Dehydration

Dehydration

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.

The formula
Unlike fatigue, the solution is simple — drink lots of water. The old eight, 8-oz. glasses of water per day isn’t very accurate because it doesn’t take into account body weight, climate, or activity.
A more accurate figure calls for taking your body weight in pounds and dividing that number in half. That result is the ounces of water that you require daily. To that, add 12- to 16-oz. for hot, dry weather and a further 12- to 16-oz. if you are doing strenuous physical work.
This is considered a minimum to be sure that you are not dehydrated. Drinking more than that will do no harm as the kidneys maintain the correct water content and will simply "expel" the excess. This excess is thought to help flush out the toxins or at least dilute them, and can reduce the chances of colon cancer by possibly 45 percent and bladder cancer by 50 percent.
Perspiring heavily will require replenishment of some essential body salts that are being lost — sodium, potassium, calcium bicarbonate and phosphate. Salt tablets will help, as will some vitamin tablets.
There are many sport drinks on the market that offer replenishment of these salts. If you want to make your own "tonic," here is a recipe that will work:
1 liter (or quart) of water
Pinch of salt
75 ml (1/3cup) of sugar*
100 ml (1/2 cup) of orange juice
*Add an optional drink crystal packet of any flavor you want. If it has sugar already added, then skip the sugar listed above. If you have a blender, you can even blend in a banana to help balance the potassium.
Now, if you’re working out in the heat, you will need to drink at least one of these per hour just to keep balanced. You should also be drinking fluid about every 20 minutes in these conditions.

Fruits with your labor
Another often forgotten source of fluid as well as some those missing salts are fresh fruits and vegetables. They are made up of up to 90 percent water and are, as we know, good for you.

Diuretics
By fluid, we mean, the "tonic," water, milk, juice, mineral water, flavored seltzers but NOT tea, coffee, soft drinks with caffeine, or alcohol.
Tea, coffee, and alcohol are diuretics and cause the kidneys to release more water, resulting in greater dehydration. If you are going to drink coffee, tea, alcohol and to a lesser extent caffeinated soft drinks, then you better add a water chaser to them just to counteract their diuretic effect.
Give this article some serious thought and remember; if we are to reduce maintenance errors we have to use all means possible. Dehydration is an easy one to fix — let’s at least eliminate this potential source of error. While the industry may not, at least your body will thank you for it.

By the numbers...
As little as two percent loss in water content begins to cause the brain to lose alertness and the body to feel fatigued.

2% to 5% – Mild dehydration but sufficient to influence how the body will react.
6% to 10% – Moderate dehydration and is cause for immediate concern.
11% to 15% – Severe. Hospitalization and intravenous will likely be required.
Beyond 15% – Can end in death.

Some Common Indicators of Dehydration
Lips and later mouth feel dry
Heart rate and breathing increases
Blood pressure begins to drop
Begin to feel fatigued
Nagging headache that becomes progressively worse
Decreased urine output
Begin to feel thirsty
Eyes begin to become sunken
Become mentally irritated and depressed
Skin begins to become wrinkled
May develop a stomach ache
May begin to experience lower back pain
Become dizzy
Become mentally confused

These symptoms do not necessarily progress in that exact order and may vary between persons.
Decreased urine output
Begin to feel thirsty
Eyes begin to become sunken
Become mentally irritated and depressed
Skin begins to become wrinkled
May develop a stomach ache
May begin to experience lower back pain
Become dizzy
Become mentally confused

These symptoms do not necessarily progress in that exact order and may vary between persons.

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