Most people are dehydrated without knowing

By Dr Harold Gunatillake - Health Writer

Most people do not know to recognize when dehydration sets in and they go on with their normal work as usual. Some complain that they do not pass enough urine, or may feel not right without realizing that dehydration is the simplest cause.

By definition dehydration means that one hasn’t got sufficient water in the body for its normal metabolic requirements. You lose water when you breathe out in the exhaled air. You will sweat when warm to cool your body. You need to pass urine to get rid of  waste products like creatinine, urea and other detoxified breakdown products. You do pass a small amount of water in your faeces daily, and more when having loose motions.

75 perent of your body weight is due to water. Water is required within every cell of the body (intracellular) and also in the spaces between cells (extra-cellular spaces) to convey nutrients and electrolytes... The extra-cellular spaces are mainly the blood vessels and the spaces between cells (interstitial spaces). In water-logging around the ankles and legs common in central heart failure it is the extra-cellular spaces that fill with excessive fluids. Doctors prescribe diuretics like furosemide to get rid of this retained fluid through extra urination.

When you have some gastro-intestinal upset you tend to excrete the toxins in the loose motion. So, diarrhea is the commonest cause of dehydration in most people having such upsets. It is very common among kids and hydrating the body is a priority in such eventualities. Giving drinks with sugar sometimes makes the dehydration worse because sugar seems to extract more water from the body and excreted. Hence, mothers are advised to give boiled cooled water to kids when dehydrated. World-wide more than four million children die each year because of dehydration from diarrhea. (medicine net).

Eating food that upset your stomach can cause inflammation (gastritis) resulting in natural vomiting to rid the offending food and you observe instant relief. Frequent bouts of vomiting can cause dehydration. If the water cannot be replaced by drinking you may need a saline transfusion in outpatients to hydrate yourself. Children seem to get dehydrated fast and most need intravenous fluids in hospital.

Severe dehydration can stress the kidneys and may fail in its functions. So, it is very important to hydrate yourself in recurrent dehydration due to vomiting or diarrhea.

Walking distances, cycling and jogging and intense exercising can dehydrate you fast from sweating. Carrying water with you in such situations will help to prevent dehydration.
Diabetics can become dehydrated fast. Elevated uncontrolled blood sugar levels cause sugar to spill into the urine accompanied with water. Frequent urination and excessive thirst noticed having a dry tongue are common symptoms in such situations. Hydrating with water and electrolytes will solve the situation.

If you suffer from diabetes you need to drink more water than others as a routine. Do not wait till the tongue goes dry and you feel not right.

How do you know you are dehydrated?

The body initially tells you through thirst to increase water intake. When urine output drops that would be a sure sign that you are getting dehydrated. Urine becomes dark and concentrated.

With further dehydration, you could get muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, palpitations and light headedness, and later confusion, inability to think and general weakness. Ultimately with further neglect you may go into coma and organ failure.

Brain will be starved with blood and most of the neurological symptoms are caused as a result. Due to lack of water the electrolytes in the body such as sodium, potassium and other micronutrients get concentrated and fail to function.

Doctors make the diagnosis without any investigations and assess the situation and treat accordingly. Maintaining a normal blood pressure and pulse rate is a sure sign of recovery, including passing sufficient urine.

When you dehydrated drink plenty of water, clear broths, soups and jelly. Alcohol is contra-indicated when dehydrated.

Conclusions: I suppose the picture is clear, needs no more details. Do drink plenty of water from a bottle or aluminum utensils. Avoid drinking water from plastic bottles. Drinking water from a bottle you could measure the amounts, too.

You need to drink about three liters of water per day and more with strenuous activities.

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