What is Dehydration?

What is Dehydration?

To function correctly and remain healthy, our body requires the correct internal balance of water and electrolytes.

Every day our body loses fluid and electrolytes via urine, sweat, saliva, and other bodily fluids. Usually, a normal, healthy diet will serve to replace lost electrolytes and fluid.

Certain conditions such as vomiting and diarrhea, heavy sweating, or lack of food and fluid intake can lead to inadequate levels of fluid and electrolytes within our bodies. This is called dehydration.

We lose fluid and electrolytes via four major mechanisms

  1. Vomiting
  2. Diarrhea
  3. Sweat
  4. Urine

We only have to lose as little as 2% of our body weight rapidly and signs of dehydration will become apparent.
Mild to moderate dehydration is commonly defined as 2-6% of body weight loss through fluid.

The Function of Water and Electrolytes

Water accounts for a large percentage of our total body weight: 70% in infants, 60% in men, 55% in women and 45% in the older population (> 65 years of age).

Water has a number of important functions in the body:

  • Helps to maintain body temperature
  • Assist with digestion
  • Lubricates the tissues and joints
  • Primary solvent for the transport of nutrients and metabolites

Electrolytes (such as sodium, potassium and chloride) are dissolved in the water in our body.


  • Help the body retain fluid
  • Are essential for nerve and muscle function
  • Are usually consumed in our food


The amount of water and electrolytes in the body at any one time is controlled by how much fluid we consume and how much fluid we lose daily.

Water and electrolytes move around the body constantly to maintain the correct balance. This allows the body to perform normal functions correctly.

We ingest fluid and electrolytes through the food and water we consume every day.

We lose fluids through vomiting, diarrhea, sweat and urine.

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