There are numerous medical reports recommending that you should drink at least eight glasses of water each day. Some water-drinking exponents claim increased consumption significantly lowers your risk of certain cancers, heart disease, diseases associated with aging, and even helps you to lose weight. Whatever the merits of these claims, it is certainly the case that if you don’t drink enough water, then you run the risk of dehydrating.
Dehydration is a condition in which body fluid is lost and not replaced. There are three types of dehydration: where electrolytes are lost, where water is lost, and where there is equal loss of water and electrolytes in the body. The last one is the most common type of dehydration.
But if I am dehydrating, won’t I feel thirsty and therefore drink more water? Strangely enough, this is is not always the case. Firstly, you may not feel thirsty – even though your body is giving you other signs that you dehydrating. And secondly, all too often when we do feel thirsty we drink something that may be inappropriate for rehydration.
How can I tell if I am dehydrated?
All too often we realize that we are dehydrated when something bad starts to happen as a result. For example, our brains comprise 90% water when most healthy. A slight decrease in our brain’s mass brought on by dehydration can result in headaches. Clearly it is preferable to recognize that we are dehydrated before our brain or other organs are severely affected.
Here’s a video showing a simple skin test for dehydration:
Some of the other symptoms of dehydration to watch out for are dry mouth, dry tongue, sunken eyeballs, loss of skin tone, increased thirst, decrease urine output, concentrated urine, muscle pain/cramps, fatigue, a decrease in body weight, inability to sweat, dizziness, and fast heartbeat.
The following infographic illustrates the symptoms and their degrees of severity.
How can I treat dehydration?
For mild to moderate dehydration the best treatment is to drink a lot of water and, even better, an oral rehydrating solution. Volume per volume replacement is advised, which means that when an estimated 100ml of water is eliminated in the body (through stool for example), 100 ml of water should also be taken in so that water balance in the body is maintained.
What you shouldn’t be drinking are those fluids that actually can contribute to dehydration because of their diuretic effects. So don’t drink alcohol, coffee, sugary drinks or even tea.
When the severe symptoms are observed, it is best to immediately seek medical attention. Severe dehydration can cause neurological deficits and could even lead to death. In the hospital, intravenous therapy is usually adopted. In cases where the fluid loss is caused by bacteria, medications are also administered to stop the problem.
How can I prevent dehydration?
The following infographic illustrates how to avoid becoming dehydrated.
So how much water should you drink to avoid dehydration symptoms? This is, of course, dependent on the weather and your activities. If it is hot or when you are doing exercises, then you should drink more than the average advisable amount. However, an average grown man should drink at least 70 ounces a day and a female around 50 ounces. And remember that drinking coffee or tea does not count.
To make sure you get enough water regularly, always carry a drink bottle filled with water. You can get a water filter bottle so that the water you drink is chemical free, or an infuser water bottle to flavor your water so as to encourage you to drink more.