Dehydration: What Causes It and Who’s at Risk

By Martha Michael

Everything Dehydration

You’ve hiked to the mountaintop, never thinking about the amount of rain that could soak you from head to toe. That makes perfect sense, especially on a sunny day, but the level of water you soak up inside your body is even more important -- and the conditions you need to monitor don’t include the weather.

Symptoms of Dehydration

You finish that bag of chips or go for a hike without your water bottle and think nothing of it. You may confess to feeling a little dizzy from being dehydrated, but after you guzzle some water, you’re over it.

Or are you?

Physical symptoms of dehydration include thirst, dizziness, nausea, headaches and sometimes heat cramps, says an article on Healthline.com. But a study by Georgia Tech showed that hydration also affects your mental function, specifically coordination, attention, and cognitive ability such as complex problem-solving.

Researchers looked at 33 peer-reviewed papers with reports on the effects of dehydration on motor coordination, attention, executive function and reaction time. They found that out of those possibilities, loss of water had the least impact on a person’s reaction time. However, subjects made increasingly more errors pertaining to tasks requiring their attention.

You can be mildly dehydrated by losing just 2 percent of your body’s water, which can happen in just a couple of hours, and there are many possible explanations for it.

Cause of Dehydration

Your body’s optimum fluid level is 60 percent. What causes that level to drop?

There are both behaviors and health conditions that can cause dehydration, says an article on Health.com.

Low-Carbohydrate Diets

While your intention may be to fit into your jeans, you may be inadvertently starving your genes of necessary water content. Your body stores both water and carbs, and when you eat food with carbohydrates you often get them both at the same time because of how they’re prepared. Starches such as pasta, rice and oatmeal soak up water when they’re cooked, which you benefit from when you consume dishes from that food group.

Stress

Your body’s reaction to stress is to release hormones from the adrenal gland and when your adrenals are overworked it can affect other functions. The same gland is also responsible for regulating your body’s fluid levels through the hormone aldosterone. Your gland’s fatigue can cause an imbalance in electrolyte levels and make you dehydrated.

Alcohol Consumption

Even if you stay within the recommended limits of alcohol consumption, you could be sowing the seeds of dehydration. If you haven’t noticed when you’re at a bar or a party, the more you drink the more you go to the bathroom. Other liquids hydrate your body, but because alcohol inhibits a hormone that helps your body absorb fluid, it goes to your bladder instead. Acting as a diuretic, it shrinks your cells and you release more water rather than retaining it.

High Altitudes

If you love to hike or are an avid climber, you probably know that maintaining your body’s fluids is important. But more than just replacing water expended through the exercise, the altitude is contributing to potential dehydration. Part of the acclimation process involves increasing urine output and speeding up breathing -- both depleting your body of water.

Diabetes

You could unknowingly become dehydrated because of undiagnosed diabetes. A rise in blood sugar can increase urination as the body attempts to rid itself of excess glucose. More bathroom breaks means a reduction in hydration levels. Keep in mind, excessive thirst may be a sign of diabetes.

Another cause of dehydration is something unavoidable -- the aging process.

Seniors and Dehydration

Among many other changes in your body’s function, as you age you become more susceptible to dehydration.

Caregiver website DailyCaring.com says that dehydration in seniors can cause major health problems, including:

  • Kidney stones
  • Blood clot complications
  • Passing out
  • Rapid but weak pulse
  • Lowered blood pressure

One of the reasons dehydration affects older adults is that they lose their ability to feel thirsty which, of course, is the natural trigger that causes you to drink more liquids. Also, as you age, your kidneys are less efficient and your body has a lower ability to balance its fluid levels.

Medications can also increase the threat of dehydration. In some cases, individuals experience diarrhea or sweating as side effects of medications, and there are blood pressure meds that flush water from your system.

Choosing drug-free treatments -- whatever your age -- makes it possible to avoid medications that deplete your body from its necessary fluids. A chiropractor can give you a full examination and assess your needs for attaining wellness. You can discuss areas of pain and other symptoms, as well as create a plan for maintaining maximum health.

On a regular schedule of chiropractic visits you’re able to detect changes to your health. This kind of monitoring and a balanced lifestyle means you’re also less likely to become dehydrated in the first place.

Getting direction from the experts gives you a better outlook when it comes to staying hydrated. By contrast, you can end up in a dangerous place if you just put your finger in the air and go where the wind takes you.

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