Ronit Mor, ND
A common and easily corrected deficiency that is present in what is estimated to be upward of 75 percent of society is chronic dehydration.
Chronic dehydration is a condition that occurs over time when a person does not drink enough fluids day after day. While chronic dehydration does not have the sudden and intense nature of the acute form, it may result in many serious health problems.
Quoting the late Dr F. Batmanghelidj, M.D, who dedicated his life to researching the effects of dehydration, and the correlation between dehydration and disease: "My research revealed that unintentional dehydration produces stress, chronic pains and many degenerative diseases. Dry mouth is not the only sign of dehydration and waiting to get thirsty is wrong”.
Let’s examine quickly some of the major symptoms associated with chronic dehydration:
Even mild dehydration can alter a person’s mood, energy level, and ability to think clearly, according to two studies recently conducted at the University of Connecticut’s Human Performance Laboratory. Lead study author, Dr. Lawrence E. Armstrong, explains: “Our thirst sensation doesn’t really appear until we are 1 or 2 percent dehydrated. By then, dehydration is already setting in and starting to impact how our mind and body perform. Dehydration affects all people, and staying properly hydrated is just as important for those who work all day at a computer as it is for marathon runners, who can lose up to eight percent of their body weight as water when they compete”.
Depression, Irritability, or Mental Fog
Recent studies are confirming the role of water in the maintenance of brain function. Our brain is made of 75 percent water. So, it makes sense that dehydration may manifest in the brain as mental and emotional imbalances and in extreme cases, temporary mental impairment.
In a 2013 study published in The British journal of Nutrition, researchers confirmed that dehydration results in increased sleepiness and fatigue, lower levels of vigor and alertness, and increased confusion. Most interestingly, as soon as the test subjects were given some water, the detrimental effects of dehydration on alertness, happiness, and confusion were immediately reversed.
Constipation & Digestive Disorders
The colon is one of the first places the body pulls water from when it is short of water in order to provide fluids for other critical functions in the body. A shortage of water and alkaline minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, can lead to a host of digestive disorders, including ulcers, gastritis and acid reflux. Also, without adequate water, waste moves through the large intestines much more slowly (if it moves at all). Thus, constipation is almost always one of the primary symptoms of chronic dehydration.
Asthma & Allergies
In Water: for Health, for Healing, for Life, Dr. Batmanghelidj writes: "Histamine is an important neurotransmitter that primarily regulates thirst mechanism for increased water intake. It also establishes a system of water rationing for the available water in the drought-stricken body.”
In other words, histamine's primary job is to ensure that the available water in your body is preserved for the most vital functions. Thus, increased histamine is not a problem but rather one of your body's brilliant survival mechanisms. When your body is properly hydrated, histamine levels are in check. However, when your body is even slightly dehydrated, histamine levels will rise resulting in allergy and asthma symptoms. Recent animal studies demonstrate that histamine will decrease with water intake and increase with dehydration.
High blood pressure
The blood is about 94 percent water when the body is fully hydrated. When dehydrated, your blood thickens and cannot flow easily. This leads to a ripple effect in your body leading to a raised blood pressure.
According to a Canadian study published in a 1994 edition of the journal Clinical and Investigative Medicine, dehydration during fasting was found to increase serum lipids and lipoproteins. Apparently, when the body is dehydrated, it will produce more cholesterol to seal off water loss from the cells. Chronic dehydration thus may increase your circulating blood cholesterol levels as your body attempts to maintain pliability and to prevent further loss of water. However, additional research is needed before claims can be made that proper hydration may lower blood cholesterol levels.
A recent study, involving nearly 10,000 adults, led by a group of researchers at the University of Michigan Ann Harbor and published in the Annals of Family Medicine found “a significant association between inadequate hydration and elevated BMI and inadequate hydration and obesity.”
"Those who were inadequately hydrated had higher body mass indexes (BMIs) than those who were adequately hydrated," said study leader Dr. Tammy Chang. Also, people who were inadequately hydrated had 50 percent higher odds for obesity compared to those who were properly hydrated. Even after the researchers compensated for factors such as age, gender and income, the link between dehydration and elevated BMI and obesity held!
Remember, all bodily processes such as digestion, energy production and elimination require water. Water dilutes toxins and wastes from your body, increases energy, and reduces sugar cravings. So, it makes sense that a body deprived of adequate amounts of water will be less sufficient in digesting food and eliminating waste, eventually leading to weight gain.
The skin is the largest elimination organ in the human body. Dehydration impairs the elimination of toxins through the skin and makes it more vulnerable to all types of skin disorders, including dermatitis and psoriasis, as well as premature wrinkling and discoloration.
Joint Pain or Stiffness
Arthritis is a group of conditions involving damage to the joints due to the breakdown of cartilage. All joints have cartilage padding, which covers the bone structures in the joint, providing necessary lubrication. However, as cartilage is 85 percent water, even mild dehydration can minimize its effectiveness. When cartilage does not have enough water, our bones start to rub up against each other causing pain and swelling.
Bladder or kidney problems
As with all of the organs of elimination, when the body is dehydrated, toxins are not eliminated as well. The accumulation of toxins and acid waste create an environment where bacteria thrive. Thus, when dehydrated the bladder and kidney become more prone to infection, inflammation and pain.
For Part 3 of this blog series, click here.