Dehydration is the loss of fluids. When we lose more fluid than we take in, our bodies will become dehydrated. In an adult, the symptoms of dehydration are extreme thirst, infrequent urination, dark-colored urine, fatigue, dizziness and/or confusion, according to Mayo Clinic.
Most of us know that we can get dehydrated by not drinking enough water or sweating due to exercise or excess heat. But sometimes dehydration can sneak up on us. Often adding water or beverages with electrolytes will bring your body back to proper hydration. If symptoms of dehydration last even though you've added fluids, you should get medical help.
Here are 10 things that can contribute to dehydration, plus one you probably think contributes to dehydration but studies have found that it doesn't.
When you drink alcohol, your brain does not send its usual signals to your kidneys. Your brain tells your kidneys when to make urine and when to stop, but the more alcohol you drink, the more it disrupts that function in your brain. So, you end up losing more fluids from your body than you would if you were drinking a non-alcoholic beverage. According to ABC Science for every shot of alcohol that you drink, your kidneys generate an extra 120 milliliters (about four ounces) of urine in addition to the normal 60 to 80 milliliters it usually generates each hour.
Some medications can cause dehydration, according to WebMD. Diuretics, commonly referred to as water pills, are designed to remove salt and water from your body, and they're often prescribed for people with heart or blood pressure problems. Laxatives can also cause dehydration when used for a long time or used too often. Chemotherapy medication also can contribute to dehydration because of side effects including vomiting, diarrhea and sweating.
High sodium foods, often foods that have been processed like canned soups or frozen meals, can lead to several health issues, including dehydration. Popular Science explains that if you don't drink enough water when salt makes you thirsty, the lack of water could "force the body to draw water out of other cells." This leads to dehydration.
The humidity in a plane is low — about 10 to 20 percent — and that can leave you dehydrated inside and out, according to Everyday Health. The alcoholic beverages that many people consume to calm their flight jitters or help them fall asleep on the plane can also contribute to dehydration. Drinking water and moisturizing your skin should help in this situation, but many people hold off on drinking too much so they don't have to get up and use the bathroom. To avoid dehydration, you just may have to drink a lot of water and disrupt the others in your row.
When you get your period, you lose a lot of fluids along with the blood, according to Everyday Health. This can lead to dehydration and that feeling of weakness when you get your period. Drinking water and beverages with electrolytes can help.
The effects of stress are far reaching, including its ability to deplete your bodies of fluids. When you're under constant stress, your adrenal glands pump out a lot of stress hormones and your adrenals can become exhausted, according to HuffPost Life. This interferes with the adrenals' ability to produce aldosterone, a hormone that helps regulate electrolytes and fluid, so dehydration can occur
Being exposed to high altitudes can be linked to dehydration. At high altitude, we breathe deeper and faster when we're exerting ourselves and even at rest, according to the Journal of Wilderness Medicine. Humidity is lower and sweat evaporates more quickly, causing us to lose even more fluids. The Institute for Altitude Medicine suggests drinking an extra 1 to 1.5 liters of water daily when at high altitude.
Not enough fruits and vegetables
Some fruits and vegetables contain up to 90 percent water, and having them in your diet can keep you from becoming dehydrated. According to Healthline, the most water-rich fruits include watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe and peaches. Some of the most water-rich vegetables include cucumbers, lettuce and zucchini.
When a woman breastfeeds, she is moving liquid from her body to the child's. There's a lot of good stuff in that breast milk, including electrolytes. This loss can cause dehydration in the breastfeeding woman, according to Health. In addition to causing dehydration, it may also reduce the production of breast milk.
Vomiting and diarrhea
Vomiting and diarrhea — whether they're caused by too much alcohol, food poisoning or a stomach virus — can lead to dehydration, reports WebMD. When accompanied by a fever, the risks are greater because the body sweats. If keeping water down is difficult, sip it in very small amounts or suck on small pieces of ice as often as possible to get fluids into your body. If you have symptoms like dry skin, light-headedness or dark urine, see a doctor.
The older we get, our sense of thirst diminishes and our kidneys can't conserve body water as easily, according to John Muir Health. Because the sense of thirst isn't as strong as it used to be, those who are older may not realize their fatigue is caused by dehydration. So even if you aren't thirsty, drinking plenty of water as you get older is important.
Caffeine, especially that in your morning coffee, is a mild diuretic, causing you to have to urinate and sometimes bring on a bowl movement that comes on so suddenly you have to run to the bathroom. However, a study found that the belief that caffeine causes dehydration is a myth. The liquid consumed when drinking caffeinated beverages in moderation offsets the fluids lost due to the caffeine.