Picture this. A man marooned on a desert, is soaked in perspiration and parched with thirst, drags his feet across the sand just in the hope of finding some water to quench his thirst. Often when we talk of dehydration, this is the image drawn up in our minds. But it is interesting to note that this is a case of acute dehydration, which in today’s times is perhaps a rarity. Although we face nothing close to this in our daily lives, we too suffer from dehydration nevertheless. We suffer from chronic dehydration, which unlike its acute form is not sudden and intense. As the repercussions of this form of dehydration seem mild, most of us often don’t realise it at all.
Why Do We Require Water?
Water is integral to our existence. Our bodies are made up of 75% of water, 80% of which is present in the brain and 90% in the blood. Our body relies on water to ensure proper functioning of organ systems and for cells to remain hydrated. It provides a means to transport nutrients, hormones and other elements and also provides a medium to promote nerve signalling, especially in the brain. Needless to say, chronic dehydration can lead to a loss or decease in these functions and may ultimately result in disease or can exacerbate an existing condition.
It is a common belief that thirst or a dry mouth is our body’s way of signalling plummeting water content. However, these are not the first signs of dehydration, meaning our body would have already slipped into acute dehydration by the time these signs show up.
Chronic Dehydration And Role Of Histamine
Deficiency of water causes the excess production of neurotransmitter- histamine. Histamine helps redistribute water in the body in the order of the brain, lungs, liver, kidneys, and glands, the muscles, bones and skin, and ensure proper functioning of these vital organs. On the flip side though, excess production of histamine causes other disorders such as allergies, asthma, dyspepsia, colitis, constipation, rheumatoid arthritis, and chronic pains such as migraine headaches in various parts of the body.
Ten Symptoms Of Chronic Dehydration
Various organ systems and their functioning are so heavily dependent on water that a cutback only leads to the following conditions:
- Constipation: Walls of the colon reduce water content in the food to aid proper formation of stools. During dehydration, colon sucks out more water to provide for other organs, causing constipation.
- Digestive Disorders: In chronic dehydration, the secretion of digestive juices is less. Food that enters the stomach is treated with hydrochloric acid to break it down. This acidic food then enters the small intestine, where digestion continues. However at this stage, pancreas are responsible for creating an alkaline medium to neutralise this acid. Water is essential to create this medium, and a lack of water causes retention of food for longer durations in the stomach itself, eventually causing dyspeptic pain, which can range from simple heartburn to gastro-esophageal reflux disorder (GERD).
- Fatigue, Energy Loss: Dehydration of the tissues causes enzymatic activity to slow down.
- High and Low Blood Pressure: Water contributes to the body’s blood volume, which during dehydration is not enough to completely fill the entire set of arteries, veins, and capillaries.
- Joint Pain: Cartilage in the body, mainly joints are made up of water. Water is needed to transport the nutrients required for maintenance and repair of joints. Dehydration may increase the abrasive damage and delay its repair, resulting in joint pain.
- Respiratory Troubles: Histamine produced during dehydration constricts bronchial tubes in an attempt to retain water lost as water vapour during exhalation. This could in turn lead to asthma like symptoms.
- Acid-Alkaline Imbalance: Dehydration activates an enzymatic slowdown producing acidification.
- Excess Weight and Obesity: We often confuse hunger with thirst and end up eating foods with high water content. This over eating spell causes obesity.
- Cystitis, Urinary Infections: If toxins contained in urine are insufficiently diluted, they attack the urinary mucous membranes.
- Eczema: Your body needs enough moisture to sweat 20 to 24 ounces of water, the amount necessary to dilute toxins so they do not irritate the skin.
Our bodies are made of water and without it; we are lucky to survive 3 days. Research has shown that 1% loss of total body weight in water will result in a 10% loss in physical ability. In warmer temperatures like that in the Middle East, water loss is 3 litres an hour, or more than 4% of total body weight, that means we can expect a 40% loss in physical ability.
Water is vital to good health and there no cola or beverage can be its substitute. If you have been dehydrated for years, an overnight consumption of excess water will not help. Water intake should be gradual and the best indicator of a good water intake is the colour of urine. Clear or lightly coloured urine indicates a healthy intake and darker coloured urine may be an indication that your kidneys are working hard to concentrate the urine. In conclusion, don’t ignore your body’s cries for water. Stay well hydrated and keep away from all other related illnesses.
Article by Snigdha Taduri for Biomed-ME