With half of the human body being made up of water, it is needless to say that water is essential to allow the body to function normally. Playing a vital role in regulating good health, water lubricates the joints and eyes, aids digestion, flushes out waste and toxins and keeps the skin healthy.

Inadequate water intake can result in adverse consequences. Dehydration may set in and occurs when the body loses more water than you take in. When the normal water content of your body is reduced, it upsets the balance of minerals in the body, which affects the way it functions.

Here are 5 ways to know if you are dehydrated:

1. Increased thirst

The first sign of dehydration is thirst, which is a craving for more water. It only takes 1% to 2% of water loss for your body to signal an increase in thirst so that you may address the budding problem. Most people who react right away by increasing the water intake would nip it in the bud and stay hydrated.

However, your sense of thirst declines the older you get, so the thirst indicator may not be as effective for the elderly. In which case, proper fluid management needs to be observed. Also, extreme amounts of fluid are lost during exercise, so drinking serves more than just quenching the thirst. It is advisable to drink plenty before starting the exercise.

2. Light-headedness and headaches

“The brain sits inside a fluid sack that keeps it from bumping against the skull. If that fluid sack is depleted or running low because of dehydration, the brain can push up against parts of the skull, causing headaches,” says John Higgins, associate professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Texas in Houston, and chief of cardiology at Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital.

One study found that a fluid loss of 1.4% of body weight caused headaches and moodiness in healthy women. Another study found similar results in men. Water restriction for 37 hours, which resulted in a 2.7% fluid loss, led to headaches and difficulty concentrating. While there are many types of headaches, the ones caused by dehydration can be relieved by drinking water or plain teas.

3. Change in urine colour and amount

The colour of your urine is a good indicator or your body’s hydration level.

“Straw-colored or light yellow urine means you're properly hydrated. If your urine is dark, or if there’s blood in your urine, you need to stop exercising immediately,” warns Dr Laura Goldberg of Cleveland Clinic Sports Health. Notably, perfectly clear urine may mean that you are over-hydrated.

Since the kidneys are responsible for controlling the colour and concentration of urine, in cases where the body is severely dehydrated, the kidneys may stop making urine altogether to conserve fluids for other bodily functions.

4. Muscle cramps

A muscle cramp is the involuntary contraction of the muscles due to an imbalance of electrolytes in the body through loss of fluid and sodium. Muscle cramps are a sign of dehydration caused by excessive sweating through vigorous exercise. The heat effect caused by the muscles working very hard repetitively may also cause the muscles to seize up in cramps. It is therefore important to keep up hydration levels before and whilst exercising.

5. Organ failure

Organ failure is a result of severe dehydration. This fatal consequence is due to the organs shutting down from a lack of water supply to allow the organs to function normally.

An extreme loss of fluid may cause the body to go into shock, a dire case where the volume of blood becomes so low that the brain and other organs are not able to receive the oxygen they need. Further complications include the loss of consciousness, brain damage, kidney failure and heart attack. If shock is not treated immediately, it will result in death.

Shock is however, rare. More commonly, extreme dehydration might be brought on by trauma, severe burns or prolonged vomiting and diarrhea. MIMS

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