To perform our best, our body requires the correct internal balance of water. Therefore, we need to avoid dehydration at all costs. The bottom line is the more hydrated we are, the better we feel and the better we can take on the day.
What causes dehydration?
Dehydration can hit us in a number of circumstances, whether it be from running a marathon, to drinking an excessive amount of alcohol the night before. The major causes of dehydration are:
- Sport – Vigorous exercise is one of the major causes of dehydration, due to the fact we are losing water and electrolytes from the sweat we produce.
- Hot climates – Again, the body sweats in hot climates, in order to keep us cool. This can upset our internal balance of water and electrolytes
- Diarrhoea – This condition is massively contributes to dehydration, because it prevents water from being reabsorbed back in the body from the gut. Instead fluids are excreted out with waste.
- Excessive Alcohol – Consumption of alcohol can dehydrate us in many ways. An alcoholic beverage decreases the body’s production of the anti-diurtic hormone, which is used by the body to reabsorb water. This can result to an increase in fluid loss, due to higher levels of urination. For those who over did it the night before, vomiting can also be a culprit to dehydration.Urination – Although urinating is of course a natural process, too much of it can cause dehydration. This can be due to alcohol consumption and blood pressure or diabetic medication, making us to urinate more frequently than normal.
Signs you’re dehydrated
Dehydration can cause a plethora of symptoms. The major ones are:
- Lack of concentration
- Muscle cramping
As bad as these symptoms are, extreme dehydration can lead to highly severe symptoms such as:
- Low blood pressure
- Rapid breathing
- Very little to no urination
- Sunken eyes
- Dry skin that doesn’t bounce back when you pinch it
Dehydration for babies
Treating dehydration largely depends on age. An infant will require a different treatment to that of an elder. It is hard to spot when a baby is dehydrated, especially due to the fact they can’t verbally express their thirst! Yet, the key symptoms of a dehydrated baby include:
- A sunken soft spot
- Few or no tears
- Dry mouth
- Fewer wet nappies
- Fast breathing
- Cold and blotchy hands and feet
We don’t want our young ones to get to this uncomfortable state, so here are some tips to avoid a dehydrated baby:
- Give your baby or child plenty of liquids, such as breast milk and formula
- Avoid giving your baby fruit juice
- Giving your baby regular sips of oral re-hydration solution, in addition their usual feed
These actions will ensure enough body fluid is taken and therefore prevent dehydration and ensure good health.
Signs of dehydration in elderly
The major causes of dehydration apply to the elderly, but there are also additional contributing factors, one of which are the medications they consume. It is common for the elderly to be on several medications at once and some can make the elder sweat or urinate more. Other factors are that our sense of thirst deteriorates with age, making it difficult to sense when we need to hydrate. Also, a senior may rely on a caregiver to give them fluids, who may find it difficult to know when they are dehydrated. The symptoms of dehydration are the same as the ones stated above, except with afew extra, such as difficulty walking and constipation.
To prevent dehydration in a senior, make sure he or she consumes an adequate amount of fluids every day, eats healthy and their urine colour is light.Elders also must know to drink even when they are not thirsty. Keeping a water bottle next to their bed or their most favourable chair can help increase their fluid intake. You can also track dehydration amongst seniors by monitoring their body weight,by weighing the elder every morning. If he/ she has lost two pounds or more from the day before and are also feeling thirsty, they are most probably dehydrated. Mild dehydration is defined as losing 2% of body weight, whilst severe dehydration occurs with 4% or greater body weight loss. However, bear in mind that mild dehydration can also be a dangerous state for the elderly.
Diarrhoea is usually the result of a bowl infection which can be caused by:
- A virus such as novirus which is the most common stomach bug in the UK and each year, it is estimated 1 million people in the UK catch this virus.
- Bacteria such as campylobacter.
- Parasites such as Giardia intestinal is parasite that causes giardiasis.
- Medications such as:
- Chemotherapy medicines
- Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
Conditions that can cause severe diarrhoea include the following:
- Irritable bowel syndrome – a condition that affects the normal functions of the bowel
- Inflammatory bowel disease – conditions that cause the gut to become inflamed
- Coelic disease – a digestive condition that occurs when you have an adverse reaction to gluton
- Bile acid malabsorption – occurs when bile produced by liver builds up in the digestion system
- Chronic pancreatitis – inflammation of the pancreas
- Diverticular disease – occurs when small bulges develop in the lining of the intestine
- Bowel cancer – this can cause diarrhoea and blood in your stools
There are a few simple steps to prevent diarrhoea:
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after using the toilet and before eating and preparing the food
- Clean the toilet, including the handle and the seat with disinfectant after diarrhoea
- Avoid sharing towels, flannels, cutlery and utensils with others
- Wash soiled clothing and bed linen separately from other clothes with high temperatures possible – for 60C or higher for linen – after first removing any faeces into the toilet.
- Food hygiene practices will certainly help prevent diarrhoea
Normally, diarrhoea clears up within a couple of days and rarely lasts longer than 2 weeks. To ease this unfortunate condition, O.R.S is highly recommended for you to take by your GP or pharmacist. In a healthy gut, there is a continuous flow of water out of the intestinal wall, through the sodium glucose co transporter system. This effective mechanism allows the absorption of fluids into the bloodstream. It has been found that the correct ratio of glucose accelerates the absorption of fluids, opening the way to hydration treatment.Oral rehydration salts (O.R.S) work by activating the simple dehydration mechanism that is the sodium glucose co transporter. Research has shown when glucose is present within the gut at the correct ratio, 2-3 times as much sodium and water absorption takes place. This enables the pulling of water from your gut through diffusion, ultimately leading to faster optimal hydration, making your condition less uncomfortable!
Diarrhoea and pregnancy
As you reach your due date, you unfortunately may find that you get diarrhoea more often. This could be because your body is preparing itself for labour. However diarrhoea does not necessarily mean that your labour is just a few days away, so do not be alarmed! Some may not experience it in their third trimester and some will.
Treatment for diarrhoea during pregnancy
If you are a bit weary of medications while you are pregnant, are some simple ways to treat it:
- Give it some time: In most cases, it will clear up in a few days. This is often the case if your diarrhoea is the cause of food poisoning.
- See a doctor: Make an appointment to see your doctor if it has not ended after two or three days.
- Avoid problematic foods: Certain food groups can make diarrhoea worse. Also keep your distance from foods with high fat, fried foods, spicy foods, milk and dairy and high fibre foods.
- Use O.R.S to hydrate faster and restore the body’s balance of electrolytes, for optimal hydration and retention of fluids.