Dehydration A Hidden Source of Fatigue By Gordon Dupont February 2001 Fatigue is an industry problem that we are finally just beginning to come to grips with. It is a problem that our industry has vastly underestimated and that we have...


A Hidden Source of Fatigue

Gordon DupontBy Gordon Dupont

February 2001

Fatigue is an industry problem that we are finally just beginning to come to grips with. It is a problem that our industry has vastly underestimated and that we have vastly overestimated our ability to cope with.
Well, now it appears that we have a further problem that both we and the industry are totally ignorant of — at least I sure was — dehydration. Dehydration has the ability to induce fatigue with the resulting reduction in judgment — all without us even being aware of it. Let’s start with a few interesting facts:
1. Our body is made up of about 60 percent water (women a little less than men for some reason).
2. Our brain is made up of 85 percent water and requires a very narrow range of water content to remain at its peak.
3. We lose about 8 to 10 cups, or just over 2 liters of water per normal day through breathing, urinating, perspiring, and bowel movements.
4. Without water, we can live about 3 days.
5. If working outside on a hot day, we can lose about two pounds or one liter of water per hour.
Doctors now say that a whopping 75 percent of people don’t have enough water, which translates to — dehydration.

What are the symptoms?
Surprisingly, thirst is not at the top of the list. We depend on feeling thirsty to keep us from becoming dehydrated and it has been shown to be a poor indicator.
Dr. F. Batmanghelidj, in his book Your Body’s Many Cries for Water, states that in over one-third of us (37 percent), the thirst mechanism is so weak that it’s often mistaken for hunger. It is only when we are moderately dehydrated, (6 to 10 percent) that we begin to pay attention to our thirst. By that time, our mental alertness has dropped dramatically. As dehydration becomes severe, the person slips into a coma and if the cardiovascular system collapses, the person dies.

Only two percent
As little as a two percent drop in body water can begin to affect mental alertness as the brain reacts to the fluid loss. Dr. Susan M. Kleiner, author of Power Eating, states "... this two percent triggers fuzzy, short-term memory; particularly, trouble with basic math and focusing on the problems on the printed page or computer screen. The problem is, we are becoming dehydrated and we may not even feel thirsty yet. We will begin to feel fatigued as our metabolism begins to slow down."
Putting two percent into perspective: A 150 lb. person would need to lose only 1.8 lbs. of water to be two percent dehydrated. On a hot day, you can lose that in less than an hour. If, as they say, 75 percent of us are chronically dehydrated, then we may be looking at a major contributing factor to maintenance errors — and we don’t even know it!

Cold weather preservation
In cold climates, we often don’t think of drinking water, choosing rather, a cup of hot coffee or tea. Humidity is very low in cold conditions and we still lose water through breathing and other body functions. The unknown dehydration leads to a feeling of fatigue and decreased mental alertness with never a thought that a simple glass of water will make us feel better.

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