best chronic dehydration prevention is timely hydration

Why Can’t I Stay Hydrated? Chronic Dehydration Symptoms and Treatment Options

Chronic dehydration occurs when a person cannot stay hydrated regardless of how much they drink.1 Unlike acute dehydration, which can be corrected by grabbing a glass of water, chronic dehydration persists even after attempting to rehydrate. Since chronic dehydration can lead to health problems, taking steps to correct this imbalance as soon as possible can optimize your overall wellness.

What Causes Chronic Dehydration?

Typically, drinking enough water and eating foods with a naturally high water content are sufficient to keep you hydrated. However, some people can develop a condition known as chronic dehydration, where a person cannot maintain adequate hydration no matter how much water they drink and suffer unpleasant side effects.

There are many possible causes of chronic dehydration. Identifying your risk factors can help you make informed decisions on how to effectively hydrate, saving you time and reducing the hassle of trial and error.

Most Common Causes

Prescription medications are great at improving a whole host of symptoms and treating many types of illnesses. However, some prescriptions can actually dehydrate you. Diuretics are substances which increase your frequency of urination, meaning that you can become dehydrated more quickly than you expect.

Certain medications have side effects such as vomiting or diarrhea, which, when used over an extended period of time, can also contribute to chronic dehydration.

Be aware of the potential side effects of any prescription medication you are taking. This awareness can help you take steps to prevent chronic dehydration before it starts.

These days, stress is all too commonplace at the office or on campus. The connection between stress and hydration is something of a vicious cycle.

Our bodies need a baseline of fluids to function properly. Factors such as physical activity, the temperature outside, and – you guessed it – stress can increase how quickly our bodies become dehydrated. Dehydration can increase your body’s level of cortisol, the main stress hormone, which in turn leads to increased stress.

In addition to this, stress itself puts a greater strain on your body and leads to an increased fluid intake to maintain optimal hydration levels. Stress can decrease your body’s production of the hormone aldosterone, which is primarily in charge of regulating sodium conservation. Although this hormone only indirectly influences water retention and loss, it can still impact your overall hydration.

If you’re feeling stressed, reach for a glass of water and take a few minutes to meditate. You could also get a multivitamin with the right minerals and vitamins to help you with stress relief. This way you’ll start feeling the positive effects of healthy hydration in no time.

Whether you’re a casual gym-goer or a dedicated athlete, physical activity depletes your body’s level of hydration.2 Sweating causes you to lose essential electrolytes and fluids which must be restored to help you stay at optimal hydration.

It can be easy to lose track of how much water you’ve had when you have been working out. By divvying up your hydration routine in to Pre-workout, Mid-workout, and especially Post-workout hydration, you can prevent yourself from becoming dehydrated.

Post-workout hydration in particular is easy for most casual gym-goers to skip, since exercise-related dehydration is often associated with professional or endurance athletes. This can lead to a build up of dehydration over time, which means that you’ll wind up working to catch up from behind.

In addition to dehydration, electrolyte loss can also contribute to muscle cramping. Taking steps to stay hydrated before, during, and after your workout can not only prevent dehydration, it can help improve your workout recovery.

Not drinking enough water is one of the top causes of chronic dehydration, and there are many potential reasons this can happen.

  • Hot weather, which causes you to sweat and lose fluids faster than you can replace them
  • Cold weather, which can impact your sense of thirst
  • Physical activity
  • Not having water on hand
  • Drinking other types of beverages (eg. sodas, tea and coffee, alcohol)

Some people find the taste of plain water unappetizing. If this sounds like you, consider adding fruits to your water or getting a sugar-free electrolyte solution mix-in to help improve the taste of your next cup.

High Alcohol or Caffeine Consumption

Alcohol and caffeine are both diuretics, meaning that they stimulate water loss through urination. Both act to suppress the release of vasopressin, a hormone that helps regulate the release of water from your kidneys.

If alcohol and caffeine are a normal part of your routine, make sure to drink enough water between these beverages!

Underlying Health Conditions

Your kidney is responsible for filtering waste from your blood, producing urine, and balancing the fluids in your body. When your kidney function is impaired, such as with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), your kidneys may not be able to keep the fluids in your body in balance.

Complicating matters, dehydration can contribute to kidney damage. Insufficient fluid levels make it difficult for your kidneys to function normally and can contribute to high levels of minerals and waste, as well as clog the kidneys with deposits of myoglobin (muscle proteins).

Chronic dehydration can also cause kidney stones, a painful condition caused by the development of crystals within the kidneys. Typically, adequate fluid intake prevents the formation of these crystals.

Dehydration may also cause urinary tract infections, which can cause a kidney infection if left untreated, as bacteria travels through the urethra (which carries urine out of the body) and into the kidneys.

Staying hydrated is essential to prevent kidney stones, urinary tract infections, and other complications. If you have a kidney disorder, it’s imperative that you consult with your doctor to help treat your condition.

Diabetes is an endocrine disorder in which the body cannot use insulin properly or the pancreas either does not produce enough insulin to maintain normal blood sugar levels.

People with diabetes have an increased risk of chronic dehydration because high blood sugar levels negatively impact hydration. When your blood sugar levels are high, your kidneys filter excess sugar from your blood and excrete it as urine. This process dehydrates your body. Without rehydrating, your body starts drawing fluids from other sources, such as your mouth, eyes, and other cells.

Drinking plenty of fluids can help maintain normal fluid balance and prevent dehydration. Electrolyte solutions can correct moderate dehydration; however, make sure to choose sugar-free options.

Adrenal gland disorders can occur due to infections, genetics, cancer, tumors in the pituitary gland, and more.

Addison’s disease (adrenal insufficiency), occurs when your body does not produce enough cortisol (the stress hormone) over time. This condition can contribute to dehydration because it impacts the levels of aldosterone – a hormone that regulates the balance of fluids and salt.

Dehydration can also trigger or be a symptom of an acute adrenal crisis, a dangerous complication of Addison’s disease.

Age-Related Risks

Elderly individuals are particularly susceptible to chronic dehydration. Due to age, their sense of thirst may not be what it once was.

Their kidney function may also be impaired, causing them to lose more fluids than they take in. Additionally, certain medications can also cause fluid loss.

Left untreated, chronic dehydration in elderly individuals can cause urinary tract infections, kidney stones, balance issues, and other problems.

Caretakers should make sure that water is readily available and remind their charges to drink water throughout the day.

Older individuals living on their own may want to consider setting timers or reminders to drink water at regular intervals to help prevent dehydration. Incorporating water-rich fruits and vegetables into daily meals can also help promote optimal hydration.

Children are still growing, and they have different fluid requirements because their metabolic rate is higher than adults. Like other populations, chronic dehydration in children can occur when they do not drink enough fluids over time. Young children and infants may have difficulty communicating when they are thirsty, making it challenging to know if they are adequately hydrated.

Pay attention to how often your child is visiting the bathroom or if you notice fewer wet diapers. The color of their urine is also important to note – if it’s dark yellow or orange, they are dehydrated and need to drink some fluids.

Make sure that water is readily available to your child. If they do not like plain water, consider flavoring it with fluids or electrolyte solutions. Alternatively, offer them fruit juice, coconut water, or other hydrating options.

Chronic Dehydration Symptoms

Chronic dehydration can cause a wide range of symptoms. Many of these overlap with other conditions, so it’s important to talk to your doctor if your symptoms persist.

It’s essential to seek medical care if you think you or a loved one has severe dehydration. This condition can cause seizures, organ failure, brain damage, and death.

Chronic dehydration can cause several long-term effects if left untreated, including kidney stones or kidney damage, urinary tract infections, and organ damage.

  • Chronic thirst
  • Dry or sticky mouth
  • Decreased urine output (less than 4 trips to the bathroom in a day for adults)
  • Dark-colored urine (dark orange or brownish)
  • Dry and less elastic skin
  • Dry or chapped lips
  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Constipation
  • Headaches
  • Changes in digestive, kidney, or heart function
  • Chronic irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Slower cognitive functioning
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shallow breathing
  • Sunken eyes and shriveled skin
  • Unconsciousness or delirium
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness after standing up that doesn’t go away
  • Seizures
  • Not urinating in over 8 hours
  • Lethargy

What Happens When You Are Dehydrated?

Hydration is important for everyone, but is especially crucial for athletes, the elderly, people who are taking certain medications, and people who are battling illness or recovering from surgery.

While skipping a glass of water might not seem like a big deal in the moment, dehydration can cause many uncomfortable symptoms. Left unchecked, dehydration can become severe and lead to hospitalization in some cases.

But what really happens when you are dehydrated? Because every single one of your cells require an adequate amount of fluid to function properly, dehydration can impact your entire body.


Dehydration headaches are inconvenient and often painful.3 In some individuals, dehydration headaches can actually trigger migraines.

Dehydration reduces the amount of cushioning fluid that surrounds your brain. The end result is that your brain actually pulls away from the interior of your skull, causing the symptoms of a dehydration headache.

Confusion is another potential symptom of dehydration. If you are feeling confused or unable to focus for no apparent reason, make sure you’re hydrated


Without adequate hydration, your body goes into conservation mode. Your cells need fluid to operate properly, so when they don’t have enough fluid to produce the energy you need to feel your best, you might feel fatigued or tired. If you are suddenly, inexplicably tired, grab a glass of water. Dehydration might be the culprit.

Dark Urine

Dark yellow urine is a tell-tale sign of dehydration.4 To conserve water when you are dehydrated, your kidneys slow down urine production. As a result, your urine can turn a dark yellow color as the contents become concentrated.

Dry Mouth and Dry Skin

Short-term dehydration can cause your mouth to develop a dry, sticky feeling. For people with chronic dehydration, your skin can become dry and start to flake or take on a pinched appearance.

Muscle Cramps

Dehydration can cause muscle cramps in anyone who is active. People who live in Los Angeles are especially susceptible to dehydration during a workout. Both heat and sweating contribute to becoming dehydrated quickly, increasing the likelihood of developing muscle cramps without rehydrating regularly.

How to Treat Chronic Dehydration

There are many natural ways to treat chronic dehydration. Using a combination of techniques can help you stay hydrated and feel great all day.

In some cases, the cause of chronic dehydration is an underlying condition such as diabetes, kidney problems, or malabsorption issues. If your symptoms do not improve, you may want to consider scheduling an appointment with your doctor. Left untreated, dehydration can cause a host of issues from dry skin to low energy, and even hospital visits in worst-case scenarios.

When you’re dehydrated, the first thing you will probably do is grab a glass or bottle of water. Although hydrating this way is easy and takes care of mild dehydration given some time, oral hydration isn’t as efficient as it may seem. When it comes to quickly rehydrating your body, IV hydration is better than drinking fluids for treating dehydration.

Your digestive system has to use some of the water you’ve ingested to process the liquid at all. IV hydration therapy is administered directly into your bloodstream, bypassing your stomach, where it is instantly available to your cells for fast, 100% absorption.

Mild dehydration can be corrected easily by drinking water or eating fluid-rich foods such as fruit or vegetables. Moderate and severe dehydration, on the other hand, can be quickly corrected with IV hydration therapy.

Man dehydrated in need of IV Drip Treatment

You got this! If you need help, reach out to our medical team.

Increase Water Intake easy
Electrolyte-infused beverages easy
Natural Juices moderate
Hydrate Based on Therapy difficult
Dieting (Low Sodium, watery veggies and fruits) moderate

When is IV the best option?

Contact our offices and our team of medical professionals led by founders Dr. Abe Malkin and Dr. Neal Kumar, will answer your queries.

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Message From Our Team

From headaches to dry mouth to fatigue, chronic dehydration can cause a wide range of symptoms, contribute to the development of some medical conditions, like kidney stones, and make some conditions worse. It’s especially important for high-risk populations to stay hydrated, such as children, the elderly, and athletes, as these groups have an increased need for fluids.

Drinking water is the easiest way to prevent chronic dehydration; however, electrolyte solutions, juice, and certain fruits and vegetables can also help ensure you get the fluids you need.

It’s just as vital to avoid certain drinks when trying to stay hydrated. Alcohol and caffeine can dehydrate you, so drink these beverages in moderation.

In some cases, IV treatments are the most effective way of restoring low fluid levels. Speak to your doctor if you are having trouble staying hydrated or want to know if IV fluids are a good solution for your needs.

If you are experiencing severe dehydration, seek medical attention immediately as this condition is potentially life-threatening.

Watery Foods

Medical experts consistently advise drinking at least 11 glasses of water each day for women and 15 glasses for men, with more needed if you’re physically active or sick. Not everyone is keen on the notion of taking in that much water daily, so it’s a wise move to become acquainted with the abundance of foods you can eat to satisfy your hydration needs.

There are many healthy and readily available food options that supply a considerable amount of water to your daily diet, many of which are packed full of nutrients. Here are some food options with a high water content capable of not only quenching your thirst but also helping you avoid dehydration. They’ll also count toward your daily water total.

    • Celery – Clocking in at more than 95% water, celery is full of water and nutrients. A single, one cup serving of celery yields close to half of a cup of water, is low in calories, and is an ideal source of potassium, folate, Vitamin K, and fiber.
    • Cantaloupe – Composed of roughly 90% water, Cantaloupe offers a tremendous boost to your health in numerous ways. Rich in Vitamins A and C as well as beta-carotene, cantaloupe delivers up to 1.6 grams of dietary fiber per cup, which furthers a satisfying feeling of fullness that hydrates and reduces appetite.
    • Zucchini – Registered at over 95% percent water, Zucchini is a highly hydrating vegetable that also offers up a significant source of Vitamins A & C, potassium and magnesium. Add some to your favorite salad or bring along a freshly baked zucchini bread to your summer festivity to keep the party well fed and hydrated!
    • Soups and broths – Soups and broths are mostly made up of water, so they both make for a hydrating and nutritious meal or snack. You can easily increase nutrition with the addition of onions and mushrooms. Soups and broths containing carrots or broccoli are especially helpful when looking to meet their hydration needs.

How Long

How Long Does it Take to Hydrate Your Body?

There isn’t a single set time for how long it takes to hydrate your body. The time it takes to fully rehydrate depends on a lot of factors, including:

  • What you are drinking (water, fruit juice, electrolyte-infused sports beverage, etc,.)
  • How dehydrated you are (mild, moderate, or severe)
  • Your size and weight
  • How active you have been (in other words, if you’ve been crushing it at the gym, you’ll be far more dehydrated than someone who has been out for a walk for the same amount of time)
  • If you are sick or fighting off an illness (your body needs more fluids than usual when you’re ill)
  • If you are recovering from surgery

Rehydrating with a glass of water can take an hour or more, especially if you have been exercising. IV hydration, on the other hand, gets to work immediately regardless of whether you are mildly or severely dehydrated.

Although IV hydration may not be practical for everyday use, this treatment is very valuable when it comes to treating dehydration, especially dehydration that results from illness or sports.

Alcohol Dehydration

Alcohol is a well-known cause of dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic, which causes you to urinate more than usual. On top of that, alcohol causes your body to produce a hormone known as anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) that inhibits your body’s ability to reabsorb water.

That alcohol is a diuretic isn’t the only reason alcohol can dehydrate you. It’s easy to lose track of how much water you are drinking when you’re having fun. Add to that the fact that excessive alcohol consumption can lead to vomiting, which is dehydrating in itself, and you have the perfect recipe for dehydration and a hangover.

The best way to stay hydrated when you’re drinking is to eat (fruits and vegetables in particular contain fluids) and to drink a glass of water between alcoholic beverages. IV hydration therapy is another great way to stay hydrated and prevent a hangover.


If you are a tea lover, you may be wondering if tea can dehydrate you. After all, many types of tea contain caffeine, which is a diuretic like alcohol. Unlike alcohol, however, a recent study showed that even drinking nothing but tea for twelve hours did not significantly impact dehydration levels. When consumed in moderation, caffeine, unlike alcohol, does not appear to dehydrate you.

On top of that, tea contains a wide range of health benefits. Most notably, tea contains catechins, which are antioxidants that protect against the damage from free radicals that contribute to illness and disease. Tea also has anti-inflammatory properties, which may be beneficial to individuals who have chronic inflammation.

It’s also important to note that not all types of tea contain caffeine. Non-caffeinated herbal teas (also known as tisane) do not contain caffeine and are not diuretics. These types of teas are just as hydrating as water. Plus, they’re comforting additions to cold days or for soothing sore throats. You can drink as much herbal tea as you’d like!


You have no doubt heard that coffee can cause you to become dehydrated. Much like tea, the truth isn’t quite as simple as that. A recent study has shown that, in moderate amounts (3 – 6 cups per day), coffee is no more dehydrating than water. Another study suggests that coffee can serve as a rehydration solution for athletes, though it’s true that coffee may not feel as refreshing as a cold glass of water after an intense workout.

It’s also possible that coffee may have the added benefits of memory enhancement and cognitive support. So, coffee lovers rejoice and drink up – but in moderation! As coffee is a source of caffeine, it can contribute to jitters, restlessness, or insomnia, all of which are factors that coffee lovers should keep in mind when reaching for a late-night cup.

What about Caffeinated Sodas and Energy Drinks?

Some sodas and energy drinks contain caffeine. The common conception is that soda and energy drinks, like caffeine and coffee or tea, can dehydrate you because the amount of caffeine causes your body to expel more fluid than you are taking in.

In fact, much like tea and coffee, caffeinated sodas and energy drinks are not dehydrating when consumed in moderate amounts. However, they won’t help rehydrate you if you are already dehydrated or if they are all you drink throughout the day.

Best Drink

What is the Best Drink for Dehydration?

So, knowing that alcohol can cause dehydration while moderate caffeine consumption does not significantly impact dehydration, what should you drink when you’re dehydrated? Water is without a doubt the best drink for dehydration. It’s readily available and will quickly rehydrate your body.

Other drinks that are great for correcting dehydration include:

  • Sports beverages without added sugar
  • Fruit juices without added sugar
  • An oral rehydration solution such as Pedialyte

While reaching for a glass of water is ideal for mild dehydration, individuals who have chronic or severe dehydration can benefit from IV hydration therapy.

Are Powdered Drink Mixes Effective?

While most of us are fully aware of the crucial need to remain hydrated, 10+ glasses of water a day is a tall order for some of us. Whether you simply don’t like the taste of water or are without access to your go-to hydrating food to keep you moving, a powdered IV or electrolyte powder packet can be a good fit for an active lifestyle.

Powdered IV and electrolyte powders easily mix with water and come in a variety of customizable packets and flavors. This makes them a quick and easy option for exhausting workouts that leave the body dehydrated and in desperate need of electrolytes. They’re also easy to bring along to outdoor events, hiking or camping, sports games, and long walks on hot days.

These powdered drink packets work to replenish your body with fundamental minerals and vitamins. They often contain more electrolytes than the majority of sports drinks on the market while containing less calories and sugar. These powders deliver a nourishing blend of glucose, sodium, potassium, and other ingredients to hydrate your body in a more comprehensive fashion than drinking water alone.

Both powdered IVs and electrolyte powders are a tremendous way to give your body a much needed and beneficial lift while avoiding dehydration, but they should not be used as a permanent water replacement.


[1] Nagae M. - Chronic Dehydration in Nursing Home Residents.;

[2] Galloway SD. - Dehydration, rehydration, and exercise in the heat: rehydration strategies for athletic competition.;

[3] Arca KN. - Dehydration and Headache.;

[4] Belasco R. - The Effect of Hydration on Urine Color Objectively Evaluated in CIE L*a*b* Color Space.;