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What Happens to Your Body When You’re Dehydrated

Story at-a-glance

  • Dehydration happens when you’ve lost too much water in your body without replacing it, which prevents your body to perform its normal functions
  • Infants and children are especially prone to dehydration since their bodies are composed of 70 percent and 65 percent water, respectively
  • Beverage companies claim that sports drink will help replenish the electrolytes in your body during exercise or outdoor activities, but the truth is the ingredients of your favorite sports drinks will not hydrate and benefit you, and may even be detrimental to your health
  • When you nourish your body with structured water, you are restoring your body to a balanced and whole state

By Dr. Mercola

Dehydration is not a simple health issue. Anyone can run out of liquids in their body due to various reasons, so it is important that you always hydrate yourself with water. Read on to learn more about symptoms of dehydration and how to prevent it.

What Is Dehydration?

Water makes up at least two-thirds of the human body. It plays a large part in your normal functions, such as lubricating your joints and eyes, keeping your skin healthy by eliminating toxins, and facilitating proper digestion. Once the water in your body is reduced, it needs to be replaced because an imbalance between the salts and sugar in your body can affect the way you will perform.1

If your body has lost one to two percent of its entire water content, you will feel thirsty, a sign that you need to replenish the lost liquids.

Dehydration happens when you've lost too much water in your body without replacing it, preventing your body to perform its normal functions. Mild dehydration can easily be treated but if it reaches extreme levels, it can be life-threatening and will require immediate medical attention.  

Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration

Aside from the common symptoms like intense thirst or sweating too much, here are some of the mild and severe symptoms of dehydration:2                        

Mild to Moderate Dehydration Severe Dehydration
Dry, sticky mouthExtreme thirst
Sleepiness or tirednessIrritability and confusion
Dry skinSunken eyes
HeadacheDry skin that doesn't bounce back when you pinch it
ConstipationLow blood pressure
Dizziness or lightheadednessRapid heartbeat
Few or no tears when cryingRapid breathing
Minimal urineNo tears when crying
Dry, cool skin3Fever
Muscle crampsLittle or no urination, and any urine color that is darker than usual

In serious cases, delirium or unconsciousness

Infants are more vulnerable to dehydration, that's why immediate attention must be given to them especially if you see these symptoms:

Chronic dehydration may affect your organs and lead to kidney stones, cholesterol problems, constipation, and liver, joint, and muscle damage.

Whether it is mild, moderate, or severe dehydration, the lost liquids in your body must be immediately replaced. If you start to develop severe diarrhea with or without vomiting, fever, moderate diarrhea for 24 hours, bloody stool, or you can't drink any liquids, you must get professional treatment as soon as possible.

What Causes Dehydration?

There are various reasons for dehydration like intense physical activity, which makes you lose so much water – fat and calories are counted as well – so proper hydration is necessary. Other causes of dehydration include:4

Who Is at Risk of Dehydration?

While everyone is prone to dehydration, there are people who are at a high risk for it like those who engage in mountain climbing. It is especially hard for hikers to stay hydrated because the pressure in high altitude places makes them lose more sweat and breathe harder. The increased gas exchange causes your body to lose more water vapor.6

Athletes, particularly those who are involved in marathons, triathlons, and cycling tournaments, are also predisposed to dehydration. The longer they exercise, the more they lose water in their bodies.

One study7 even revealed that dehydration can affect basketball players' performance. The study focused on 17 males ranging from 17-28 years old, and determined their performance based on different dehydration levels of up to 4 percent. The result showed that when there's an increase in dehydration, skill performance decreases.

Infants and children are especially prone to dehydration since their bodies are composed of 70 percent and 65 percent water, respectively. Since their bodies are more vulnerable to water depletion, their need for water is greater than adults.

Elderly people are also at risk for dehydration since the thirst mechanism weakens as a person grows older. According to BBC News,8 research revealed that one in five seniors is not getting enough water every day, as aging causes people to lose their sense of thirst mainly because of minimal social contact or forgetfulness. Those with dementia were found to have a six-fold increased risk for dehydration.

Ill-stricken people, like those who are inflicted with kidney disease, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, and adrenal gland disorders, are also more prone to dehydration. Alcoholics may also be susceptible to this condition.

How to Prevent Dehydration

Since dehydration can be a life-threatening condition, it is important that you replenish your body with water immediately after you've lost so much. Water plays such an immense role in your bodily functions, making it an essential part of your everyday life.

Always bring a bottle of water with you during exercise or any physical activity, especially when the temperature's too hot. One good rule of thumb to prevent dehydration is to drink as much water until your urine turns light yellow. Dark urine means that your kidney is retaining liquids in order for your body to perform its normal functions. 

It is especially important to pay attention to people who are sick with fever, vomiting, or diarrhea, so they may not become dehydrated. They should be given lots of water to replace the liquids that they've lost.

Drinking Sports Drinks Will Not Keep You Hydrated

Sports drink is one of the highly commercialized beverages today – from its TV advertisements to its popular athlete endorsers – as mainstream media makes it look like drinking it will keep you healthy and well-hydrated. Beverage companies advertise that sports drink will help replenish the electrolytes in your body during exercise or outdoor activities, but the truth is the ingredients of your favorite sports drinks will not hydrate and benefit you, and may even be detrimental to your health.

A typical sports drink contains high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and artificial sweeteners. It has two-thirds of the sugar content of soda, and is 30 times more erosive to your teeth than water. High-fructose corn syrup could cause negative health impacts like preventing the natural production of your body's human growth hormone (HGH). It also contributes to almost all chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

Aside from sports drinks, there are also other sweetened beverages that you don't benefit much from, like sodas. These are also equally unhealthy for your health, as just a 20-ounce bottle of cola gives you 16 teaspoons of sugar through high-fructose corn syrup. Diet soda makes no difference either because a study revealed that diet soda drinkers have a 70 percent increase in waist size than those non-diet soda drinkers in a 10-year period.9

Commercial fruit juices are another sweetened drink that you must avoid because they do not have any hydrating properties and are actually loaded with sugar. For example, Minute Maid's 15.2 ounce bottle actually contains 49 grams of sugar.

What's more, most processed fruit juices are made with little resemblance of what an actual fresh fruit juice would be. Commercial fruit juices are pasteurized and their oxygen is removed to preserve them for a long time, making the juices less nutrient-dense. Store-bought fruit juices with an expiration date of 60 days or more is a sign that it is heavily processed, so I encourage you to boycott these kinds of beverages.

Choose to Drink Living Water

I advise you to avoid drinking tap water at all costs as it contains fluoride, heavy metals, and disinfection byproducts that may have ill effects on your health. Install a water filter in your home to ensure that these harmful contaminants are strained.

If you want the best water for you and your family, I suggest drinking structured or "living" water, such as deep spring water. According to Dr. Gerald Pollack, one of the world's leading research scientists about the physics of water, structured water or EZ "exclusion zone" water is the same type of water found in your cells. It has a negative charge, and works just like a battery by holding and delivering energy.

Since distilled water is too acidic and alkaline water is too alkaline, only structured water contains the ideal PH range of 6.5 to 7.5. That's why I truly want you to nourish your body with structured water, as it can restore your body to a balanced and whole state.  

I personally drink vortexed water since I became a fan of Viktor Schauberger, who did so much work about vortexing hundred years ago. By creating a vortex in your glass of water, you are putting much energy in it and increasing EZ as well.

Ideal EZ water can be found in glacial melt but since it is practically inaccessible for almost everyone, natural deep spring water is a good source. Just bring glass jugs and avoid plastic bottles since they contain bisphenol A, bisphenol B, and phthalates, which are harmful to your health.

Other Natural Thirst-Quenchers for Preventing Dehydration

If you want to drink something flavorful than water, you can opt for raw, organic green juice made from fresh vegetables. However, I recommend refraining from drinking juice with too many fruits as it will have high amounts of sugar and calories. Go for a green juice recipe that combines one or two fruits and larger amounts of greens like spinach, celery, or kale. That way, you can minimize your sugar intake and still get all the nutrients from the fruits and vegetables in their purest forms.

I advise keeping your fructose consumption below 25 grams per day. If you have type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, or heart disease, it is wise if you will minimize your total fructose to 15 grams daily.

Coconut water also serves as a great replacement for commercially sold sports drinks. It provides optimal health benefits due to its anti-inflammatory, amino acids, and antioxidants. A word of caution: coconut water also contains sugar, so you should drink it in moderation. Drink it preferably after a cardio workout, when you need to replace minerals and fluids.

The Key to Avoiding Dehydration: Listen to Your Body

No one can determine if you have dehydration better than yourself. If you feel that you are already thirsty or sweating profusely, you have to replenish your body with water immediately. Do not wait for severe symptoms to show before you take action, since this can be life threatening.

Everyone is practically at risk for dehydration, even without any physical activity, so it is important to always keep a bottle of filtered water to always keep you hydrated. Remember that a healthy person urinates seven to eight times each day, so if you're not urinating frequently it means that you're not drinking enough water.

Remember to always listen to your body. Once you feel that urge to drink, opt for structured or filtered water rather than artificially sweetened beverages, which can have dire effects on your health. Nothing feels more refreshing than cold water to replace the liquids that you've lost.

[+] Sources and References [-] Sources and References

  • 1 National Health Service, Dehydration - Symptoms
  • 2 Mayo Clinic, Dehydration
  • 3 Medline Plus, Dehydration
  • 4 Medical News Today, What Is Dehydration? What Causes Dehydration?
  • 5 National Health Service, Dehydration - Causes
  • 6 Climbing High, Dehydration
  • 7 Recreation Management, July 3, 2007
  • 8 BB News, December 3, 2014
  • 9 UT Health Science Center, June 27, 2011
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