Up to 60 percent of the human body is water: the brain is composed of 70 percent water; the lungs are nearly 90 percent water; and about 83 percent of our blood is water. In other words, we are aqueous beings. Water is in every cell and tissue. Biological processes like circulation, digestion, absorption, and excretion depend on water. It forms the foundation of blood and lymph, maintains hearty muscles and youthful skin, lubricates joints and organs, and helps regulate body temperature, and healthy blood glucose. Water is crucial to life, but is often overlooked as part of a healthy diet.
You may think of dehydration as something that happens to parched travelers in the desert when they run out of water, but chronic dehydration is a very real and an all too common problem. Many people do not realize that chronic dehydration may be the cause of their health problems.
A thirsty feeling and dry mouth are emergency signals telling you to hydrate; if you wait until you are thirsty to drink, you are probably already slightly dehydrated. Some of the first symptoms of dehydration are lethargy, headaches, or feeling lightheaded. Other symptoms may include muscle weakness, dark urine (or very little urine), and poor sleeping patterns.
As chronic dehydration progresses, you may start to feel worse as more body systems are affected. Specifically, enzyme production can slow down leading to excessive fatigue, constipation, acid-alkaline imbalance, and digestive troubles. The beneficial mucus that protects the gastric lining and membranes of the respiratory tract may dry up, resulting in gastritis, stomach ulcers, or respiratory problems. Heavily concentrated urine can lead to lesions in the urinary mucous membranes, allowing infection-causing bacteria to grow. Dehydration can also cause the skin to be dull, dry, and wrinkled.
As simple as it may seem, drinking a lot of water is not always the best way to treat dehydration because it doesn’t contain electrolytes, which help the body maintain homeostasis, or may not have an optimal pH balance, which aids absorption. The best thing you can do is to prevent dehydration in the first place by drinking purified water at regular intervals throughout the day so that you never feel thirsty. More hydration is generally needed for dry, cold, or hot environments; during times of stress or illness; with some pharmaceuticals; at high altitudes; and during pregnancy and breast-feeding.
If you think you are dehydrated, avoid caffeinated, sugary, and alcoholic drinks, which only contribute to dehydration. Opt for water that has been infused with electrolytes and molecularly formulated for optimal pH to enhance absorption; coconut water, which has naturally occurring electrolytes; or a sports drink without added sugar and artificial colors.
It is important to note that preventing dehydration (especially chronic dehydration) also has to do with how well you absorb water at the cellular level. In addition to drinking fluids that contain electrolytes, you can find supplements that are formulated with specific ingredients (including slippery elm, goldenseal, and betaine) that work synergistically to improve absorption at the cellular level. These supplements work by ensuring that the fluid you drink is adequately absorbed, helping to prevent dehydration.
Much like oil lubricates a car, water keeps our bodies functioning and running smoothly. A well-hydrated body is one that can perform at its best. So drink up!