes to keep your body in balance. Good quality drinks that have unprocessed minerals and electrolytes are the way to not become dehydrated from the start.
What Are Electrolytes?
A frequently asked question is what are electrolytes? Electrolytes are essential minerals such as potassium, sodium, and calcium that the body requires to maintain hydration. Electrolytes also regulate muscle contractions, help maintain pH balance and control nervous system function.
The body gets electrolytes through eating a healthy balanced diet, and electrolytes are lost by sweating, urinating, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Signs of Low Electrolyte Levels
- Blood Pressure Changes
- Low Energy
- Not Feeling Well
- Muscle Cramps
When you are sweating heavily, and you notice chalky rings on your clothing, this is a sign that you are losing salt. When hydrating, be sure to get enough electrolytes as well as enough fluids to maintain a healthy balance of fluids and electrolytes.
Drinking too much water can be about as dangerous as becoming dehydrated. Too much water can lead to water intoxication, which means salt and electrolytes in the body become diluted. This can lead to dangerously low levels of sodium called Hyponatremia.
Best Drinks to Stay Hydrated and Prevent Dehydration
- Water - One of the best drinks to fight dehydration, and it is readily available.
- Electrolyte Infused Water - The only thing better than water for the body to fight dehydration is water with electrolytes.
- Coconut Water - In its natural state, it is 95% water and is rich in potassium, sodium, and chloride.
- HYDRATE - An organic formula that was formulated by former Olympic athlete, Kris Fillat-Buchanan, boasts just six clean ingredients with only 1 gram of sugar that comes from organic lemon juice. It restores hydration and prevents dehydration.
A Final Word
It is essential to seek medical advice when figuring out how much water you should drink each day. It can be different from person to person. Certain prescribed medications may require you to drink more water in a day, and certain medical conditions may require you to limit fluid intake in a day. Only your physician will have the answer to these questions.