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Diving Deeper into Hydration - Arbor Vitamins

Diving Deeper into Hydration

Hydration is fundamental to life. Every cell, tissue, and organ requires water to function effectively. While its importance is widely recognised, the scientific principles underlying hydration and dehydration are complex and fascinating. This blog post will delve into the biochemistry of hydration, the physiological impacts of dehydration, and the role of adequate water intake in maintaining our health.

Water and Body Homeostasis

Water comprises nearly 70% of the adult human body and plays a critical role in maintaining homeostasis—the balance that keeps our bodies functioning optimally. At the cellular level, water is a solvent for biochemical reactions, facilitating enzymatic processes that drive metabolism. It serves as a transport medium, aiding in the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to cells, and the removal of waste products and carbon dioxide.

Water is also essential for thermoregulation. Through the process of sweating and subsequent evaporation, our bodies can dissipate heat and maintain a steady internal temperature—a process which is crucial for the optimal functioning of bodily systems.

Adequate Hydration: How Much and Why?

The Institute of Medicine¹ suggests a total daily water intake of approximately 3.7 litres for men and 2.7 litres for women. Factors such as age, sex, weight, physical activity, and climate all influence our hydration requirements. 

Dehydration and the Kidneys

Hydrating adequately supports kidney function, which plays a critical role in regulating bodily fluid balance and filtering out toxins. By maintaining a sufficient water intake, we help our kidneys excrete waste products and excess nutrients effectively, reducing the risk of kidney stones and other urinary tract conditions.  

Dehydration can significantly strain the kidneys, which filter approximately 180 litres of blood daily, producing around 1 to 2 litres of urine consisting of water and waste products.

When we're dehydrated, the hormone vasopressin triggers the kidneys to reabsorb more water back into the bloodstream, leading to highly concentrated urine. This conservation strategy, while helpful in maintaining fluid balance, places a significant burden on the kidneys and can potentially lead to conditions like proteinuria.

Proteinuria, a condition characterised by excessive protein, mainly albumin, in the urine, is a common sign of kidney disease. Chronic dehydration can damage the kidneys' glomeruli, small blood vessels that function as filters, allowing proteins to "leak" into the urine.

Dehydration affect on kidneys

Dehydration and Cardiovascular Health

The cardiovascular system, which comprises the heart and blood vessels, relies on adequate hydration for optimal function. Dehydration leads to a reduction in blood volume and an increase in blood viscosity. Consequently, the heart must work harder to pump blood, resulting in increased heart rate and decreased blood pressure. Long-term, this cardiovascular strain can contribute to conditions like hypertension and heart disease.

Dehydration and the Brain

Our brains are approximately 75% water, underscoring the importance of hydration for cognitive function. Water is essential for the production of hormones and neurotransmitters, the body's chemical messengers.

Studies suggest that a loss of body water equivalent to about 2% of body weight is enough to cause noticeable cognitive impairments². Dehydration can impair cognitive functions such as attention, executive function, and motor coordination. It can also lead to mood changes and increase the perception of task difficulty, potentially impacting productivity.

Brain and hydration

Dehydration and the Digestive System

Water is essential for healthy digestion. It helps break down food so that your body can absorb nutrients, and it also softens stool, which can help prevent constipation.

When you're dehydrated, your body pulls water from stool to compensate for the lack of hydration. This can lead to harder and less frequent bowel movements, often resulting in constipation. Chronic dehydration can contribute to the development of digestive disorders like gastritis, heartburn, and stomach ulcers.

Importance of Hydration for the Skin

Maintaining optimal water intake is pivotal for skin health and vitality. Water serves as a natural detoxifier, aiding in flushing out toxins from the body which, in turn, gives a healthier and radiant complexion. Moreover, it plays an instrumental role in cell regeneration, ensuring the efficient healing and replacement of dead skin cells.

Adequate hydration also ensures that nutrients from the foods we consume are distributed throughout the body, including the skin. These nutrients help the skin maintain its elasticity, reducing the signs of aging such as wrinkles and fine lines.

Skin and Hydration

The Necessity of Adequate Hydration

Understanding the multifaceted role of water in our bodies underscores the importance of maintaining adequate hydration. Adequate water intake supports kidney function, cardiovascular health, cognitive function, and digestive health.

Chronic dehydration is a significant health concern that can impact various bodily systems, but it's largely preventable. Ensuring consistent, adequate hydration is a simple yet powerful way to promote overall health and wellbeing. As always, individual variations should be considered, and it's important to seek professional healthcare advice for personalised guidance.


¹ Institute of Medicine (IOM). (2004). Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate. The National Academies Press.

² Adan, A. (2012). Cognitive performance and dehydration. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 31(2), 71–78.

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