While the body can subsist for many days without food, it can only last a few days without water. Since the body is comprised 75% of water and is the major ingredient for various bodily functions, chronic dehydration can have short and long-term consequences for vital organs such as the kidneys.
Since water is constantly lost through the lungs (breathing), skin (perspiration), excretion (urination and defecation), when a person does not drink enough water (8 glasses recommended per day), nor replenish his/her bodily fluids frequently enough, dehydration occurs. Because the kidneys play a key role in balancing minerals (calcium, sodium, potassium) in blood, lack of water can interfere with blood chemistry, muscle action and other processes. Changes in levels of water in the body cause tension in body tissue, muscle, and organs, resulting in restrictive blood flow. When the body can not cleanse itself properly through the kidneys, the bloodstream becomes a dumping ground for toxins.
When there is shortage of water in the body, it activates the RA system (Renin-Angiotension) which makes the body hold on to whatever water is present, and gives instruction for the kidneys not to urinate. At the same time, the RA stimulates sodium absorption which helps the body retain bodily fluids. Obviously, this action creates a great deal of pressure against blood vessel walls. Chronic dehydration can keep blood pressure abnormally high and cause cardiovascular disease. A well-hydrated body excretes clear urine, while in a state of dehydration, urine is usually dark in color.
Signs of dehydration can manifest in symptoms of headache, lethargy, and mood swings. One can experience weakness, tiredness, confusion, or hallucination. Physical signs of dehydration include dry or cracked lips, dry nasal passages, and dark-colored urine. When urination stops, it means the kidneys have stopped working. When the filtration system can no longer remove toxins from the body, in extreme cases, death can result.
Hypertension (high blood pressure), together with the retention of urine in kidneys can lead to kidney damage. In addition, chronic dehydration can lead to the creation of kidney stones, as it causes congestion in the kidneys. Chronic dehydration disrupts the mechanics of regulating blood volume and filtering urine from the body. This balance has to be continually maintained.
When the kidneys can no longer separate urine from blood effectively, the portion that is not filtered keeps circulating through the body, depositing waste products into blood vessels, joints, tissues, and organs. When this happens, all sorts of physical symptoms come about: skin disease, sweating hands and feet, water retention, strong body odor, abdominal bloating, and high blood pressure. These are all signs of blood toxicity caused by formation of kidney crystals or stones.
Kidney stones can cause severe pain in the loins or lower back. There may also be blood in urine; pain up and down the legs; numbness in the thighs, or difficulty urinating. If large kidney stones enter the ureter (tube that holds urine connecting kidney to bladder), they block urine flow by causing an obstruction; this leads to kidney infection or failure.
Besides maintaining electrolyte balance, bodily fluids, and regulating blood pressure, the kidneys are also responsible for clearing the body of heavy metals: lead, mercury, cadmium, and other impassable pollutants. When levels of heavy metals are raised, the body’s general level of toxicity is also raised; this can result in infection, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, brain disorders, etc.
The body’s need for water can not be emphasized enough, as one can see that chronic dehydration has a rippling effect which incorporates many bodily processes, especially the vital role of kidneys in keeping the body healthy and strong.