How Dehydration Affects the Body

Updated: Oct 14


We all have to avoid dipping low on the hydration scale. But why should we care so much?


You may be surprised by how much dehydration can affect your mental and physical health. Here are a few key areas that will take a hit when you don’t sip enough:


Skin


“Dehydration can make skin lose elasticity and suppleness, which may cause skin to look more wrinkled than it is,” said Kleiner. “Staying hydrated helps skin act as that protective barrier to the elements.”


Dry and non-supple skin is one of the easiest signs that we can see, agrees Sears: “Most of our internal water is lost through the skin. If you are not hydrated, the skin is the first organ to suffer by being overly dry and non supple.”


Energy


“Staying hydrated helps maintain our energy levels by keeping muscles energized. Plus, dehydration can manifest as fatigue or low energy, so staying hydrated will help prevent that,” says Kleiner.

Even mild dehydration can affect your mood, energy level and ability to think clearly.

What does water have to do with energy in the body? “Your cells need adequate hydration to optimize the production of energy from food,” explains Sears. “If you don't have adequate hydration in the cells, your ability to produce energy (such as ATP) is reduced and you feel fatigued.”


Even being mildly dehydrated can have effects on your mood, energy level and ability to think clearly, according to studies conducted at the University of Connecticut’s Human Performance Laboratory. So the next time that mid-afternoon slump hits, consider trading the trip to the vending machine for one to the water cooler.


Sleep


“There is little research on how dehydration may impact sleep, but if you’re experiencing muscle cramping, headaches or dizziness due to dehydration, chances are that you likely won’t be getting good quality of sleep,” says Kleiner. Plus, a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that male subjects experienced fatigue, tension and anxiety when mildly dehydrated. As we know, stress (and its symptoms) can affect our sleep quantity and quality.


Productivity


“The neurons in the brain require adequate hydration to maintain optimization transmission of neurotransmitters,” says Sears. Even mild dehydration can result in disorientation, dizziness and fuzzy thinking, added Kleiner.


A study published in The Journal of Nutrition found thatmild dehydration caused headaches, fatigue and difficulty concentrating. The female subjects also perceived tasks as more difficult when slightly dehydrated. So consider swapping that pre-meeting coffee for a glass of ice water to be the most alert.


Overall Health


“While staying hydrated improves tangibles we can see (like the improved appearance of skin and high-quality athletic performance), hydration is perhaps more important for functions we can’t see,” says Kleiner.


“Adequate fluid intake helps maintain our body-fluid balance, which is important for saliva production and maintaining body temperature. Staying hydrated also helps keep our kidneys functioning properly, so they can do their job of transporting waste products into and out of cells and preventing the buildup of blood urea nitrogen, which gets excreted in urine. Chronic dehydration can result in kidney stones. And, last but certainly not least, water helps maintain normal bowel movements, which can certainly influence your mood and energy levels.“


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