DEHYDRATION AND ITS EFFECT ON YOUR SPINE AND BODY
The human body is made up mostly of water, totalling a massive 60%. Water is important for every body function. The water helps make up the structure of your body, being contained in cells, nucleus tissues and organs. To sustain adequate hydration levels in your body, on average men should be drinking approximately 3 Litres of water in a day and women 2.7 Litres. Always allow more in warmer climates, and when exercising.
Where Does Water Go?
You can easily lose water from your body in ways you probably never realised. When you breathe, sweat and when you digest, your body is losing water. Things like dry weather conditions, physical activities, menstruation, and pregnancy, or being unwell, can also cause water loss. Some illnesses and diseases that can cause the body to lose water rapidly, such as diarrhoea and vomiting, and can lead to dehydration in the vulnerable such as the elderly or young children without proper rehydration with water and electrolytes.
How Hydration Affects Your Most Important Organs
The brain and heart are recorded as having a water composition of approximately 73% water. When your body is lacking water, your brain and heart can suffer and you can experience symptoms.
Water and Your Brain
Your brain by itself is made of 75% water and is arguably the most important organ needing hydration as it sends signals to the rest of your body for basic processes and movements
A recent study conducted on dehydration and driving was conducted to study the effects of dehydration on the brain’s function. The results of the study concluded that drivers who were dehydrated showed driving patterns similar to those that were under the influence of alcohol. Most notable signs of dehydration when driving were unnecessary lane shifting and delayed reaction time in braking. The study noted an increased level of fatigue alongside the dehydration which was concluded could cause decreased concentration and attention to the road.
Water and Pain
Some studies have shown a correlation with dehydration and increased pain levels. It’s unclear as to why that link exists, however dehydration was linked to increased pain levels in the forms of headaches, muscle pain, arthritic pain, back pain and general aches and pains.
So if you’re dealing with pain on an everyday basis that is not directly linked to any direct health concern, consider increasing your levels of hydration to see whether it helps to reduce aches and pains.
Water and Lower Back Pain
Our most commonly treated complaints as Chiropractors is lower back pain and neck pain. A 2015 study in America concluded that 75% of the American population was chronically dehydrated at any one time, based on a survey. With a reported link of dehydration and back pain, it’s no wonder that back pain and spinal pain in particular is so prevalent.
One reason could be that the intervertebral discs found in between the spinal vertebrae have a high water content. With chronic dehydration, the body is likely to pull water from ‘non-essential’ areas of the body in order to protect vital processes such as brain function and heart function, allowing other areas to become dehydrated. Intervertebral discs act like cushion and shock absorbers in between the spinal vertebrae, and decreased disc hydration is seen in arthritic conditions affecting aging populations.
Could dehydration be the root cause of most back pain? Who knows, however it is likely to play a part.
Water and Exercise
If you’ve ever worked out, you know that just a few minutes of cardio-increasing activity can leave you feeling parched. When most people exercise, their body may already be in a state of lower hydration, making this thirst creep up faster. But even for those who are well hydrated, the average workout session will leave you feeling thirsty because of the energy you are exerting to activate your muscles, heavy breathing – losing water through the mouth as well as the water lost through sweating.
If you are well hydrated, drinking a few mouthfuls of water every 15 minutes into your workout will keep you well hydrated. But if you are not well hydrated, then make sure to drink a few cups of water before working out to keep you hydrated and to give your body what it needs for the best workout possible. It can also help to prevent muscle cramps which can be a sign of dehydration.
Is dehydration really THAT Noticeable?
Dehydration may be extremely noticeable, such as in elderly people during a heatwave, who become confused, or it may just cause a little bit of light headedness.
Here are more signs of being dehydrated that some people overlook:
- Dark coloured urine (dark yellow through to brown range)
- Tingling sensations throughout the body
- Headaches that increase in severity
- Sensitive vision or general heaviness in the eyes
- A “brain fog” feeling especially when working
- Constipation or decreased bowel movements
- Increased levels of stress
These signs and symptoms can also be caused by other medical problems, so if concerned, always consult your GP for further investigation.
Dehydration and Hunger
The same area of the brain – the hypothalamus, regulates your feelings of hunger or thirst, this can cause you to be confused as to whether you are actually hungry or thirsty.
Clinical studies have concluded that 37% of the time, you may think you are hungry but in fact you are dehydrated, this is because the thirst signals can be weaker. This can be especially important in those who are trying to lose weight. Keeping well hydrated can keep hunger pangs at bay and help people to stick to their recommended daily calories.