Dehydration Science

Your Guide To the Plasma Osmolality and Dehydration Connection

You aren’t feeling well so you’ve made a trip to your doctor’s office. The healthcare professional tells you that you may be dehydrated and you need a plasma osmolality test. Hearing this can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t know what it means. Fortunately, understanding what plasma osmolality is and how it impacts your health means you can take steps to live a healthier life.

Here, we’ll show you what plasma osmolality is and how it’s measured. Plus, we’ll show you why it matters for dehydration. You’ll find detailed information on how osmolarity plays a role in managing dehydration and how to pick the best oral rehydration solution.

What Is Plasma Osmolality?

Plasma osmolality, or serum osmolality, is used to measure the balance of water and electrolytes in cells throughout your body. It measures everything from sodium, chloride, glucose, urea, and potassium to toxic chemicals, poisons, and ethanol. It’s also commonly called plasma osmolarity. While they’re technically two different measurements, they both assess the number of electrolytes and water in cells. So, the terms are used interchangeably. These measurements can give key insights into hydration levels in your body.

Your body is made up of trillions of cells — more than 37 trillion to be precise. Each cell contains fluid inside, intracellular fluid (ICF), and is surrounded by fluids, known as extracellular fluid (ECF). These fluids carry water and charged minerals known as electrolytes. Electrolytes — such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium — are vital in carrying out processes from muscle movement to transmitting nerve cell signals.

The fluid inside and outside of your cells moves by entering or exiting the cell membrane. Under normal conditions (homeostasis), plasma osmolality in intracellular and extracellular fluid are relatively equal. When plasma osmolality inside or outside of cells increases, the fluid — and all those vital electrolytes — become imbalanced.

Plasma osmolality measures the dissolved concentration of electrolytes, including sodium and potassium, in your blood. Dissolved concentration refers to the number of particles (like electrolytes) that are suspended in fluids. Higher osmolality numbers mean you have more electrolytes in your blood and not enough water. Lower osmolality numbers mean there’s more water in your blood and not enough electrolytes. Both can be caused by dehydration, a condition where you don’t get enough water or electrolytes.

Plasma osmolality tests can be used to identify different types of dehydration. These include hyponatremia — where there’s too much water and not enough sodium in your blood — and hypokalemia, a condition characterized by low potassium levels.

To fight dehydration, you need an oral rehydration solution like DripDrop ORS. It’s a fast, effective, and great-tasting remedy for mild to moderate dehydration. Plus, it has a low osmolarity, making it easier for electrolytes to enter your cell membranes to restore proper hydration.

How Plasma Osmolality Is Measured

plasma osmolality: hand holding a vial with blood sample

Osmolality and osmolarity tests are used to diagnose and detect problems like electrolyte and water imbalances and dehydration. In addition, these tests can help identify poisonings and chemical imbalances in your blood. In fact, doctors can use findings from the blood sample to determine what’s known as an osmolar or osmolal gap, which can indicate the presence of methanol, ethanol, and ingestion of other poisons.

Both tests are done by drawing a blood sample and examining the results in a laboratory. A urine osmolality test can also be used. For this type of test, the doctor or healthcare professional will take a urine sample rather than a blood sample.

Low plasma osmolality levels may indicate that you don’t have enough sodium in your blood. Low levels can also be the result of overhydration, where your body stores too much water. This dilutes the number of electrolytes in your blood and can cause dehydration as well as other side effects.

Normal osmolality ranges from 285-295 mOsm/kg. If your plasma osmolality levels are higher than the normal range, it may indicate an underlying health condition. Diabetes insipidus (this occurs when your body produces too much urine), renal disease, and high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) can raise your plasma osmolality levels. Dehydration and hypernatremia (too much sodium) can also lead to higher plasma osmolality levels.

That’s why it’s important to always have an oral rehydration solution like DripDrop ORS on hand to tackle mild to moderate dehydration. The low osmolarity solution acts fast and exceeds the standards set for oral rehydration solutions by the World Health Organization. Plus, it tastes great and comes in convenient packaging so you can defeat dehydration no matter where you are.

Why Plasma Osmolality Matters for Dehydration

plasma osmolality: man wiping off sweat

Dehydration is a condition where you lose more fluids and electrolytes than you take in. If untreated, it can lead to changes in plasma osmolality and result in dramatic changes to your body and serious health risks. In general, osmolality will increase when you are dehydrated.

These changes can cause unwanted side effects that can range from uncomfortable to life-threatening. Symptoms of mild to moderate dehydration include headache, dry mouth, muscle cramps, and extreme thirst. You may also experience changes in blood pressure, which can lead to symptoms like dizziness, lightheadedness, and fatigue. Severe cases of dehydration can cause fainting, confusion, and may even lead to death.

Here’s one example of how plasma osmolality can indicate dehydration and how that can affect your health. Let’s say you were working on a job site in high temperatures. You forgot to hydrate and were sweating profusely. When you sweat, excretion of large amounts of salt and water occurs. These substances evaporate on your skin to create a cooling effect. Since you weren’t hydrating properly, you now have an imbalance in electrolyte and sodium concentration in your blood.

With dehydration, your plasma osmolality increases. This signals your body that there’s a problem with the electrolyte and water balance. To correct the problem, your body stimulates the production of the antidiuretic hormone (ADH), also known as vasopressin. This occurs in the hypothalamus and posterior pituitary gland. This hormone helps to increase fluid reabsorption to address the electrolyte imbalance. Your body also triggers a thirst response, signaling that you need to replenish lost electrolytes and fluids.

Here’s why plasma osmolality matters. Not only does it signal the presence of dehydration, but it also plays a key role in how quickly you recover. To fight dehydration fast, you need an oral rehydration solution like DripDrop ORS that has a low osmolarity. The low osmolarity solution reduces the amount of pressure – called osmotic pressure — required for fluids to enter your cells. That means your cells can reabsorb water and electrolytes more quickly with a tool like DripDrop ORS than with a plain old sports drink.

Fight Dehydration That Affects Plasma Osmolality

Person holding a tumbler full of DripDrop ORS

Now that you know how dehydration affects plasma osmolality, you can choose the right tools to remedy the problem. While you may think you just need to drink more water or grab a sports drink to rehydrate, these aren’t the most effective options. First of all, plain water doesn’t have many electrolytes and sports drinks don’t contain the right balance or a low osmolality that you need to tackle dehydration quickly.

In addition, you need to activate the sodium-glucose transport system to fight dehydration fast. Sports drinks and water don’t do this as effectively as oral rehydration solutions. In this system, glucose reduces osmotic pressure, making it easier for water and electrolytes like sodium to enter cell membranes. Once inside, sodium increases water retention, quickly restoring proper hydration levels and normal osmolality.

To activate the sodium-glucose cotransport system, you need an oral rehydration solution. However, oral rehydration solutions aren’t all equally effective. The World Health Organization’s Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) standards for an ORS formula require high levels of sodium electrolytes and just a small amount of glucose (sugar). The result is often poor taste. To address this, products like sports drinks compromise usefulness by reducing the amount of sodium and increasing the amount of sugar.

So, Dr. Eduardo Dolhun created the DripDrop ORS formula to solve the ORS taste problem without compromising efficacy. DripDrop ORS features the medically relevant sodium electrolyte levels and lower glucose content required by the WHO. Plus, it boasts a low osmolarity formula that facilitates fast absorption. AND it tastes great.

Defeat Dehydration With DripDrop ORS

man holding a full tumbler of DripDrop ORS while outdoors

When you’re dehydrated and have high plasma osmolality levels, you need to replace lost fluids and electrolytes fast — and IV therapy may not be practical. That’s why an oral rehydration solution like DripDrop ORS is your best bet. It contains the right amount of sodium electrolytes (about three times as much as you’d find in a sports drink) and just a little glucose (about ½ as much as you’d find in a sports drink). These ingredients help to open your intestinal wall, restoring normal plasma osmolality levels and crushing dehydration fast.

But it isn’t as simple as combining sodium and glucose in the right way; you need low osmolarity, too. DripDrop ORS’s patented formula uniquely balances all of these critical ORS components to keep osmolarity low at just 220 mosm/L. This measurement reflects the number of particles per liter of solution. The lower the number, the easier it is for a solution to enter cells. DripDrop ORS osmolarity is even lower than the WHO ORS formula (245 msom/L) and a lot lower than traditional sports drinks (300+ mosm/L).

For cases of mild to moderate dehydration, DripDrop ORS is a fast, effective, and great-tasting remedy. The convenient packaging allows you to have DripDrop ORS when you need it, where you need it.

Get started with a trial or our most popular multi-flavor pouch for dehydration relief fast. Or, if you're ready to make a purchase, and you're a first-time buyer, enjoy 15% off your order with code FIRST15.