The Merriam Webster Medical Dictionary defines hydration as,

“the condition of having adequate fluid in the body tissues.”

Dehydration is the opposite of hydration and means that the body does not contain adequate fluid.
Losing a small amount of fluids, between one to three percent, can impair the activities of the body.  The loss of between four to nine percent of the fluid in your body can lead to heat exhaustion.  If the fluid loss exceeds ten percent, then the resulting condition can be serious enough to become life threatening.

ELECTROLYTES

Electrolytes can be acids, bases, or salts that conduct electricity and are found in the body fluid, tissue, and bloodElectrolytes affect:
•    The amount of water in your body
•    The pH (amount of acidity of the blood)
•    The functioning of your muscles

Common electrolytes include:
•    Calcium
•    Chloride
•    Magnesium
•    Phosphorous
•    Potassium
•    Sodium

Properly hydrated, the kidneys work to keep the electrolyte concentrations in the blood constant.   If your body does not have the proper electrolyte concentrations, it will not stay hydrated.

WATER

The water molecule is composed of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen.  We know the following:
•    70% of the earth’s surface is covered with water
•    97% of the water is salt water
•    Two percent of the water is trapped in ice
•    Less than one percent of all the water on earth is potable water (water that can be drunk by humans)
•    75% of an infant’s body weight is water but this percentage reduces as we age
•    Blood is 94% water
•    A human brain is approximately 85% water
•    65% of the total water in our body is inside the cells

Everyone knows that without water our bodies will die.  Water is vital to the operation of our cells which make up our tissue which makes up our organs.

If you take some pond water and put it on a slide under a microscope, you will see organisms moving rapidly about but as you watch the water on the slide starts to evaporate and the organisms begin to slow down and try to crowd together and occupy the remaining evaporating water.  If you add some more water, then the organisms become very active again.

This is the same phenomena that occurs in your body when the hydration level in the body is reduced.  This means that the cells do not operate in an optimum manner, the tissue does not work in an optimum manner and your organs do not operate in an optimum manner.

KEEPING OUR BODIES HYDRATED

Most people get about 50% of the water into their body from drinking fluids and about 50% from foods–many fruits and vegetables are as much as 95% water and lean meat is about 70% water.
Fluid is removed from the body in the following ways:
· About 20% through sweat and evaporation
· About 10% through our fecal matter
· Between 10% to 15% through the lungs
· Over 50% in urine

DR. F. BATMANGHELIDJI

Born in Iran and educated at a medical school in England, Dr. Batmanghelidji credits his realization of the power of hydration while a political prisoner in Iran in 1979.  Drugs and even proper food was not available in prison, but he saw that if he made sure that he and his cellmates were hydrated, they not only were healthier than other prisoners but also recovered more rapidly when they did get injured or ill.

Dr. Batmanghelidji has published papers and books explaining why and how dehydration can cause or complicate:
· Anxiety and depression symptoms
· Ulcers
· High blood pressure
· Digestive issues
· Constipation
· Heart disease
· Common urinary tract issues
· Impaired kidney functions
· Joint pain, fibromyalgia and arthritis

Dr. Batmanghelidji compares a dehydrated cell to a grape left in the sun that became a prune. He cites many people who say they don’t like water but believe that drinking coffee, tea or sodas will hydrate them.  Unfortunately, these people are actually drinking diuretics-substances causing the discharge of fluid and not the accumulation of fluids necessary for hydration.  Drinking twelve ounces of a diuretic, like a soda, actually causes people to excrete more than twelve ounces of fluid leading to more dehydration.

Dr. Batmanghelidji is not a fan of highly purified water unless combined with sufficient electrolytes and minerals that will allow the water to find its way to the cells and hydrate the body.  Without the proper balance of electrolytes and minerals, drinking water can actually lead to more dehydration because it washes out the remaining electrolytes and makes it more difficult to remain hydrated.

COMMON CAUSES OF DEHYDRATION

A person normally becomes dehydrated in the following ways:
•      Sweating
•      Diarrhea
•      Electrolyte imbalance
•      Vomiting
•      A fever which causes sweating
•      Drugs and alcohol
•      Drinking diuretics like sodas, coffee and tea

THIRST

Not a Reliable Indicator of Hydration
Most people believe that when they need to drink more water, they will become thirsty.  However, for many people thirst is not a reliable indicator of when we are becoming dehydrated.  Most people only become thirsty after, not before, they start to become seriously dehydrated.  The cause for this is variously attributed to the consumption of coffee, tea, drugs and other foods as a substitute for drinking water.

Dr. Jeffrey Marongelle, founder and director of BioEnergiMed Metabolic Institute in Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania,  has found that it is necessary for most people to “awaken” their sense of thirst.  He does this by having them drink four ounces of water every waking hour for several days.  Once they have “awakened” their sense of thirst, they learn that drinking water, not diuretics, will keep them hydrated and this will improve their health.

SYMPTOMS OF DEHYDRATION

The following are symptoms of dehydration experienced by many people:
•    Dizziness
•    Lightheadedness
•    Lethargy
•    Agitation
•    Fatigue
•    Dry or sticky mouth
•    Low or no urine output
•    Not producing tears
•    Sunken eyes
•    Headache
•    Dry mouth
•    Muscle weakness
•    Irritability
•    Restlessness
•    Confusion
•    Mild to excessive thirst

SEVERE DEHYDRATION

Severe dehydration can cause:
•    Seizures
•    Permanent brain damage
•    Death.

TESTS TO DETERMINE IF THERE IS DEHYDRATION

Skin Turgor (rigidity)
If the skin on the back of an adult’s hand or the abdomen of a child is pulled up for a few seconds and when released immediately returns to its normal state then the person is considered hydrated.  However, this is not a very accurate test.

Urine Color
The degree of dehydration generally is related to the color of the urine.  The darker the color would indicate a higher degree of dehydration but this method is also not considered very accurate.

Blood Tests
The following are electrolyte tests that can be ordered:
•    Serum (the part of the blood that doesn’t contain cells) calcium
•    Serum potassium
•    Serum sodium
•    Serum chloride
•    Serum magnesium
•    Ionized calcium
•    Amount of calcium, chloride, potassium, and sodium in the urine

ALCOHOL AND  DEHYDRATION

Many researchers are concluding that alcohol interferes with the thirst mechanism and even cause the kidneys to release more fluids.  The resulting dehydration may be one of the major reasons why people have hangovers.

MEDICATIONS AND DEHYDRATION

Like alcohol, there is increasing agreement that narcotics, antidepressants, antihistamines, anti-psychotics and benzodiazepines interfere with the body’s ability to stay properly hydrated and explains why many people using these drugs experience the symptoms of dehydration.