Diet and Nutrition

What Causes Dehydration?

What Causes Dehydration?

Humans have approximately 60 percent of water in the body. Even if 1.5-2 percent of that water is lost, mild dehydration will start, which can lead to severe dehydration requiring immediate medical attention. Because your mood, energy level, and coordination deteriorate with the loss of body fluids, it is important to stay hydrated at all times.

Where there is no adequate water to substitute the amount of water lost during the day, dehydration takes place. Dehydration can at times develop for simple causes: either you are busy or ill and fail to drink adequate water or you do not have access to safe drinking water while hiking, camping, or traveling. Dehydration is caused by not drinking enough liquids or by losing more body fluids than you take in. Fluid is lost through sweat, tears, vomiting, urination, and diarrhea. Dehydration means the water that the body is taking in is less compared to that which is coming out of the cells and body. 

Water is lost daily in our bodies when we breathe out and through the urine, stool, and sweat. Small quantities of salt are also lost along with the water. The body gets dehydrated when a lot of water is lost and death can occur in the case of severe dehydration.

Dehydration can also be as a result of the following conditions:

1. Vomiting or diarrhea

Remarkable water and electrolyte loss can occur when diarrhea is severe and acute. More minerals and water are lost when diarrhea is accompanied by vomiting. Infants and children are particularly at risk of these conditions. A viral or bacterial infection, a bowel disorder, sensitivity to food, or a reaction to drugs may also lead to diarrhea.

2. Fever

You will become more dehydrated as your fever continues to rise. More water will be lost if your fever is accompanied by vomiting and diarrhea.

3. A lot of sweating

When you sweat, your body loses water. Your body can become dehydrated if you engage in energetic tasks and fail to substitute the lost water. You will lose more water if the weather is hot and humid since you will sweat more. During winter, dehydration can still occur if you fail to substitute water that has been lost. Teens and preteens who take part in sports may be particularly prone to dehydration due to their small weight and because they have no knowledge of the signs of dehydration.

4. Frequent urination

This can happen in cases of undiagnosed or poorly controlled diabetes. Some drugs such as the ones used for high blood pressure and diuretics can also cause dehydration since they make you sweat or pass urine a lot more than usual.

Who are more prone to dehydration?

The individuals who are more prone to dehydration are:

  • Infants and babies - Because of their small body weight, even losing little quantities of water easily affects them.
  • Elderly people - They often do not know that dehydration is taking place and that they require a regular intake of fluids.
  • Individuals suffering from chronic diseases - They include people who suffer from conditions such as alcoholism or diabetes.
  • Athletes - They lose large quantities of water through sweating.


During exercise, an individual may overhydrate leading to the condition called as hypernatremia. This condition is a result of low levels of salt in the blood. When a lot of water is consumed within a short time, hypernatremia can happen. Athletes with low levels of salt in their blood as a result of sweating and those who consume large quantities of water are affected by hypernatremia.

Hypernatremia symptoms include a headache, nausea, and vomiting. The brain can become engorged in severe cases leading to coma, seizures, confusion, and even death.

When to Visit the Doctor

Immediately see a doctor if you develop any of the following symptoms:

  • High fever (101°F or higher)
  • Weakness
  • Loss of weight
  • Diarrhea lasting for two days or longer
  • Vomiting that persists for a day or longer
  • Decreased urine output
  • Confusion

 You will be taken to the emergency section of the hospital if the following takes place:

  • Confusion
  • Sluggishness
  • Seizures
  • Headache
  • High fever (more than 103°F)
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Lack of urine in the past 12 hours
  • Pain in the chest and abdomen

It is very important to regularly drink water to replace lost fluids. Children and teenagers are particularly at risk because they may not know or they may ignore the symptoms of dehydration in their play and activities. The common causes of dehydration are:

  • Diabetes - Patients with high blood sugar complaints visit the bathroom often since their kidneys try to get rid of the excess glucose in their body through urination. 
  • Alcohol - Frequent alcohol consumption can cause dehydration since alcohol is a diuretic, which causes frequent urination.
  • Excessive sweating - Workouts, prolonged sun exposure, and vigorous exercising can also cause dehydration.
  • Women during their monthly periods - The hormones estrogen and progesterone act on the body’s fluid levels during this time. Staying hydrated by taking a good amount of fluid works well. Women who have heavy periods need to be well-hydrated as well.
  • Certain medications - If you have been prescribed with diuretics to help you with your high blood pressure, it will increase your urine output. Thus, taking extra fluid will help.
  • Stress - If you are constantly under pressure or stress, the adrenal glands start functioning insufficiently, which will trigger dehydration and low electrolyte levels. Increasing fluid intake will temporarily improve this condition, but in the long run, take care to reduce stress and pressure.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome - Nausea and chronic diarrhea are the effects of IBS, which in itself is a terrible condition. Along with these symptoms, dehydration occurs as well. 
  • Dietary supplements - These should only be taken according to your healthcare provider's advice since certain supplements can also cause dehydration.

Finally, drink that extra glass of water every day without hesitation, even if you are not thirsty. Along with water, there are some foods that can help keep you hydrated, and they include:

  • Cucumber
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon
  • Citrus fruits
  • Tender coconut
  • Broccoli
  • Lettuce
  • Cabbage
  • Spinach

All of these foods have high water content. If you do not have access to drinking water, carrying any of these items while you are traveling, hiking, or working out will allow you to quench your thirst and keep you hydrated.