Illnesses Caused By Dehydration

Ailments Caused By DehydrationThe adult human body is made up of around 60-70% water and will typically lose 8-12 cups a day through urination, breathing, sweating, digestion, and other natural bodily functions. Your body needs you to replenish lost fluids at a similar rate that it loses it to maintain good hydration which is essential for good health. This doesn’t have to be just through water or beverages as 20% of the average person’s fluid intake will come from food. Anyone is at risk of becoming dehydrated, but children, elderly and ill people are more susceptible. Illnesses can lead to dehydration but can also be caused by it. Proper hydration is essential to maintain optimum health and to aid recovery from ill health.


Issues That Cause or Result in Dehydration

Diarrhea and vomiting cause fluid loss

One of the most common illnesses that leads to someone becoming dehydrated is diarrhea and/or vomiting. Diarrhea and vomiting can be symptoms of numerous medical problems, such as food poisoning, gastritis, and stomach ulcers. It leads to fluid being lost from the body at a rapid rate and it needs to be replenished just as quickly to avoid dehydration.

Experiencing diarrhea just three times in one day is enough to cause dehydration. Many people can be deterred from drinking when they’re experiencing diarrhea and vomiting through fear of it worsening their symptoms. Drinking water too quickly can lead to another bout of vomiting, so it’s best to take small sips regularly or suck on ice cubes to gradually replenish fluids.

With diarrhea, it’s important to rehydrate quickly so you should drink more than usual. You should also try to eat foods with a high liquid content, like soups and smoothies, as these will replenish nutrients that have been lost as well as fluids.

Dehydration can lead to Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are mainly caused by not drinking enough water, especially among women. Good hydration is usually enough to flush bacteria through the body to prevent UTIs or avoid them from getting worse, where antibiotics are often needed. Unfortunately, in people who have a UTI caused by poor hydration they are unlikely to drink enough to flush their system or avoid future UTIs, so antibiotics will be required.

However, water helps antibiotics to work as it dissolves them in the system, making them more effective, so if you’re prone to UTIs then your priority should be increasing your fluid intake.

The effect on the kidneys


When someone has a UTI that isn’t flushed out with water or successfully treated with antibiotics the bacteria can travel up into one or both kidneys and cause an infection. Proper hydration becomes even more essential at this point to try and flush the infection out and antibiotics are usually necessary. Some people, especially men as the condition is less common, will be admitted to the hospital to receive IV fluids and antibiotics.

If the kidney infection isn’t treated it can lead to permanent kidney damage. Another common kidney problem is the formation of kidney stones. These occur when stone-forming crystals in the kidneys stick together. Sufficient water can prevent them from forming but can also help to flush them out of the system is they do form.

Risk of peptic ulcers

The National Institutes of Health reports that 1 in 10 Americans will have a peptic ulcer at some point in their life. There are several theories for the cause of peptic ulcers with widely accepted ones including long-term use of certain medications, cancerous tumors, bacterial infections, dehydration, and stress. It’s likely that a combination of factors can result in a peptic ulcer and the cause may vary between people.

When it comes to dehydration as a cause it’s believed that the lining of the stomach and duodenum is unable to produce the thick layer of mucus that protects them from highly acidic stomach juices, thus ulcers can form. It also means that bacterial infections, specifically H. pylori, can attack the mucus more easily, increasing the risk of ulcers.

Dehydration causes digestive problems

Hydration plays an important role in the digestive system as it helps to break food down so that nutrients and minerals can be absorbed, which is essential for health. Common digestive problems are constipation, bloating and acid reflux, all of which can be prevented by good hydration and exacerbated with poor hydration.

Water helps to move waste through the intestines and will soften stools and the walls of the intestines, making it easier to pass waste through the body. One of the biggest causes of constipation is dehydration, so constipation is easily helped by drinking water.

Water can help with bloating, in some cases, by encouraging the body to release any fluid retention, but it depends on the cause of the bloating. Acid reflux is usually helped with water as it’s believed water neutralizes and rinses acid away from the esophagus, reducing symptoms of heartburn and an acid taste in the mouth.

Digestive problems can lead to an iron deficiency

Even if you’re eating a diet that is high in iron-rich foods there is still a chance that you can become iron deficient if the body cannot properly absorb it. Digestive issues, including bloating and constipation, suggest that you’re at risk of poor iron absorption.

Poor hydration can cause digestive issues, but it can also lead to depleted probiotics stores in the intestinal tract. This also leads to poor iron absorption abilities of your body. If you become iron deficient you should drink plenty of water to help the body to absorb iron better and combine this with a healthy diet that has good sources of iron.


Treatment of an iron deficiency

More than 3 million Americans are iron deficient, making it one of the most common deficiencies, despite how easy it is to consume. Good hydration and diet can help to restore iron levels, but sometimes you may feel that your body needs a bit of help in the form of supplements, such as tablets or injections.

This is particularly tempting for those feeling unwell due to the deficiency and looking for a quick fix. You should be aware that supplements are often accompanied by side effects, as with most medications. Common side effects include headaches and nausea, but more seriously they can lead to abnormally low levels of phosphate in the blood, also known as HPP. HPP can lead to breathing difficulties, an altered mental state, confusion, muscle weakness, and muscle damage. Therefore, a good diet and proper hydration are a better, safer option for both treating and preventing iron deficiencies.

Dehydration in diabetics

When there are high levels of glucose in the blood, as with diabetes, the kidneys will try to remove it by creating more urine. This results in increased urination and can easily lead to dehydration. Dehydration in diabetics is worrying as it can lead to a drop in blood pressure and cause the body to secrete stress hormones, including norepinephrine and epinephrine.

These in turn can raise the blood sugar level and the body enters a vicious cycle. There’s also evidence to suggest that poor hydration can cause prediabetes and type 2 diabetes to develop. A study from the Diabetes Care journal followed healthy adults over nine years and looked at the link between self-reported water consumption and blood sugar levels. People who drank less than half a liter of water a day had an increased risk of high blood sugar levels compared to those who drank more than 1 liter a day.

Helping yourself or someone you care for to stay hydrated

The Institute of Medicine says that 75% of Americans don’t meet hydration recommendations. Many people are aware that they don’t drink enough water, either because they realize at the end of the day how little they’ve drank or because they experience recurrent illnesses and infections caused by poor hydration.

A good way to combat this is to set reminders, such as on your phone, to prompt you to have a drink every hour. Carrying a reusable water bottle around with you will help you drink more when you’re on the go. If you’re a caregiver for someone who doesn’t drink enough fluids, prepare them a drink each time you see them and leave another one next to them as you leave. Always give them a drink with a meal and make hydration have a social aspect, such as arranging to go around to have a cup of tea and a chat together. You can also track fluid input on a chart, so you know exactly how much you or someone else has drank and if it’s enough to stay fully hydrated.

Water is essential for good health and therefore poor hydration can lead to a whole host of problems.

Ensure you’re drinking enough based on your body weight, climate, how active you are, your age and health. Eight glasses a day is a good all-round rule, but isn’t person-specific, so consider how you and your lifestyle will affect how much you need to consume.

Leave a Comment