• Anatomy Of Fitness


Updated: Nov 14, 2020

What is dehydration? What are the signs of dehydration? How to avoid getting dehydrated?

Life cannot exist without water. Although water does not provide us with energy, it does undertake vital functions to sustain life. Without water, life may have never existed on earth. Our body gets water from the solids and liquids we ingest. Some organisms hydrate themselves from the water they get from solids alone. Let us understand the functions of water, dehydration & its signs and how to avoid getting dehydrated.

What are the functions of water in the human body?

All major systems in our body depend on water. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that adequate daily fluid intake is about 3.7 litres of fluids for men and about 2.7 litres of fluids a day for women. However, depending on several factors the recommended fluid intake may vary from person to person. On average we get 20% of the water from the solids we consume. There are thousands of functions for which water is required. Some of the important functions that water performs are:

  • Regulating body temperature through sweating.

  • Excreting waste in the form of urination, perspiration and stools.

  • Supports creation of saliva.

  • Cushions the joints and spinal cord.

  • Lubricates the eyes, ears and nose.

  • Prevents constipation.

  • Aids in digestion, nutrient absorption and delivery.

  • Helps in the transportation of oxygen, hormones, enzymes, blood cells and platelets.

  • Supports cognitive function.

What is dehydration?

Dehydration occurs when the body lacks water to carry out its functions properly. Dehydration may set in if water loss is more than water intake. Excessive water loss can occur due to intense physical activity, high environmental temperature, high environmental humidity and disease. Depending on the water lost, dehydration can be classified as mild (1% to 2% water loss), moderate (2% to 5% water loss) or severe (5% and above). A water loss of 3% to 4% can be tolerated. When water loss is between 5% to 8%, it starts affecting bodily functions and can cause dizziness or fatigue. A water loss of 10% and above can have serious consequences.

Death may occur if the water lost is over 15%.

What are the signs of dehydration?

The signs of dehydration are as follows:

  • Thirst (the first sign of dehydration).

  • Dry mouth, lips, eyes and nose.

  • Reduced volume of urine.

  • Dark yellow colour urine.

  • Strong urine odour.

  • Urge to pass urine less than 4 times a day.

  • Headache.

  • Purple fingernails.

  • Tiredness.

  • Loss of appetite.

How to avoid dehydration?

Here are the top 10 ways to avoid dehydration:

  1. Keep sipping fluids throughout the day (set reminders on your phone, use sticky notes as reminders, use apps that remind you to drink water etc.).

  2. Carry a bottle of water everywhere.

  3. Keep a track of your fluid intake (record manually or use apps to record your fluid intake).

  4. Have hydrating fruits and vegetables.

  5. If you feel dehydrated, try having as much water as you can or have an oral hydration solution at the earliest to avoid dehydrating further.

  6. As a preventive measure, drink more water if you are suffering from vomiting or diarrhoea or if you are in a hot environment.

  7. Have lots of water before starting a steam/ sauna session or before starting an intense exercise/ a competition.

  8. Try to maintain body temperature to reduce water loss due to perspiration. For example, avoid exercising in hot environments or choose early mornings/ late evenings for exercise, ensure ventilation and ambient temperature within the exercise environment, use suitable clothing etc.

  9. Avoid alcohol as it is toxic to our body. The body tries to expel alcohol by dissolving it in the urine.

  10. If you have access to seawater only (and not freshwater) do not consume it. The kidneys will create more urine to clear the excess salt (from seawater) and worsen the condition. Never inject water into veins as it will cause red blood cell breakdown.

Key takeaways:

  1. Life cannot exist without water.

  2. Nearly all systems in our body are dependent on water.

  3. Dehydration occurs when the body lacks water to carry out its functions properly.

  4. Dehydration can be classified as mild (1% to 2% water loss), moderate (2% to 5% water loss) or severe (5% and above).

  5. Dehydration severely affects the ability to perform both, mental and physical tasks.

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