Ever notice why it’s recommended drinking more water in every article on weight loss, health, and fitness? From stopping belly bloat to warding off diseases, getting enough water is one of the most important things you can do. Still, some people barely drink any water.
There’s not much in this world more refreshing than a tall, ice-cold glass of water. I don’t think there’s anyone alive that can deny that sometimes, a simple glass of water can be more satisfying than a cup of coffee or a can of soda.
And when these water-phobic people do drink, they might drink belly-busting beverages like soda or fruit juice. While you will get some water and hydration from these things—and you can get water from certain water-rich foods—you should still make hydration from plain water a priority.
Water makes up 60% of the human body and is needed to help maintain a healthy weight, flush toxins from the body, and produce bodily fluids like saliva. Water also contributes to regular bowel function, optimal muscle performance, and clear, youthful-looking skin. However, failing to drink enough water can cause dehydration and adverse symptoms, including fatigue, headache, weakened immunity, and dry skin.
Despite this, too many of us don’t drink enough water on a daily basis. By depriving ourselves of the world’s most natural resource, we are continuously damaging our bodies.
If you experience any of the following, you can improve your situation by starting with a glass of H2O.
Read on to find out more about what can happen if you don’t drink enough water.
1. You Have a Headache
Instead of grabbing the painkillers the next time you have a headache, try reaching for a glass of water. Our brains are 80% water. When you’re dehydrated, your brain tissue loses water, causing brain shrinkage and pain surrounding the brain. Dehydration also lowers blood flow and oxygen to the brain, which leads to dilated blood vessels in the brain that increase swelling and inflammation. This, in turn, gives you a headache. We should note that drinking more fluids may not be 100% preventative, so if hydrating doesn’t ease the pain, you should see a doctor.
2. Your Mouth, Eyes, and Skin are Dry
Of course, any time you feel that sticky, nasty feeling in your mouth, you’d obviously reach for some sort of liquid. But sugary drinks are only a temporary solution to a larger problem. We’re constantly losing body fluid throughout the day, and if you’re not replenishing those fluids and electrolytes, it can result in the dry mouth because there’s not enough fluid to produce saliva. Drinking water lubricates the mucus membranes in your mouth and throat, which will continue to keep your mouth moist with saliva long after that first sip.
Similarly, a lack of water means a lack of sweat, which leads to a body’s inability to wash away excess dirt and oil accumulated throughout the day. If you want to stave off breakouts, your first recourse should be to drink more water. Dry skin and a lack of elasticity in your skin are caused by a lack of moisture.
By now it should be clear that drinking water affects more than just your mouth and skin. A lack of water intake leads to dry, bloodshot eyes (again, think of that last pounding hangover). Without water in the body, your tear ducts dry up. In short, your body needs water to lubricate your mouth, hydrate your skin, and help you see clearly.
3. You’re Disoriented
Dizziness, confusion, difficulty concentrating, and delirium are all signs you need to take a few gulps of water. Again, the body expels fluids every day through sweating, urination, and other bodily functions. This can cause an imbalance with our electrolytes (nutrients or minerals present in the body), and we need electrolytes for our bodies and minds to function properly.
4. You Feel Fatigued and Lethargic
When a body is dehydrated it “borrows” water from your blood. A lack of properly hydrated blood leads to a lack of oxygen being brought throughout the body. Blood circulation is important because it delivers oxygen to the muscles, and if our blood flow isn’t circulating properly, we become lethargic and our energy level decreases. Also, a lack of oxygen leads to sleepiness and other negative triggers could cause you to feel fatigued.
5. You Often Have Muscle Cramps, Spasms or experience Joint Pain
When we sweat, particularly during vigorous exercise, it can lead to a drop in sodium levels. During a high-intensity sweat session, there’s only so much fluid to go around once we start to lose water. As a result, the body has to prioritize where the remaining fluid in the body should go. Most often, our circulatory system wins, which means our muscles have to take a backseat. If the muscles aren’t surrounded by enough water and sodium, they become extremely sensitive, causing involuntary muscle contractions or spasms.
Also, our cartilage and spinal discs are made up of about 80% water. This is an absolute necessity to keep our bones from grinding against each other with every step we take. By keeping your body hydrated, you ensure that your joints can absorb the shock of sudden movements, such as running, jumping, or falling awkwardly.
6. You Stay Sick Longer
Drinking water allows your body to flush toxins, waste, and bacteria from the body to fight disease and infection as well as strengthens your immune system so you become sick less frequently. Your organs work to filter our certain waste products like a machine, but if you don’t fuel the machine with water, it cannot work properly. What ends up happening in a dehydrated body is organs start to pull water from stored areas like your blood, which leads to a whole new set of problems. Also, lack of water also causes fatigue, you may tend to be less physically active—another risk factor for weakened immunity.
7. You Experience Digestive Problems and Constipation
We spoke before about the mucus in our mouth and throat, and how keeping hydrated allows the membrane to function correctly. This also applies to the entire digestive system. Water promotes good digestion and regular bowel movements by keeping your stool soft and moving it easily through the digestive tract. Without proper hydration, the amount and strength of mucus in the stomach lessen, allowing stomach acid to do some major damage to your insides. This leads to what we commonly refer to as heartburn and indigestion.
Not drinking enough water also cause your body to pull water from stool to compensate for fluid loss, leading to a harder and firmer stool that is more difficult to pass. If your bowel movements are irregular and infrequent, try drinking more water to loosen your stools and relieve constipation and bloating.
8. You’re Always Hungry
Sometimes you can feel like you’re hungry when all you need to do is drink water. It could be thirst causing that rumbling inside your stomach, not actual hunger. When you’re dehydrated, your body might start to think it needs some food. This happens throughout the day, and overnight when you wake up craving that midnight snack.
Because dehydration slows the metabolism, it could have adverse effects on the body’s ability to burn fat.
Not to mention when we’re dehydrated, the hypothalamus (an important part of the brain that controls our nervous and endocrine systems) may confuse thirst with appetite. However, drinking water purifies your organs and supplies it with the fuel it needs to go through the other processes a body goes through.
9. You Experience Reduced Urination
Believe it or not, if you’re not taking a trip to the restroom 4-7 times a day, you’re probably not drinking enough water. When your body is dehydrated, the kidneys retain as much fluid as possible to maintain their function. This can lead to decreased urination—one of the most common signs of low water intake. If you’re severely dehydrated, you might not even pee at all.
And when you do go #1, it should be a light yellow or clear colour. If it’s a darker yellow, stronger in odour, and cloudier in appearance your body is telling you it’s lacking proper hydration. In extreme cases, dehydration can lead to a higher risk of urinary tract infection when your body lacks enough water to flush out toxins and bacteria. You’ll know you’re drinking enough water when you start urinating more frequently and the urine is clearer, lighter in colour, and far less odorous.
10. You have Sugar Cravings
Dehydration interferes with the body’s ability to reach into glucose stores for energy and can trigger cravings for foods high in sugar and carbohydrates. Unusual and sudden cravings for sugary foods like chocolate, doughnuts, cookies, and candies may indicate that your body is in great need of water—not food. If you’re experiencing sugar cravings or hunger pangs even though you’ve recently eaten, try drinking more water to rehydrate your body and keep cravings at bay.
Also read: Stevia vs. Sugar
11. You Experience Premature Aging & Poor Skin
Skin needs to stay hydrated from water to look dewy and young. The amount of water our bodies retain naturally decreases as we age. Obviously, what this means is that, as we get older, we should consciously increase our water intake. Not drinking enough can increase the effects of ageing and make skin look drier, flakier, wrinklier and just not as fresh as you’d like.
With insufficient water, collagen can crack, leading to fine lines and wrinkles. That’s why people need moisturizing, hydrating products in a skin-care regimen to complement their water intake for that supple, soft look. To decrease the risk of running your body raw, it’s important to continue to drink water throughout your lifetime.
What to do???
Now that you know what symptoms to look for, you may be wondering what you can do to combat dehydration. The good news is that you can reverse dehydration (especially in less extreme cases) by drinking more water and eating more hydrating foods. Fortunately, adding more water to your diet might be easier than you think. It just might take a conscious effort at first.
Whatever you do—just make sure you’re getting plenty of fluids throughout the day. Don’t wait for these signs or until your body screams, “Give me more water.” It may be too late by then.
By Priyanshi Bhatnagar
Also read: What causes water retention?