We hear that it is important to stay hydrated and drink lots of water, but really, how important is water? 80% of our brain is water, and in adult men and women, the body is made of 60-70% of water. Most functions in our body require fluids in order to run smoothly. Blood transports oxygen, nutrients, electrolytes, enzymes and many other products that are needed for each of the bodily functions. Sweating is a way that the body regulates its temperature, and for this, water is required. Fluid also helps to lubricate the joints, keeping them healthy and preventing pain. Water helps digestion by enabling hydrolysis reactions, breaking down what we eat.
Many if not most people are what is called chronically dehydrated; meaning they don’t drink enough water. For whatever reason, many people don’t drink the 1.5-2L per day that they should. Being chronically dehydrated can cause many minor health issues in the short-term, and in the long-term, some researchers have found that being dehydrated can cause some forms of cancer, or in extreme cases, causes death.
While your body will start to adapt to being chronically dehydrated, there are some processes in your body that are suffering. The transport of nutrients and other important products in the body will decrease and your body will find it difficult to regulate temperatures. Here are some of the signs and symptoms or chronic dehydration:
Muscles rely on the nutrients and chemicals in the blood to perform regular every day activities and to exercise. For example, if you are sitting at a desk typing, you will be using the muscles of your forearms and hands to type, but the muscles of your neck, back, abdomen and upper arms are needed to hold your posture and keep you upright. Being in a state of dehydration will cause all those muscles to lack in proper nutrients, which can cause pain, muscle fatigue, and possibly knots. If someone who is exercising is dehydrated, at a certain point, the muscles will fail causing muscle tears, muscle cramps and/or injuries to the joints.
After a major injury or surgery, the body needs nutrients, enzymes and other chemicals to activate and carry out the healing process. If the body is in a dehydrated state, then the amount of nutrients transported will be limited. Fluid is also needed for the removal of debris such as dead muscle cells and left-over macro nutrients. If protein remains stuck in the intracellular space, it will attract fluid from the area. Without the proper flow of fluids in the lymphatic system, that fluid that was attracted to the proteins will attract more proteins which will, in turn, attract more fluids. This process will decrease the proper function of the cells in the area. Proper hydration will ensure that the fluids and nutrients flow in a healthy manner, allowing proper function.