A large number of people suffer from dehydration without being aware of it. This is not the severe type of dehydration from which you suffer when you take an hour long run at midday on a summer afternoon that might put you in hospital, but rather the mild to moderate level on which so many people live almost permanently. The consequences are equally grave in the long term, and they are easily avoidable if you know the signs that you are dehydrated.
Thirst and Dry Mouth
Thirst is the most typical sign that you are dehydrated, but if you are like most permanently dehydrated people, you are so used to this feeling that you have come to think of it as normal. Drink around eight glasses of clean, purified water for a few consecutive days to understand what the absence of thirst feels like.
Your mouth is also meant to be permanently moist, but if you are dehydrated, your body has no water from which to produce saliva. This may lead to bad breath, another possible dehydration symptom, as your saliva is meant to wash away bacteria and scraps of old food sticking to your teeth.
Glycogen is a store of carbohydrates that is kept in your body's tissue for energy. Your liver uses water to release this glycogen when you need energy. If you are short of water, your liver cannot release these energy reserves, which makes you crave carbohydrate rich food to supply the energy that you body cannot produce for itself.
Unfortunately, as many common 21st century carbohydrates like refined bread and cookies are low on water, they may worsen your dehydration if they are not consumed with water. This is also how dehydration contributes to obesity: you eat because your body needs direct energy to make up for the reserves that it cannot use.
Characteristics of Urine
Dehydrated people normally urinate less, and their urine is darker than that of properly hydrated people. Normal urine is meant to be clear, with only the slightest tinge of yellow. When it is yellow or a honey-yellow, amber colour, you have a serious problem. If you drink a lot of coffee and alcohol, which are diuretics, you may not urinate less, but more. This does not mean that your body has enough water to discard, however; it means that your body is disposing of all the water that it keeps in reserve to ensure that you never run short. The colour of your urine is, thus, a better sign than the amount you produce.
The nerves and muscles that connect to them are surrounded by water. When your body runs short of water, it withdraws fluid from your skin and less vital internal systems to supply the essential systems without which you will immediately die. If your muscles and their nerves run short of fluid, they become sensitive and/or spasm and contract. That is why medical experts always recommend that you drink water while exercising. Your muscles can function without severe pain only if they have enough water.
When your skin is dry and absorbs water almost immediately when you moisten it, you may be dehydrated. To protect its essential organs from a water shortage, your body steals water away from your skin. Dehydrated skin is also less elastic, which means that you will develop wrinkles and stretch marks more easily and at an earlier stage of life than you would have if you had been hydrated properly. If you pinch and pull your skin away from your body and let go, it should snap back immediately. If it takes time, it is insufficiently moisturised.
Your brain is surrounded by fluid that protects it from the hardness of your skull. If you are dehydrated, much of this fluid is withdrawn to serve your vital organs. Your brain is then not as well protected against sudden movements and bumps against your skull. Most experts believe that the headaches are not caused by collisions with your skull, but rather by the pain sensors that surround your brain as a warning signal to you that your brain needs water to prevent it from being injured. Dehydrated people also lack essential salts like sodium and potassium, which are chemical changes that the brain may convert to headaches.
Increased Heart Rate and Palpitations
When there is a shortage of fluid, your heart tries to compensate by pumping harder and faster to get the scarce fluid to all the place where it is needed. Even your blood pressure drops to facilitate the easy distribution of blood. You will experience this as an increase in your pulse rate and as your heart's pounding or skipping, especially when you get up after sitting or lying down.
When you get up, your brain normally panics at the possibility of a water shortage and demands as much fluid as possible in the shortest time possible. This results in a sudden drop in blood pressure and a sudden increase in heart rate. All this is relatively normal, but if your heart rate remains fast and your blood pressure remains low even minutes after you have gotten up, you are dehydrated. If you have a lifestyle that renders you almost permanently dehydrated, you are overworking your heart unnecessarily.
If you often feel dizzy, especially when you get up after sitting or lying down, you may be dehydrated. This is caused, firstly, by a lack of sufficient fluid reaching the brain and, secondly, by the drop in blood pressure that coincides with your heart's attempt to pump the meagre available fluid around your body. As seen above, when you get up, your heart must temporarily pump harder to get enough blood to your brain. The dizziness is caused by your brain's emergency conservation of its meagre water supply and by the low blood pressure.
Cognitive and Psychological Impairment
Permanently dehydrated people think it is normal to feel tired, listless, and mentally and emotionally sluggish. After all, they feel like this permanently, so they do not realise that it is possible to feel energetic, emotionally upbeat, and cognitively quick and alert. Cognitive and emotional energy are two of the first things you will notice if you start drinking enough fluid. You will think faster and better, and you will feel more cheerful and less irritable.
In general terms, you need water to keep your bodily cells alive and functioning. Without water, they cannot operate optimally. This holds for the cells in all the systems throughout your body. An immune system with dehydrated cells fails to protect you from disease, a metabolic system with dehydrated cells produces insufficient energy, and so forth. Dehydration, therefore, manifests in the gradual impairment of your body as a whole, which you can normally detect as fatigue. You will feel the difference immediately when you start consuming enough fluid.
The Remedy for Dehydration
Most obviously, you must drink enough water to remain hydrated. Alkaline, hydrogen rich water with its small molecules is the best type of water to drink, as it can easily flow through membranes to where it is needed, and as it helps to maintain your body's appropriate pH level that aids the distribution of oxygen and water.
Dehydrated bodies also contain many cells that are dying, however, which requires that you take in enough carbohydrates and electrolytes to re-energise them. Instead of drinking sports drinks, which may contain high fructose corn syrup and caffeine, rather drink coconut water and unsweetened fruit and vegetable juices. Herbal tea is also acceptable, but since some herbs have diuretic and stimulant effects, stick to the water, coconut water, and juices in the more severe cases.
Also, try drinking more warm water as many people have reported feeling more easily hydrated after drinking this when compared to cold water. This may be because in general things do tend to flow easier when warmed up slightly, and on a molecular level this can speed up how fast your organs and cells get the hydration they need to thrive.