The Dangers of Dehydration

Dehydration is the excessive loss of body water with an accompanying disruption of metabolic processes. It occurs when water loss exceeds water intake. Most people can tolerate a 3-4% decrease in body water without difficulty. A 5-8% decrease can cause fatigue and dizziness. Over 10% can cause physical and mental deterioration accompanied by severe thirst. A decrease of 15-25% of body water is invariably fatal.

Mild dehydration can manifest with thirst and general discomfort and usually resolves with oral rehydration. More severe water loss can lead to increased heart respiration rates in an attempt to compensate for decreased plasma volume and blood pressure, while body temperatures may rise because of decreased sweating.

A few of the ways in which body water can be reduced are:
– prolonged activity with sweating
– prolonged exposure to dry air (flying in airplanes, living in the dessert, and high elevations)
– blood loss
– crying
– diarrhea
– fever
– vomiting
– infectious disease

In people over 50, the body’s thirst sensation diminishes and continues to diminish with age. In addition, there are many medical conditions that can give one a “false reading” regarding the need for fluids. So, the common belief that drinking when you are thirsty is not an accurate monitor for determining adequate water consumption.

Can we drink too much water? Yes, but it is rare. When a person drinks too much water in a short period of time, the kidneys cannot flush it out fast enough and the blood becomes waterlogged. Drinking too much water can cause hyponatremia. Severe cases of hyponatremia can lead to water intoxication, an illness whose symptoms include headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, frequent urination and mental disorientation. In more severe cases this leads to swelling of the brain and manifests as seizures, coma, respiratory arrest, brain stem herniation and death according to M. Amin Arnaout, chief of nephrology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

How much water do we need? Well, that depends. There is some controversy around this. Most people require 2-3 liters per day depending on weight, level of activity, and environment. One liter is approximately 32 ounces. Approximately 20% of daily water intake probably comes from food content so adjust your intake accordingly. This includes tea, soups, fruits, vegetables, yogurt and liquid dairy products. Caffeine, sugar and alcoholic beverages are dehydrating and so water intake should be increased when consuming such products. It is best to drink throughout the day, rather than taking in huge quantities all at once.

Our bodies are made up of approximately 65% water. Fluid is essential for keeping cells, tissues and organs in good condition. It is easy to see how important water is to the suppleness and flexibility of muscles, tendons and ligaments, which in turn plays into the effectiveness of chiropractic and acupuncture in the treatment of disease, injuries, sports performance and injury prevention.

Anita Alexandra, L.Ac., CH is an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist with 16+ years of experience. She practices at Chiropractic Health and Acupuncture, 619 Main Street, Frisco. (970)668-3299


Leave a Reply