7 Scary Things That Dehydration Does To Your Body – Plus 10 Super-Hydrating Foods For Rapid Recovery

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Dehydration Facts InfographicInfographic – herbs-info.com. For infographic sources see foot of page.

Water is essential to life and makes up a large part of us. Babies have the most water, being about 78% water at birth. By one year of age, the amount has dropped to about 65%. By adulthood, the amount of water in the body has dropped to around 60 percent for men and slightly less for women. [1] With that in mind, dehydration or water loss, affects humans – and other living organisms – greatly. We begin to experience various symptoms as water loss becomes greater than water intake. Did you know that water losses of 9-12% total body weight can be fatal? [3]

Recognizing Dehydration

Fluid loss from the body never stops – through urination, defecation, and other “insensible” losses through perspiration (this occurs whether you are noticeably sweating or not) and respiration (yes, we also lose water every time we breathe out!) – and it’s therefore essential to make sure our fluid intake is sufficient to cover for all fluid loss.

Note that fluid intake includes water that is in your food and in all types of beverage, not just water. Water rich foods are valuable. But note that some beverages, especially caffeinated beverages, can have a diuretic or even laxative effect, increasing fluid loss. [3]

When the overall balance between water intake and loss favors water loss, a person becomes dehydrated. Dehydration disturbs the body’s normal metabolic processes because it changes the concentration of electrolytes in the body. The body’s functionality is diminished, as is the ability to remove toxins. These changes give rise to the different short-term signs and symptoms experienced by a person who is dehydrated: [2]

• Dry mouth and skin
• Thirst
• Athletic performance (can decrease by 20–30% if you lose as little as 4% of your water through sports/exercise!) [3]
• Lethargy – constantly sleepy or tired
• Unexplained Irritability
• Confusion and mistakes
• Low urine output, especially dark-colored, amber urine

Dehydration is also considered a potential factor in numerous long term health conditions – including for example the formation of kidney stones.

Dehydration In Infants

Recognizing dehydration in infants and toddlers is harder so take note if they don’t have tears when they cry or haven’t had a wet diaper in three hours, are constantly sleeping, and have poor skin turgor (lightly pinch the skin over their abdomen and watch if it immediately returns to normal). The soft spots (called fontanelles) in an infant’s head also “sink” if they are dehydrated. These signs can indicate moderate to severe dehydration.

How You Can Get Dehydrated

Illnesses that cause vomiting and diarrhea are the number one cause of dangerous dehydration because of the excessive fluid loss. This is why emphasis is placed on fluid replacement (volume per volume replacement – replace what you lose) for vomiting and diarrhea. Other ways you can get dehydrated are through: [2]

• Blood loss after a traumatic injury
• Severe burns (that “weep”)
• High fever
• Excessive sweating (in environments with high temperatures)
• Conditions and medications that cause excessive urination

Who Easily Gets Dehydrated

Like other illnesses and health conditions, some members of the popular are more susceptible to dehydration than others: [2]

• Children – infants and toddlers more so than school-age children
• Older adults
• Chronically-ill people
• People who exercise vigorously (and in hot temperatures)
• People who live in high altitudes – when you live in a higher area, your body tries to adjust to the pressure by increasing your rate of breathing and urination

Preventing Dehydration

The best tip to keep hydrated is to drink at least eight glasses of fluid – ideally water or an isotonic beverage – daily! Coconut water is great – but watch for added ingredients. The body loses around 2 liters of water each day, so replacing that through eating and drinking is an important step. You can even include “water-filled” foods in your diet to help battle dehydration! The fruits and vegetables listed below are noted for their water content.

• Grapefruit, oranges and other citrus fruit
• Radish
• Tomatoes
• Cauliflower
• Cantaloupe
• Grapes
• Peaches


[1] Utz, J. (2015). The water in you. https://water.usgs.gov/edu/propertyyou.html

[2] Mayo Clinic (2014). Dehydration. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dehydration/basics/definition/con-20030056

[3] 75% Of Americans Are Chronically Dehydrated. http://www.cafehydrate.com/?p=117

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1 Comment

  • By Richard, January 9, 2016 @ 5:26 pm

    I would also add that when I suffer from dehydration, I end up with heart palpitations and sometimes afib.

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