Can Diarrhea Cause Severe Dehydration?

Water is one of the most essential ingredients for a healthy body. According to Medical News Today, it is critical to drink water every day in order to maintain a healthy and functioning system. For example, water supports the regulation of body temperature, protects the spine, lubricates the joints, and even removes bodily waste. This makes sense, considering that the human body is made up of about 60% water. The minimum average recommendation for fluid consumption per day is around 15 cups for men and 11 cups for women.

If you do not have enough water in your body you can become dehydrated. As soon as you begin to feel thirsty, in fact, that is a sign of mild dehydration (per Cleveland Clinic). Symptoms of dehydration can range from mild headaches and fatigue to dizziness, and in extreme cases, dehydration can be life-threatening. However, mild dehydration can be fixed by consuming fluids and may make you feel better in as little as 5 minutes. Moderate dehydration, on the other hand, may require intravenous hydration at a healthcare provider. Nonetheless, diarrhea can be a common cause of dehydration. Here's everything you need to know.

What happens to the body when you are dehydrated

There are many warning signs to look out for that could mean you are dehydrated. According to the National Health Service, an infant may show signs of drowsiness, a lack of tears when crying, irritability, a soft spot or fontanelle on the top of the head, and even droopy eyes. For adults and children, indicators can include strong scented and dark urine, extreme thirst, dry mouth, lips, and tongue, less frequent urination, and experiencing feelings of exhaustion.

As you dehydrate, several things happen in the body that can lead to loss of coordination, memory, and even a poor mood, as per a 2007 article in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. In other words, your blood can get more concentrated, which makes your kidneys try to retain water and urinate less (per ScienceAlert). Plus, the thicker blood pushes the cardiovascular system into overdrive and can result in overheating. In addition, researchers have found dehydration to even lessen the amount of fluid in your brain tissues, leading to cognitive and motor issues, as per a 2015 study in the American Journal of Neuroradiology.  

Diarrhea and severe dehydration

Diarrhea is when you have watery and nonsolid bowel movements that cause a loss of water in your body (per Mayo Clinic). While moderate diarrhea can lead to mild dehydration, more extreme cases of diarrhea can actually cause you to lose a dangerous amount of fluids, especially if it lasts for more than two days. The experts at the Mayo Clinic note that infants, children, and older people are some of the most at risk for dehydration from severe diarrhea.

However, the real risks of dehydration come from diarrhea that is left untreated, according to Healthline. In fact, if left unchecked, severe diarrhea can lead to severe dehydration. With that being said, there are a number of serious health concerns that can develop from severe dehydration, such as hypovolemic shock, failure of the kidneys, kidney stones, low blood pressure, seizures, urinary tract infections, and in extreme cases, it can be lethal.

To prevent dehydration in children, WebMD recommends giving them oral rehydration solutions and even fruit juices or sports drinks. For older adults, consuming seven glasses filled with 8 ounces of water per day is best in addition to liquid alternatives for meals. Notably, if diarrhea lasts for more than two days, you should get in contact with your doctor.