Dehydration: A time bomb we ignore

Dehydration is a lot more than just not drinking enough water. The side effects of being dehydrated involve numerous body systems and symptoms can range from mild to life threatening.
Dr Cory Couillard
Dr Cory Couillard

Dehydration is a lot more than just not drinking enough water. The side effects of being dehydrated involve numerous body systems and symptoms can range from mild to life threatening.

Water makes up a large percentage of blood, the life giving red liquid that brings oxygen, nutrients and vital processes such as one’s immune system throughout the body. Lymphatic fluids, part of one’s immune system, make up four times the volume of blood and are designed to remove waste products from all over one’s body. 

Essential systems throughout the body can become impaired if the body does not receive a continuous, safe and reliable supply of water. The vast majority of people are chronically dehydrated, and over time, long-term health conditions can develop.

A lack of water is a choice for many as they often choose more flavourful alternatives. Unknowingly, people become further dehydrated via alcohol, caffeinated drinks and sugar-laced water replacements. The dehydration process is essentially compounding itself and producing inflammation throughout the body. 

Inflammation has become the new buzzword amongst doctors and healthcare professionals. Chronic inflammation can lead to a laundry list of serious medical conditions such as asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, cancer, obesity, pain disorders, depression and arthritis to name a few.

All of these conditions can be linked to a chronic state of dehydration as well. Many doctors cannot readily differentiate between water-deficient causes of illness and other potential causes. This often leads to poor case management and further deterioration of one’s condition.

Many symptoms are merely warning signals or inflammatory signals that are designed to have a healing effect. Medications often turn off these chemical signals without addressing the underlying cause of them.

Many of today›s non-water drinks are classified diuretic, or water expelling, and can prevent the body of ridding itself from harmful inflammatory by-products. The body is constantly building itself up and breaking itself down – it’s a continual cycle. Every cell has it’s own life cycle, it’s born, dies and is replaced.

Inflammation is cytotoxic or can kill cells prematurely. Cellular death is a major contributor to the chronic medical conditions that were previously mentioned. Dehydration inhibits the effectiveness of one’s lymphatic system and allows cellular waste products to linger and create further havoc.

Research has found dehydration to have a negative affect on one’s brain and can contribute to the development of depression. The brain consumes vast amounts of glucose that is delivered via the blood supply. Dehydration affects the amount of overall blood volume that in return affects the brain.

Mild to moderate dehydration can also cause headaches, diminish memory and impair one’s ability to think clearly. Proper hydration is essential for nerve function throughout the body. Nerves are very sensitive and the body places a high priority to their health and maintenance. Once a nerve dies, there is no re-growth within the central nervous system.

Micro streams exist along the length of the nerves and transport nutrients along microtubules to where the messages are being transmitted. Dehydration can disrupt these messages, often resulting in the sensation of pain, fatigue, low energy, loss of muscle strength and poor endurance.

Histamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a significant role in encouraging water intake during periods of dehydration. Elevated levels of histamine can also impact and contribute to asthma, depression and chronic pain. These conditions are often treated with anti-histamines and painkillers that essentially turn off signals of thirst.

Water makes up about 60 per cent of one’s body weight. Obesity has been shown to decrease the percentage of water in the body, sometimes to as low as 45 per cent. Chronic inflammation and dehydration can alter one’s metabolism and promotes weight gain. Weight gain is one of the leading causes of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

The brain and kidneys regulate the amount of water excreted by the body. When the blood volume is low through dehydration, the brain responds by stimulating a hormone that signals the kidneys to reabsorb and recirculate water.

When the overall blood volume falls so does one’s blood pressure. Low blood pressure is a leading cause of dizziness and feeling like you may faint when you stand up. A rapid heart rate is also a sign of dehydration. The heart rate increases in attempts to maintain and elevate blood pressure. Excessive stress and strain on the heart can contribute to heart attacks and failure.

Dr Cory Couillard is an international healthcare speaker and works with the World Health Organization’s goals of disease prevention and global healthcare education. Views do not necessarily reflect endorsement.

Dr Cory Couillard

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