What Happens to Your Body & Mind When You Are Dehydrated?

This post is brought to you by Ronalds Busulwa, a Mental Health Practitioner, Therapist, and Lecturer. He is also the founder of the Black Students Mental Health Blog, which offers mental health support through psychoeducation.

Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Water who?

Water you waiting for? Open the door!

Ok am sorry I will get my coat but before I go let me tell you what happens when you are dehydrated. Dehydration is when our bodies lose more fluid than we take in. A wise man once succinctly put it this way:

Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.

— W. H. Auden

Is drinking water really all that?

Absolutely, yes! Well, you have heard the saying “Water is Life”. You see, I am Nurse Educator and I teach Biosciences to Nurses, so it’s fair to say I know a thing or two about body systems and how they work. For our bodies to be healthy, it’s important to eat the right foods to get the required nutrients.

There are four major nutrients, namely Carbohydrates, Lipids, Proteins, and Water. What is fascinating is that our bodies are made of 70% water. In fact, our Brain contains 80% of water, our Heart contains 78%, our Kidney 83%, our Lungs 80%, our Blood 85%, Saliva 95%, Muscle 75%, Skin 70%, and even Bones contain 25% water… I could go on but you get the point.

Why do we need water?

Glad you asked! You see, your body is made of trillions of cells, think of them as tiny packages concerned with transporting things around the body. Cells need water to carry substances around the body, they need water to regulate your body temperature, and they need water to remove toxins and waste from your body in form of urine.

Also, for them to keep multiplying they need water without which they will die off. Even in your DNA, water is the main ingredient. Now you see why a person can survive without water for only 3 days whilst without food it has been reported to take even up to 3 months. Water contains some important minerals such as calcium, magnesium, fluoride, and others. These electrolytes use their electric energy to conduct vital functions within our body systems.

Our bodies can’t store water, and so we lose water in many ways. We lose it when we breathe, sweat, cry, spit, vomit, urinate, and defecate. We do some of these several times a day, which means we lose a lot of water daily. It is thus very important to keep our water intake on point to avoid the risk of dehydration.

What happens when we are dehydrated?

Too little water in the body means too few minerals. This creates an imbalance and prevents electrolytes from doing their function properly. Too little water means cells will shrink or die, which in turn may trigger a domino effect reaction to other organs. For instance, the kidneys won’t be able to function properly, increasing the risk of kidney stones, kidney failure, and urinary tract infections.

Electrolytes like sodium and potassium carry the electric signals in your body meaning that a deficiency of such would lead to a mix-up of these electrical messages leading to involuntary muscle contractions and seizures. Although these sound serious, the most serious one is Hypovolaemic shock which is a medical emergency. This happens when low blood volume, due to dehydration, causes a drop in both blood pressure and oxygen in your body, making it very difficult for the heart to pump an adequate amount of blood to the body. Ultimately, it can lead to organ failure.

Signs of dehydration

These are some of the signs you may be dehydrated:

  • Feeling thirsty
  • Dark yellow urine with an odor
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Tiredness
  • Dry mouth, lips, and eyes
  • Dry skin, body aches, and palpitations

Water and Well-being

When dehydrated, the heart works harder and pumps faster to transfer blood to other parts of the body, because there is not enough fluid in the blood vessels. In the long term, the heart may start to get tired and complications may follow. A dehydrated brain also works harder to accomplish what a normal brain does. Your mental well-being and mood can be equally affected due to the mix-up of the messages by electrolytes.

However, when you are hydrated, your skin will look healthy, which in turn will boost your confidence. Staying hydrated will also increase your energy levels and that will allow you to maximize your physical activities. Moreover, staying hydrated aids weight loss and helps the digestive system, preventing constipation, and boosting your immune system, and blood circulation.

Concluding Thoughts

Basically, for the brain and the body to function properly, water is essential. To put it another way, water is not only life but medicine too. I know it’s not the best taste, but have you tried adding in a drop of squash or flavored water? Oh, how about fruit with high water content like watermelon and oranges? Get creative with it. Remember we pass approximately 1 liter of urine daily so endeavor to drink at least 2 liters daily to protect your well-being.

Other blogs you might like to read

What Happens When Your Body is Low in Electrolytes?

Although water intake is essential, it is equally important to learn about electrolytes, their role in metabolism and homeostasis as well as the different ways imbalances can compromise our health and well-being. Electrolytes are essential minerals for mental health. When we look at the table of common symptoms of electrolyte imbalance we can find plenty of psychological experiences that are often linked to poor mental health. This shows how the mind and body are not separate from each other, and how nutritional imbalances can contribute to mental health and well-being.

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