Dehydration is generally a topic reserved for summer due to the increased heat, sweating, and time outdoors. Our body’s need for water, however, is no less muted during cold and flu season.
Functions of Water
We are made of water. Our bodies are roughly 70% water, our brain is 75%, our blood is over 80%, and our liver is 96% water! Among its many functions, water aids our bodies in the following ways:
- Reduces inflammation
- Regulates weight and metabolism
- Eliminates waste and other toxins
- Allows us to acquire sufficient nutrition
- Helps metabolize hormones
Our bodies cannot store large amounts of water for later use, so a lack of water affects all of the above systems, contributing to a less healthy body.
Symptoms of Dehydration
How can we know if we are dehydrated? Just like other malfunctions in the body, dehydration sends signals that something is not quite right. Some of the most common symptoms are:
- Dry mouth
- Headache, dizziness, and/or lightheadedness
- Decreased urine
- Dry skin
These common symptoms are your body’s cry for help. At an internal level, there are several things occurring that contribute to these ill effects.
How Our Body Responds to Dehydration
1. Stress Response.
When dehydrated, our bodies evoke a stress response to encourage us to find water, and fast! In an age of chronic stress, an additional stress response is exhausting to our overtaxed bodies and particularly harmful to those suffering from chronic inflammation or adrenal fatigue.
2. Compromised Mucus Membrane.
If the stress response is not remedied, the body begins to extract water from the mucus membrane in the stomach, small intestine, and large intestine, naturally affecting digestion. In this instance, the stomach loses its protection against digestive juices like HCL and the intestines have a reduced ability to keep toxins out of the bloodstream.
The colon has the ability to recycle water from the feces. This is one of our survival mechanisms to combat dehydration. The colon squeezes water out of the feces to obtain more for the body to use. At this point, there is not enough lubricating mucus from the mucus membrane, making our bowel movements harder to pass and resulting in constipation.
4. Robs vital organs.
By now, our body is desperate and begins to hunt for water in places like our liver and central nervous system, impairing our overall function in order to survive.
How Much Water Should I Drink?
In Your Body’s Many Cries for Water, Dr. F. Batmanghelidj recommends taking your body weight in pounds, dividing by two, and drinking that amount in fluid ounces. A 150-lb woman would require about 75 fluid ounces of water, not accounting for heavy exercise or higher temperatures.
We are fortunate enough to have an abundant supply of water available to us. If you have been perpetually dehydrated, it may take a month or so to reset hydration signals in your body, but the benefits will outweigh the inconvenience. Initially, expect frequent bathroom breaks. As your body becomes more adept at using the water, you will find yourself feeling healthier, more energized, and better protected from the season’s cold and flu.