Dehydration- An enemy of Optimal Physical and Mental Performance

Did you know that reducing water in the body as little as 5% can result in as much as a 20-30% drop in your physical performance. 10% reduction can make you sick. 20% can mean death. 1-2% reduction in the brain can mean problems concentrating and thinking?

Recent studies show that more than 75% of our population may be suffering from chronic dehydration. At the time I heard of this study I worked as a physical therapist in a medical surgical wing of a local hospital. As I thought about this it seemed like everyone who was admitted was put on IV fluids to rehydrate them. I also remember that most of them felt much better the next morning.

Dehydration occurs when the loss of body fluids exceeds the amount that is taken in. With dehydration, more water is moving out of our cells and bodies than what we take in through drinking.

We constantly lose water in the form of water vapor in the breath we exhale and in our excreted sweat, urine, and stool.

When we lose too much water, our bodies may become out of balance or dehydrated. Severe dehydration can lead to death.

In Your Body’s Many Cries For Water, Dr. Batmanghelidj, M.D. States that as a result of extensive research into the role of water in the body, he believes that he has found chronic dehydration to be the cause of many conditions including asthma, allergies, arthritis, angina, migraine headaches, hypertensionelevated cholesterol, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis, depression, and diabetes in the elderly.

One of the first signs of Dehydration

One of the first signs of Dehydration is Fatigue. One of my home health patients, who recently underwent a total knee replacement asked me “Do your nurses know anything about excessive fatigue?” I replied, “Sure they do but I, as a physical therapist, also work with people with fatigue. Try increasing your water intake.” A couple of days later he was full of energy and no longer fatigued. He continued to a rapid recovery.

Sudden Death in Sports

There have been reports of sudden death of athletes after working hard on the field. Trained professional athletes are in the best physical condition anyone can be. Consider this: When a person works or plays hard they lose fluid in the form of perspiration. Much of that fluid comes from the blood- making it thicker or more viscous. When people are at risk of having a heart attack or stroke their physicians put them on “blood thinners.” It has been suggested that “water” is the best natural blood thinner.

Change your fluid intake

Another one of my home health patients was confined to her room upstairs. One of her goals was to get strong enough to walk down the stairs and have meals with her husband. When I asked her how much water she is drinking she said, “Very little. I mostly drink soda pop.” I suggested that she increase her water intake. I said, “I don’t care how much soda you drink… just increase the amount of water you drink.” She agreed to do so.

As I went back to see her every few days she told me that she was drinking more water and that she could only drink so much fluid so her soda pop intake was steadily decreasing. Soon, she was drinking much more water than soda. As a result, she became stronger, learned to walk down the stairs and within a few weeks she was walking with me outside and around the house. She got her freedom back.

A MUST WATCH Video by Dr. Corinne Allen

I want to recommend an excellent YouTube video. Dr. Corinne Allen gives an amazing summary of dehydration and how it affects our brain. Some of her quotes, from the video, include:

  • Water is the most important ingredient in the health of your brain.
  • Water is essential to superior mental health and wellness
  • Dehydration Dangers: Reducing water in the body as little as 5% can result in as much as a 20-30% drop in your physical performance. 10% reduction can make you sick. 20% can mean death. 1-2% reduction in the brain’s hydration can mean problems concentrating and thinking.
  • Morning sickness is caused by dehydration
  • Many drugs lead to dehydration
  • Aging causes decreased thirst sensation resulting in dehydration
  • Edema means dehydration
  • Stress causes dehydration
  • Dehydration brings on feelings of depression and anxiety. The worse the dehydration the worse the depression and anxiety.
  • Alzheimer’s have increased dehydration.
  • One cause of exacerbations of Multiple Sclerosis is Dehydration
  • Dehydration is a trigger for seizures.

I have posted her video here so you can hear it directly from Dr. Allen:

Author: Tom LeBlanc, PT Certified Preceptor

TomLeBlancPT.com Tom LeBlanc, PT has enjoyed helping, encouraging and empowering individuals to Optimal Health and Function for over 40 years. As a physical therapist he has worked in Acute Hospitals, Rehab Centers, Outpatient Clinics, Geriatrics, in his Private Practice, and in the Home Health Environment where he is currently working at Encompass Home Health and Hospice.

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