The main reason for maintaining water balance in the body is that water is lost from the body through several processes such as excretion, respiration, expectoration, and perspiration. Water balance is maintained by the body when the output and input of water are maintained. Water enters the body through food, water, and metabolic water that is produced by aerobic respiration. There is a constant need for the body to maintain the right amounts of water and replace it with the water lost through sweating, respiration, physical activities, defecation, or urination. The water produced by the body through biochemical metabolism makes up only a very small amount of water required by the body. The human body requires about 2000-2500 ml of water per day in the resting state. The homeostasis of water in the body is maintained with the help of thirst that regulates the volume of fluids ingested by the body. Thirst is a physiological stimulus that is initiated by the hypothalamus of the brain. The hypothalamus forms the thirst center of the body. Thirst help in regulating the blood volume of the body and also helps in maintaining homeostasis.
Signals of thirst mediated by the hypothalamus
The hypothalamus of the brain possesses sensory osmoreceptors that are capable of detecting changes in the osmotic pressure. The feature of sensing changes in the osmotic pressure is found only in homeothermic organisms. The osmoreceptors are capable of detecting changes in the osmotic pressure of the blood plasma. When the osmotic pressure of blood plasma changes, the movement of water in the cells of the osmoreceptors also changes. When the blood plasma is dilute due to excessive water, the osmoreceptor cells expand, and when the blood plasma is concentrated due to less water, the osmoreceptor cells contract.
The osmoreceptors can detect osmolarity in the blood plasma, and then these osmoreceptors transmit signals to the hypothalamus that initiates thirst. The osmoreceptors also help initiate vasopressin (Antidiuretic hormone) release to bring back the osmolarity to normal.
Signals of thirst mediated by the Renin-Angiotensin System
Thirst is also mediated through the angiotensin II hormone. The angiotensin II hormone is a hormone that helps in the renin-angiotensin system. The renin-angiotensin system helps maintain the homeostasis of the body by dealing with the complex osmolarity of the blood and the blood pressure of the body.
The walls of the Loop of Henle possess macula densa cells that possess osmoreceptors. The osmoreceptors of the macula densa cells are capable of stimulating the juxtaglomerular apparatus. The osmoreceptors stimulate the juxtaglomerular apparatus when they sense high osmolarity in the blood plasma. The juxtaglomerular apparatus releases renin into the bloodstream, capable of cleaving the angiotensinogen hormone to angiotensin I. Angiotensin I is further changes to form Angiotensin II in the pulmonary system with the help of the ACE hormone in the lungs.
The ACE hormone has several physiological roles to play in the body. Angiotensin II now stimulates the hypothalamus of the brain to initiate thirst. Angiotensin II can also be capable of causing vasoconstriction of the blood vessels and release aldosterone into the bloodstream that enhances the reabsorption of water. It acts similar to the ADH hormone. The renin-angiotensin system is initiated not only because of low blood volume or increased plasma osmolarity. It is also initiated to stimulate the nervous system or low blood pressure in the kidneys. This will, in turn, stimulate the release of renin-angiotensin that initiates thirst.
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