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What Causes Dehydration in IBD

Hydration, Membership

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What causes dehydration in Crohn’s Disease and in Ulcerative Colitis?

Inflammation from either Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis can inhibit adequate water and electrolyte absorption (magnesium, sodium, zinc, phosphorus, potassium), causing dehydration. 

Other IBD related factors that can contribute to dehydration include:

  • Frequent/watery diarrhea
  • Ongoing inflammation & fevers
  • Loss of appetite & desire for fluids
  • Caffeine intake due to fatigue
  • History of surgery, short bowel syndrome, and stoma placement

J-pouch surgery or ileal pouch-anal anastomosis (IPAA) surgery can also increase the risk for dehydration.  This is because the colon, or large intestine is responsible for water and electrolyte absorption.  Vomiting can also increase a patient’s risk for dehydration in the presence of an obstruction or blockage.  Other conditions that can cause dehydration include infections, bile-acid malabsorption, and gastroenteritis since diarrhea is common in these scenarios.  

What can you do when dehydration kicks in?

If experiencing signs and symptoms of dehydration (as mentioned previously), drink plenty of fluids to avoid exacerbating your symptoms.  If dehydration is not treated, it can lead to worse outcomes and also affect your kidneys and blood pressure. 

First and foremost, drink plenty of fluids and avoid beverages that can worsen dehydration including caffeinated beverages (coffee, sodas, teas, energy drinks) and alcohol.  Oral rehydration solutions (ORS) can also help with treating moderate dehydration.

You may also need to use electrolyte replacement if your labs are off, you’ve had diarrhea more than 5x/day or watery diarrhea regularly. Our top pick for repletion is a product called CURE since it’s based on the WHO’s ROS formula and can rehydrate similar to an IV drip- Check it out HERE.

How can I prevent dehydration from occurring?

There are a few tools that can be used to help prevent dehydration from occurring in the first place. This can include to not wait until you are thirsty to start drinking water.  The first sign of dehydration happens to be excess thirst. 

Consuming water according to your recommendations is also vital to prevent dehydration.  Monitor your urine output and if you notice a decrease in output or a darker appearance in urine color, then that can be an indication for dehydration. 

Seek immediate attention if dehydration is unable to be resolved from at-home remedies or if you are not able to tolerate/absorb liquids well.  This can sometimes occur in a state of active inflammation or with those who have a stoma, past surgical history, or short bowel syndrome.  Consider being aware of your environment and outside temperature as excess heat can also increase a risk of dehydration.


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