“When the well is dry, we learn the worth of water.”

Benjamin Franklin

You’ve undoubtedly heard that the human body is composed of approximately 60% water.  While the percentage can vary depending on age, gender and state of health, it’s worth remembering that water is found in various body tissues, including cells, blood, organs, and fluids such as saliva, tears, and cerebrospinal fluid.

Water is lost through the skin, lungs, gastrointestinal tract, and kidneys.  

Dehydration results when water losses from the body exceeds water replacement.  The prevention of dehydration in most cases is quite simple… Drink more. And yet, dehydration is quite common. It is estimated that only 19% of Canadians make the effort to stay properly hydrated. Maintaining proper hydration is essential for supporting bodily functions and overall health. 

Following is a list of some of the more obvious symptoms of dehydration: 

  1. Fatigue and Lethargy – Your alertness during the day is a function of oxygen to the brain, which is composed of up to 80% water. The regulated and consistent flow of blood and oxygen to the brain ensures its proper functioning. Consistent replenishment of water ensures the proper flow of these elements. When your brain isn’t being replenished, there is a noticeable drop in alertness and cognitive ability. Headaches are often a telling sign.  Studies have also confirmed that sleep deprivation is associated with dehydration.   
  1. Reduced Cognitive Function – Just a 2% reduction in one’s hydration level is shown to impair performance in tasks requiring attention, psychomotor and short-term memory skills.   
  1. Anxiety and Depression – Water facilitates the transport of tryptophan to the brain.  Tryptophan is an amino acid required for the conversion to serotonin in the brain.  Serotonin is a key neurotransmitter linked to mood. 
  1. Dry Skin – Nobody wants to age prematurely.  Dehydration can make your skin dry and flaky, and prone to issues like dullness, reduced elasticity and accelerated aging, not to mention cracked lips. Proper hydration moisturizes your skin from the inside out, improving the skin elasticity and exhibiting a more youthful and vital appearance. The testing for this symptom is an interesting one: Pinch the skin on the top of your hand and observe what happens. If it moves back slowly, this is an indication that you’re mild to moderately dehydrated. If the skin seems to stick together (i.e., it “tents”), this is a sign of a severe case of dehydration. 
  1. Poor Heart Health – While cardiovascular issues can be caused by many issues, there is a study that shows dehydration being linked to heart palpitations and irregular heartbeats.  Without enough hydration, blood vessels are impacted as is the regulation of blood pressure. 
  1. Kidney Stones – If you’ve ever experienced the pain of kidney stones, you need no other incentive to stay hydrated. Dehydration is the most common reason for the creation of kidney stones. Lack of fluids results in decreased urine, which in turn leads to an increased level of crystals in the urine.  When the crystals group together, kidney stones are formed. 
  1. Dark Urine – If you’re experiencing other symptoms typically associated with dehydration (ie. dry skin, fatigue), and also notice that your urine is a darker amber in colour, there’s a good chance that dehydration is the issue.   
Infographic courtesy of WebMD

So take heed. Remembering not to let the “well run dry” applies just as much today as it did in the day of Ben Franklin. 

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