Stress and Dehydration

“In a nutshell, STRESS is the most dehydrating thing of all. Our cells will be stressed because they are not getting enough water. It is said that we can create more toxicity from our thoughts and bottled up emotions than we ever could from our food.”

Lesley Una Pierce is a Director of The Nutritional Healing Foundation and her latest book ‘The Life-Saver’s Guide to Water – The Elixir of Life’ may help many of us think more consciously about this essential health matter. In this article Lesley provides an overview of ‘Acute, Chronic, Internal and External’ stress – and how hydration plays an essential role, both mentally and physically. So please read on.


I want to have a chat about STRESS – the most dehydrating thing of all.

Have you come across the word ‘stress’ in your neck of the woods? I’m sure you have. Everyone seems to talk about being stressed these days, even children. It’s so common for people to be off work with ‘stress’, so common to hear the word here, there and everywhere, so I suppose it means different things to different people.

We may be stressed because we have too much work to do, because we haven’t enough money to pay our mortgage, or because we are being bullied at work – all unpleasant things going on. Our cells, however, are not really too bothered about all that. Our cells will be stressed because they are not getting enough water.

Let’s think about stress in four different categories: Acute, Chronic, Internal and External. How do they differ?

Acute Stress

This is something that is intense but short-lived. Nature has provided us with wonderful ways to deal with acute stress.

If we think back to caveman or cavewoman days, when our ancestors were being sized up by hungry looking wild animals, their ‘Fight, Flight or Freeze’ mechanism would kick in. They needed to either run away and get out of danger quickly or stay and fight the animal!

Hopefully, in these particular scenarios, the ‘freeze’ option wasn’t chosen! Fight, Flight or Freeze is our ancient survival mechanism that has kept humans alive over the centuries and continues to be activated instantaneously whenever we encounter a situation that we perceive as threatening.

Umpteen things happen in our bodies to create extra strength and energy to allow us to deal with whatever situation we have found ourselves in – and get out alive! We will all have experienced the usual symptoms at some time or other, I’m sure, which include:

1. Heart beating quicker.

2. Breathing becoming shallower and faster in our upper chest. We are thus losing more water through vapour.

3. The urge to go to the loo, either to pass water or to open our bowels. This causes us to lose water and consequently makes us lighter, so if we were being chased by a sabre-toothed tiger, we would be able to run faster and stay alive. Nature is wonderful.

4. Perspiring more. Again, more water loss.

5. Production of the hormone adrenaline which causes us to secrete an emergency supply of sugar into our bloodstream.

6. Blood supply to our frontal cortex in our brain is restricted, causing us to simply react, rather than think.

7. The fluids in our bodies are moved around to where the priorities are at that moment in time, causing a dry mouth.

We can begin to see that losing water from different areas of the body is made much more difficult if there is a water shortage and there are umpteen more processes that go on in our bodies to help us.

We can clearly see therefore, as I have indicated, that Fight, Flight and Freeze, our ancient survival mechanism, causes us to lose water!

In this day and age, we are unlikely to be approached by a hungry looking sabre-toothed tiger, but we may have a Double Decker bus hurtling down the road at us! Our bodies miraculously create extra strength and energy by all the ways listed above, and more, to allow us to get out of the situation fast.

Then, when that situation is over and done with, our bodies recover and we are back to square one. On the whole, we are geared up to deal with acute stresses, which are short lived and we don’t need to be overly concerned about their dehydrating effects.

Chronic Stress

This is another matter. Chronic stress is when we have those ongoing, day in, day out stresses that seem to be with us constantly. It creates the same symptoms as acute stresses, but generally less intense. It stands to reason though, that even whilst being milder, if they are going on continually as in chronic stress, they are extremely dehydrating.

Then we see a vicious circle as the stress causes dehydration, which causes more internal stress, which causes more dehydration – ad infinitum. Moving on.

External Stress

External stresses include some of the scenarios we have already mentioned, like our worries about finances, relationships and work, all of which are outside of us. We can internalise these as we think about them and of course, our thoughts and emotions also contribute to internal stress, but the initial source of those particular stresses tend to be outside of us. Many of these external stresses are not within our control, as they often involve the actions of other people, and much as we would sometimes like other people to be different or act differently, we cannot control them. Yet how many of us spend so much time, effort and angst trying to change things that we are not in control of? And how stressful is that?

My humble suggestion is, to try to let go of the need to change the things that are not ours to change. Should we just take a moment to consider what we, as individual human beings are in control of? After due consideration, I hope you will agree that we are in control of our own thoughts (we may not always think we are, but we are) Therefore, indirectly, our feelings, (as these are affected by how we think) and also what we do (which covers a multitude.) What else are we in control of? Come on, think! What else?

Interestingly, the truth of it is that we are in control of absolutely nothing else! This is worth really mulling over in our minds; even deliberating, cogitating and digesting, as Lloyd Grossman used to say, and making a huge effort to stop trying to change things that we as individuals cannot change. Of course this is not always an easy thing to do, but if we can try and work towards achieving it more and more, without question it will feel a huge relief and consequently reduce our stress – and therefore will be less dehydrating!

Bear in mind that within the category of being in control of what we ‘do’ falls drinking adequate amounts of water and reducing the dehydrating substances we consume. Read on.

Internal Stresses

Internal stresses, on the other hand, are within our control. These are created by things like:

1. All the stimulants we ingest, such as coffee, tea, sugar, chocolate, alcohol, drugs and cigarettes.

2. Not having all the nutrients we need in order to make all our ‘bits and pieces’ like hormones, enzymes, our hair, skin, tissues to name but a few.

3. An inability to get rid of our ‘waste’. This is when our routes of elimination are sluggish and congested, as in the case of being constipated.

4. Thoughts. Our thoughts can create a huge amount of internal stress. Think about the language we sometimes use when speaking to ourselves: “I’m so stupid. Why did I do that? I’m never going to be good enough. I’m so thick and clumsy.” Very stressful for us when we think these kinds of thoughts as every thought we think is communicated to every cell in our bodies at the speed of light!

We are extremely good at making an ‘Acute’ stress become a ‘Chronic’ one by our thoughts. We do this by thinking, ‘What if…..’ and creating awful scenarios in our mind. This perpetuates the stress.

5. Emotions. Bottling up our emotions is a great way of contributing to inner stress, and how great are we at doing that? The study of emotions is a whole subject in itself. Years ago, I didn’t realise how completely interconnected our physical, emotional and mental state is.

We now know that our emotions have a physical base. We create physical molecules of emotion, so every single feeling we experience has to have the biochemistry to support it!

If, therefore, we do not allow ourselves to express an emotion, but simply push it to the back of our mind and swallow down those tears or zip up our lips and walk away seething, what the heck do we expect happens to them? Do they disappear? No, we carry the resonance and vibration of those emotions in our body forever until we are prepared to process it. In order to let go of these emotions from our body, as well as expressing an emotion by, for example, crying and talking, we also need to be able to dissolve the physical molecules of emotion using enzymes and essential fatty acids. It is said that we can create more toxicity from our thoughts and bottled up emotions than we ever could from our food. Something to ponder!

6. Not having enough water. Surprise, surprise! In my opinion, this has to be one of the biggest internal stresses, and please remember that it becomes a vicious circle as dehydration causes internal stress which causes more dehydration which causes more stress.

In a nutshell, STRESS is the most dehydrating thing of all. We are not too concerned about acute or external – it’s the chronic, internal stresses we need to work on, because we can. The more we reduce our internal stress, then the better equipped we are to deal with our external stresses. We will be able to think more clearly and be able to make more beneficial decisions as we will be accessing our frontal cortex in our brain.

Lesley Una Pierce


Water, Stress and Hydration‘The Life-Saver’s Guide to Water – The Elixir of Life’ is the first book of the forthcoming series by Lesley Una Pierce and available from www.lesleyunapierce.com with .50p from every book sale going to WaterAid. Lesley Una Pierce is an author, Naturopath and partner of The Nutritional Healing Foundation.



With many thanks to Lesley for this fascinating article. If you have any questions regarding this article, any of the health topics raised, or any other health matters please do contact me (Amanda) by phone or email at any time.

Amanda Williams, Cytoplan Ltd
[email protected], 01684 310099

RELEVANT LINKS:

Cytoplan Blog: Water – The Elixir of Life

Cytoplan Blog: Why is Water Important?


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