top of page

Dehydration: A Hidden Health Concern.

Dehydration is a pervasive issue that often flies under the radar in the United Kingdom. According to Water Logic, people in the UK are only consuming approximately 53% of their recommended daily water intake. While exact figures on the prevalence of dehydration are elusive due to many mild and moderate cases being managed at home, the International Longevity Centre (ILC) UK has reported that as many as a quarter of care home patients admitted to hospitals suffer from dehydration.

When it comes to dehydration we are working with fine margins, a minor 1% decrease in our body's overall water content can significantly impede the functioning of various organs, attentiveness, critical thinking skills, memory and our mood.

Here is the kicker, it takes a 2% reduction in total water content BEFORE your body initiates the sensation of thirst.

This implies that your body may experience reduced energy levels, mood fluctuations, dizziness, and hunger before it signals dehydration as the underlying cause.

What will most of do first? Grab a coffee and eat some food!

In this article, we will provide you with tips and strategies for mitigating the impact of dehydration.

Guidelines for Fluid Intake

There is a LACK of real scientifically backed 'Gold Standard' for fluid intake values for INDIVIDUALS. In March 2010 the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) issued a report suggesting an adequate total daily intake of:

  • 2 litres of fluids for women

  • 2.5 litres for men

The optimal daily water intake remains a subject of debate, with no universally accepted standard.

According to Bupa, on average, adults lose:

- 1.5 litres of fluids per day through urination

- 500ml through sweat

- 200ml through defecation

However, this guideline doesn't account for variations based on factors like climate, activity level, amount of caffeine you consume (because this will increase sympathetic activity and increase your water loss through sweat), alcohol, whether you are eating processed or whole foods, and your occupation.

Dr. Andy Galpin, a Professor of Kinesiology at California State University, devised an equation that offers personalised guidance:

A loose personalised guideline for DAILY fluid consumption is:

Daily Fluid Intake = Your bodyweight in pounds divided by 2.
The results is in OUNCES. Then convert to litres.

Lets do this on me!

169 lbs / 2 = 84.5 ounces = 2.5L a day


This guidance is based on lean body weight. This is because around 76% of muscle weight is water compared to only 10% in Adipose tissue (fat tissue). Therefore, if you are not ‘ideal body weight’ or have low lean muscle mass you ideally would need to consume less water a day when using the above equation.

With 63.5% of adults in the UK being overweight, then is the fluid guidance appropriate for 63.5% of adults in the UK?

Dehydration: The Silent Threat

Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluid than it takes in, impairing normal bodily functions. On average, water makes up around 60% of body weight in males, 50-55% for females; though this varies depending on age and body composition (a higher proportion of body fat means that the body water content as a proportion is lower). Fluid in the body is a vital resource found in organs, bones, skin, cells, and blood vessels.

Water plays a critical role in various bodily functions, including metabolic processes, temperature regulation, organ protection, waste removal, and digestion. It also lubricates joints, aids brain function, and maintains cardiovascular health.

Factors affecting water balance include physical activity, environmental conditions, diet, age, illnesses, and medications. The body continuously loses water through processes like sweating, urination, breathing, and defecation, necessitating regular fluid replenishment. Thirst serves as a signal that the body requires more fluids; however, relying solely on thirst can lead to dehydration.

Degrees of Dehydration

The severity of dehydration varies and can be categorised as mild, moderate, or severe based on the extent of fluid loss relative to body weight.

  • Mild Dehydration: Occurs when 1%-2% of body weight is lost due to fluid depletion. Symptoms include thirst, reduced urination, dark urine, dizziness, fatigue, dry mouth, cool skin, and headaches.

  • Moderate Dehydration: Involves a 5%-9% loss of body weight due to fluid depletion. Symptoms become more pronounced, including lethargy, increased respiratory rate, sunken eyes, and dry mucous membranes.

  • Severe Dehydration: Occurs when 10% or more of body weight is lost due to fluid depletion. Symptoms intensify and may include a rapid heartbeat, weak pulse, seizures, confusion, extremely dry skin, pale skin, hypotension, and a reduced conscious state.

Preventing Dehydration

Preventing dehydration is crucial for maintaining health and well-being. Several strategies can help reduce the risk of dehydration:

  • Stay Hydrated Consistently: Don't wait until you feel thirsty to drink water, as thirst is an early sign of dehydration.

  • Morning Hydration: First urine of the day is a great indicator for your hydration status.

  • Adjust for Weather: In hot or humid weather, increase your water intake to compensate for extra sweating.

  • Eat whole food: Fruits, MEAT and vegetables are rich in water, salts, and vitamins, aiding hydration.

  • Watch What You Drink: Limit consumption of high-protein, caffeinated, fizzy, and alcoholic beverages, as they can contribute to dehydration. See below.

  • Hydrate with Exercise: Increase fluid intake before, during (depending on length), and after exercise to replace lost fluids.

  • Monitor Urine and Mouth Moisture: Pale yellow urine indicates hydration, while dry mouth and dry lips may signal dehydration.

A small study of five men compared the hydration levels of five endurance athletes as they consumed low, moderate, and high amounts of protein.

The researchers found that “as the amount of protein consumed went up, the degree of hydration progressively went down.” The takeaway, they noted, is that if you’re on a high-protein diet, it’s important to drink more to prevent dehydration, even if you don’t feel thirsty. This could be due to higher nitrogen levels with increase in protein intake.

For me personally, I find the more protein I consume, the thirstier I feel.

Treatment for Dehydration

When dehydration occurs, prompt intervention is essential. The fastest way to rehydrate is by consuming an electrolyte drink, which contains essential minerals like sodium, magnesium, calcium, and potassium.

Remember mild dehydration occurs when 1%-2% of body weight is lost due to fluid depletion.

Recognising Dehydration

Being aware of the signs and symptoms of dehydration is crucial for prompt intervention:

In Adults:

  • Thirst

  • Poor concentration

  • Dry lips and mouth

  • Dizziness or light headedness

  • Fatigue

  • Dark urine

  • Dry or cool skin

  • Headaches

  • Muscle cramps

  • Low mood

A simple test involves pinching the skin on the back of the hand; if it maintains a tented shape, it may indicate dehydration.

Causes of Dehydration

Dehydration can result from inadequate water intake, excessive water loss, or a combination of both. Common causes include:

  • Not drinking enough water due to busyness, forgetfulness, lack of access, or illness.

  • Excessive water loss through diarrhoea, vomiting, high fever, excessive sweating, increased urination, or alcohol consumption.

  • Diabetes, which can lead to increased urination and dehydration due to elevated glucose levels.

Preventing Dehydration

Preventing dehydration is essential for maintaining overall health. Key strategies include:

  • Meeting YOUR own daily fluid intake recommendations (see above).

  • Increasing water intake depending on exercise levels

  • Staying hydrated in hot or humid climates.

  • Avoid feeling thirsty during the day.

  • Boosting fluid intake during illness.

  • Caring for vulnerable populations, like the elderly, by providing easy access to fluids and hydrating foods.

In conclusion, dehydration is a prevalent yet often underestimated health concern in the United Kingdom. Raising awareness of the importance of proper hydration and implementing preventive measures can help combat this silent threat and improve overall well-being across all age groups.


37 views0 comments


bottom of page