The Reliance GP Blog

8 Signs the body may be dehydrated
Rod Beckwith January 14, 2016


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8 Signs the body may be dehydrated

The human body is made up of approximately 70-percent water. So it makes sense that fluids are vital for the majority of our bodily functions—protecting our joints, maintaining organ function, transporting oxygen to cells, and sustaining body temperature. It also makes sense that the body can become dehydrated fairly quickly due to excess perspiration, hot weather, sun exposure, and lack of fluids throughout the day.

However, if you’re active or if you sweat excessively, replenishing water levels regularly throughout the day is even more critical to prevent dehydration. Here are the ten telltale signs (in no particular order) that your body may be experiencing dangerous dehydration.

  1. Fatigue Sets In

When the body suffers from chronic dehydration, blood flow and blood pressure drop due to a lack of water and oxygen in the blood. Basically, dehydration results when the body loses more water than it takes in. This naturally causes the muscles and nerve function to literally burn out due to profuse sweating after exertion.

If you have a stomach bug, and are suffering from water loss (due to a combination of vomiting and/or diarrhoea) you will often feel fatigued. This is why doctors will recommend plenty of rest along with plenty of fluids, like water, juice, and herbal teas to replenish lost water levels.

  1. Urine Appears Dark Yellow

Concentrated, dark, yellow urine is a first sign of dehydration. This typically occurs when blood pressure levels fall and the kidneys attempt to store water instead of expel it from the body. Dark urine describes urine that is a deeper than normal colour. Although, for some dark urine is brown or deep yellow. For others it can appear maroon versus it’s normal golden straw to yellow colouring.

Keep in mind that urine can change in colour due a variety of reasons, dehydration being one of the most common. However, urine can be discoloured due to medications, certain foods or as a side effect of health conditions (i.e., liver disease). If you’re urine is still discoloured after you hydrate and for no other apparent reason, please talk to your doctor.

  1. Sudden Lightheadedness

When your blood pressure drops due to dehydration, dizziness often follows if you stand up too quickly. This type of dehydration-related condition is referred to as orthostatic hypotension by medical professionals. Many people wouldn’t consider a lack of water as potentially dangerous. However, if the body is severely robbed of water, extreme confusion and dizziness can occur. Dehydrated infants and children may become confused, fussy, and irritable as the blood pressure plunges.

As dehydration sets in the heartbeat and breathing will become rapid. You may feel like you can’t catch your breath, and you may feel fatigued and faint. In severe cases of dehydration, the patient may appear delirious and even lose consciousness.

  1. Heart Rate Increases

Dehydration often causes plummeting electrolyte levels, which will lead to increased heart rate, heart palpitations (or spasms) in the actual heart muscle. As blood pressure plummets, breathing and heart rate will quicken to indicate potential dehydration.

If you suspect you or someone you know is dehydrated, you can take their pulse and blood pressure reading lying down and again standing up. Take it for one minute each time as blood pressure will naturally drop a few seconds if you go from laying down to standing. Inadequate fluid in the blood will cause dehydration, quickening the heart rate and causing dizziness as inadequate blood is flowing to the brain. A quick heart rate check can be a good determinant of dehydration severity so please see you GP..

  1. Overheating

Fluid levels within the body keep our temperatures regulated so we don’t become dehydrated and overheat—or even worse suffer dangerous heatstroke! However, thirst can send mixed signals when the body needs water. If your body needs a fluid level top up, it may often register as hunger. Drink enough water, causing you to believe you need to eat when you really need to top up your liquid intake.

Obviously, if you are overheated due to physical exertion, you may become dehydrated due to fluid loss due to excessive perspiration. You can also suffer fluid loss from being in a hot environment. That’s why it’s important to bring water along with you if you plan to work out in a hot environment (i.e., hot yoga) or if you are outdoors in the heat and sun for even brief periods of time.

  1. Muscles Cramps

Hydration, or more so electrolyte balance, is vital for muscle contraction so when sodium and potassium stores are low it can cause painful muscle spasms. A muscle cramp or spasm will occur when a forcibly contracted (or involuntarily) muscle can’t relax. We’re used to contracting and controlling our muscles, but muscle, or even a few fibers of muscle, can contract or spasm involuntarily if fluid levels are low.

Muscle cramping with dehydration often occurs in the side (often called an abdominal stitch) or in a calf muscle. Both can be very painful, but hydrating can ease the pain and prevent continued cramping.

  1. Constipation

Water is necessary for efficient digestion, which means water absorption is required for healthy bowel movements. Fluids in your body help things along, including helping the food you eat move smoothly along your intestines and out of the body via bowel movements. Water also keeps the intestinal walls smooth and malleable. That’s why when we’re dehydrated, the colon can become less flexible, contract slower, absorb less water, and result in stool (or body waste) that’s hard, dry, and painful to pass.

Dehydration is a very common culprit of chronic constipation. Inadequate water levels in the body causes the large intestine to suck up water from your food waste, robbing stool of moisture. Keep your digestive system functioning normally and your bowel movements easy to pass by drinking plenty of fluids daily, and also by eating fibre, and getting regular exercise. Please see your GP if you have any concerns in this area.

  1. You’re very thristy

Listen to your body! One sure fire way to tell if you’re dehydrated is when you’re thirsty, your mouth and throat are dry, your tongue may feel sticky or dry, and even parched and swell in cases of extreme dehydration.

However, if you leave drinking until you feel thirsty, you may become dehydrated before you’re actually thirsty.


Keep on top of hydration and if you are concerned please see your doctor immediately.

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