Dehydration: Symptoms, Causes & Treatments


Most of us are going about our day dehydrated and don’t even know it because we just don’t recognise the severe signs and symptoms.  Dehydration is not a situation the body takes lightly,  its consequences can be immediate and severe.


Water is an important structural component of our body - our skin, cartilage, tissues and organs in fact every single cell.  For human beings, every part of our body is dependent on water. Our body comprises about 75% water - the brain is 91%, blood is 90%, muscles are 75%, the kidney is 82% and bones are 22% water. The functions of our glands and organs will eventually deteriorate if they are not adequately and consistently nourished with water.


In fact, a general lack of understanding of health and wellness among elderly people is one of the leading causes of increased morbidity and mortality rates. As such, it is vital to understand the importance of proper hydration and how to watch out for the signs and symptoms of dehydration in adults and children.


What is Dehydration?

Dehydration is ultimately described as the physiological condition where the body loses fluids at a faster speed than can be replaced. Naturally, this will be a gradual scale of dehydration that can arise starting with mild signs and spreading to more severe dehydration symptoms.


Fluid loss doesn’t exclusively mean just water loss, either. Fluids in the body are a soupy mix of electrolytes, salts and other essential minerals which are needed by the body to perform at optimum levels.  All these components are in the water that surrounds every single one of our cells.  When you are dehydrated, not only have you lost water, but also these vital components that go with it.  As such, these same minerals and electrolytes are required to be consumed with the fluids you intake for proper rehydration.


Symptoms and Signs of Dehydration: How to Tell if You’re Dehydrated?

Symptoms of the body’s deterioration begin to appear when the body loses 2% of its total water volume. In a healthy adult, this can be seen as fatigue and general discomfort.  In an elderly person, a 5% water loss causes the body chemistry to become abnormal and one can usually see symptoms of aging, such as wrinkles, lethargy and even disorientation. Continuous water loss over time will speed up aging as well as increase the risks of diseases. When assessing if you are dehydrated look for the following common symptoms:


  • Difficulty focusing, light-headedness & dizziness
  • Yawning
  • Craving sugar, sweets and caffeine
  • Erratic and moody behaviour
  • Aches & pains unrelated to injury/infection, especially headaches
  • Sneezing
  • Trouble with basic math
  • Urine is dark with a strong smell (morning time aside)


If your body is not sufficiently hydrated, the cells will draw water from your bloodstream, which will make your heart work harder. At the same time, the kidneys cannot purify the blood effectively. When this happens, some of the kidney's workload is passed on to the liver and other organs, which may cause them to be severely stressed. Additionally, you may develop a number of minor health conditions such as constipation, dry and itchy skin, acne, nosebleeds, urinary tract infection, coughs, sneezing, sinus pressure, and headaches.


Severe Dehydration Symptoms & Risk Factors

Should water loss continue and you do not receive treatment, a range of severe dehydration symptoms can present themselves in addition to those listed above. As the body falls into this stage, it becomes a severe and even life-threatening condition, potentially causing damage to your kidneys, brain and heart. Treatment will therefore have to be more aggressive in a clinical setting with specialised management techniques.


If dehydration becomes a recurring condition, your body will lapse into something known as ‘chronic dehydration’. This is where the body will try to operate on a reduced amount of water rather than simply waiting for a replenished supply, namely by prioritising essential functions.


As a result, the signs and symptoms of severe or chronic dehydration can include those above, as well as:


  • Constipation
  • Fainting
  • Ongoing fatigue
  • Dry, flaky skin
  • Muscle weakness
  • Headaches


What Causes Dehydration?

Having understood what dehydration is and the signs and symptoms, it is important to understand what causes this situation in the first place.  In a nutshell, dehydration is caused by a loss and a lack of essential fluids.  This can be brought about via a number of events:

  • Severe and prolonged bouts of vomiting, diarrhoea causing fluid loss
  • Not replacing fluids lost on a daily basis through sweat and urination.
  • Using fluids that do not rehydrate the body adequately.
  • Using fluids and foods that actively dehydrate the body


We are going to explore the last two causes of dehydration.

You would think that some automatic biological impulse would kick in with dehydration signs saying, Alert alert! Thirsty thirsty! And it does! It is called the thirst mechanism but for most modern people it’s not working properly.


The thirst mechanism can reduce functionality over time due to the aging process but one of the primary causes for its failure is that people are trying to satisfy their thirst with other beverages or food. We hear the message from our brain alerting us to our thirst but instead of reaching for water, we reach for other beverages including tea, coffee, juice, soft drinks or milk or food. For those of us who do reach for water to quench our thirst, it is often water that is incapable of hydrating us on a cellular level.


Let’s look at each of these situations separately.


Quenching thirst with other beverages

Beverages like juice, milk, tea, coffee and soft drinks are all liquid elements that require the body to put in energy and effort to digest them. Once digested,  waste products are created, this in turn can dehydrate the tissue cells further adding to their acid load. The poor kidneys then have much more work to do to support and hydrate the system. To further exacerbate the problem, caffeine drinks and soft drinks are also diuretics, which simply creates further dehydration, a Catch-22 situation.


Far from addressing the dehydration problem, drinking these other beverages in fact increases the problem. The initial thirst mechanism worked by sending the message of thirst, but unfortunately, our modern response is most often to reach for a processed product rather than the natural thirst-quenching solution of good old mother nature’s natural spring water!  This is very common in today’s world. We mistake the thirst mechanism for hunger or reach for other beverages, neither of which addresses the problem.


Not a single one of these liquid foods can be counted as a replacement for 'water'. Nothing else does what water does in the body. If the average adult loses 2.5 litres of water per day then of course this amount needs to be replaced. More active individuals can need 3 litres or more for optimum health. These other liquid beverages do not hydrate. In fact, they add to dehydration, placing an already dehydrated system under more strain.


With our new understanding of dehydration and its impact on the body, consider for a moment the consequences for our children and younger adults who are repeatedly exposed to highly processed products – highly caffeinated, high sugar and added flavourings.  The consequences for their bodies are dire and the impact can be seen most noticeably in their behaviour and moods which can become erratic,  depressive in some cases, and violent. 


Quenching thirst with the wrong water

zazen Water is underpinned by one important understanding: Not all water is the same.


Many people complain about feeling bloated when they drink tap water, or bottled water… and regardless of the amount they drink in a day they still feel thirsty! Some report drinking 3 litres per day! Why are they still feeling thirsty…? This is because the water they are choosing to guzzle, cannot be used by the body effectively and sits in the stomach while the body tries to use it!


For water to effectively hydrate your body it must be:


  • filtered (cleaned of toxins, bad bacteria and chemicals) – reducing the toxin load on your body – so your body is NOT the filter!
  • Mineral, electrolyte-rich and balanced
  • mildly alkaline (your blood is 7.4 pH slightly alkaline)
  • naturally energised
  • have smaller water clusters


Neither tap water, bottled water, filtered water, nor overly alkaline water achieves this balance of ingredients. zazen “Alkaline Mineral” Water is designed to be all of these things — the perfectly balanced water able to be received and absorbed into the body at a cellular level meeting the modern-day body’s hydration requirements.


How to treat & prevent dehydration?

The key to preventing dehydration is by getting ahead of the curve. Follow simple strategies like ensuring you always have a water bottle on hand to top up your fluid levels, opting for fresh water instead of sugary beverages, both when at home and eating out. Actively reducing your intake of dehydrating substances.  This is especially important when you are ill and experiencing vomiting or diarrhoea symptoms, when you are exposed to hotter environments, or when you are exercising or completing a strenuous activity.


If you need to actively rehydrate as a form of dehydration treatment, it is crucial to consume water filled with the required minerals and electrolytes and replenish those lost, such as sodium, magnesium, potassium, calcium and phosphate.


There is a range of potential benefits from consuming alkaline water that mimics Mother Nature’s own process.. With the zazen Alkaline Water System, you can take advantage of the state-of-the-art 10-stage water filtration process. It begins with eliminating pollutants, chemicals and contaminants that find their way into the water supply, and then reintroducing the natural alkaline minerals and electrolytes. Thus producing a delicious tasting, balanced, mineralised water that is uniquely designed for cellular hydration.



Picetti D, Foster S, Pangle AK, Schrader A, George M, Wei JY, Azhar G. Hydration health literacy in the elderly. Nutr Healthy Aging. 2017 Dec 7;4(3):227-237. doi: 10.3233/NHA-170026. PMID: 29276792; PMCID: PMC5734130.


Riebl SK, Davy BM. The Hydration Equation: Update on Water Balance and Cognitive Performance. ACSMs Health Fit J. 2013 Nov;17(6):21-28. doi: 10.1249/FIT.0b013e3182a9570f. PMID: 25346594; PMCID: PMC4207053.


Thomas DR, Cote TR, Lawhorne L, Levenson SA, Rubenstein LZ, Smith DA, Stefanacci RG, Tangalos EG, Morley JE; Dehydration Council. Understanding clinical dehydration and its treatment. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2008 Jun;9(5):292-301. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2008.03.006. PMID: 18519109.


Wilson DR, Roland J, How to Recognize Severe Dehydration and What to Do, Healthline 19 November 2019,


Sampson S, Watson K, What Does It Mean When Dehydration Becomes Long-Term and Serious?, Healthline, 20 July 2018,


Thomas DR, Cote TR, Lawhorne L, Levenson SA, Rubenstein LZ, Smith DA, Stefanacci RG, Tangalos EG, Morley JE; Dehydration Council. Understanding clinical dehydration and its treatment. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2008 Jun;9(5):292-301. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2008.03.006. PMID: 18519109.


Cleveland Clinic, Electrolytes, Cleveland Clinic, 24 September 2021,

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