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Why is hydration important? A physician's manual

Here are some advice on how to stay hydrated and healthy this summer – as well as how to recognise the warning signs of dehydration in yourself and others.

With summer on the horizon, it's only natural to daydream about picnics in the park and backyard barbecues. On the other hand, do you pay close attention to your hydration levels, and are you aware of the signs and symptoms of dehydration when they occur?

Why is proper hydration critical for my health?

Our bodies require water for a variety of vital functions. Water carries nutrients to cells and wastes away from them and cushioning and lubricating the brain, joints, and rest of the body. Additionally, it aids in the regulation of the body's temperature via perspiration.

As a result, dehydration, which occurs when the body loses more water than it takes in, can affect nearly every organ and system in the body.

Concentration can be impaired even in mild dehydration. Constipation, headaches, and extreme fatigue are all possible side effects. Due to a lack of water, the skin can become dry, dull, and itchy. Indeed, there is some evidence that it can affect the quality of our sleep.

How much water should I consume each day?

The answer is complex and varies according to various factors – from your age to the weather to your specific health conditions – and the advice is inconsistent.In 2004, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine Institute of Medicine recommended that Every day men can consume approx 3.7 litres, while women can consume approx 2.7 litres, while the National Health Service's Eatwell Guide recommends to drink 6 to 8 glasses of water per day.

Which beverages count toward my daily intake?

Most people require approximately 3 litres of fluid per day, but, there are no hard and fast rules for achieving this.

It is not always necessary to pass through the water that we weigh and carry with us. Water is also obtained from the food we consume and other fluids such as juices, tea, and coffee and also recommends that you monitor your caffeine intake. Caffeine acts as a diuretic, causing the kidneys to excrete more urine than they should.

How does hydration work scientifically?

The body has a complicated system for maintaining a healthy fluid balance.

It monitors the osmolality or the concentration of sodium and potassium in bodily fluids. When the concentration falls too low, an antidiuretic hormone must be released (ADH). This tells the kidneys to conserve water by reducing urination, and it tells the brain to stimulate thirst to get us to drink. Similarly, when the concentration becomes excessive, the kidneys initiate the production of urine.

Our healthy kidneys will handle most of the adjusting required to keep our bodies hydrated. All that is required for kidney function in a healthy individual is drinking a reasonable amount of fluid – not so little that you are thirsty, but not so much that you are constantly urinating.

Is it possible to drink too much water?

Too much alcohol can be drunk, but it's usually not a serious problem if you are otherwise healthy. In most cases, overhydration will lead to more trips to the bathroom.

How do I determine whether I'm dehydrated?

The best general rule-of-thumb symptom to look for in daily life is thirst. The following are some additional mild to moderate dehydration signs and symptoms:

  • Dark urine

  • A headache

  • Feeling lightheaded

  • Urinating less often

  • A dry or sticky mouth

If you're looking for a quick reference, this urine chart will show you what the colour of your pee could mean:

 

Severe dehydration can be very serious. The signs include:

  • Delirium

  • A dehydrated tongue that feels dry and sticky

  • A very low urinary output

  • Extreme thirst

  • Sunken eyes

  • Dry skin

What are the signs of paediatric dehydration?

Mild dehydration can be more difficult to detect in children and babies than in adults, primarily because they do not exhibit mild dehydration symptoms. When they are moderately dehydrated, the following symptoms may occur:

  • Urinate less than usual

  • Have sunken eyes

  • Breathe very quickly

  • Have a high heart rate

  • Be listless or irritable

When babies are dehydrated, they may also develop a sunken fontanelle, a soft spot at the front of the head.

What predisposes someone to dehydration?

Various factors, including our lifestyle and environment, can affect our risk of dehydration.

When exercising or when the weather is hot and dry, individuals should ensure they replenish any fluids lost through sweating.

When we are ill, we can lose more fluid than we should through our skin, lungs, and gut due to symptoms such as fever, vomiting, and diarrhoea.

Additionally, certain chronic health conditions, such as heart or kidney disease, can affect how our bodies regulate fluid balance. As a result, individuals may become more susceptible to dehydration.

How is alcohol dehydration defined?

Many people experience a strong desire for water the following morning after consuming alcoholic beverages. Alcohol, like caffeinated beverages, inhibits the release of ADH, the hormone that signals the kidneys to conserve their water stores.

When we have less ADH, we lose more water through our urine. 'If you drink espressos during the day and martinis at night, you cannot avoid dehydration.

Is dehydration associated with any long-term consequences?

Rehydration is possible following mild to moderate dehydration. There are no long-term ramifications.

On the other hand, chronic or long-term dehydration can increase the risk of infection. This is especially true for urinary tract infections. Severe dehydration, if left untreated, can result in kidney damage and even failure.

When should I consult a physician?

Severe dehydration can be fatal. Reduced responsiveness, sunken eyes, a rapid heartbeat, and rapid breathing are all indicators to watch for in yourself or others.

On the other hand, mild to moderate dehydration is usually not a cause for concern. Increased fluid intake will alleviate symptoms, and your body will continue to work to maintain balanced fluid levels as a result of your actions.

 

 

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