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Part 2: Dehydration’s Effect on the Body

The human body is made up in a large part by water. On average, 60 percent of your body weight comes from water – and water constitutes 75 percent or more of vital organs like your brain and your muscles.

When we’re dehydrated, even in mild and moderate cases, many of us don’t notice the early warning signs—such as dry mouth and mild headache. Many people equate thirst as an early indicator of pending dehydration, when, in fact, thirst frequently indicates that dehydration has already set in.

Another common symptom of dehydration is sluggishness. That after-lunch lethargy at the office, for instance, is likely due to an improper balance of fluids and electrolytes, and can result in a 20- to 30-percent reduction in productivity. But dehydration steals more than our energy. Here are some other common consequences of untreated dehydration:

Digestive Troubles: A variety of digestive problems, including acid reflux, gastritis and ulcers, can be further aggravated by a lack of fluids and electrolytes, In addition, constipation is exacerbated by dehydration, as a lack of fluid causes waste to move slower through the colon..

Weight Gain: We’ve all done it before – mistaken our thirst for hunger. So we over-consume sweet or fatty snack foods that lead to weight gain. Conversely, adequate fluid intake actually speeds metabolism and helps your body burn calories. A study by German researchers found that an adult who drinks 1.5 liters of water each day can burn an additional 17,000 calories a year – That’s about 5 pounds lost per year.

Soreness and Aches: Dehydration can lead to joint pain and discomfort – especially in older adults. How? Because the cartilage in your joints requires water to regenerate. When you’re dehydrated, the transport of nutrients to the joints in slowed, and the healing process overall is delayed.

Allergies and Asthma: If you suffer from allergies or asthma, you may have noticed the effect dehydration has on your breathing. Water intake regulates the body’s production of histamine – a neurotransmitter that drives allergic reactions. When you’re dehydrated, histamine levels in the body are elevated, amplifying the symptoms of allergies and asthma.

Skin Conditions: As your body’s largest organ, the skin needs plenty of water to remain healthy. With a steady supply of fluid, your body is better able to eliminate toxins through the pores of your skin. On the other hand, when dehydration sets in your skin is hobbled in efforts to combat conditions like psoriasis and acne.

In Part 3, I will examine dehydration and the mind. Keep reading to learn about how it reduces our brain function.

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