What Happens if You Don't Drink Enough Water?

Updated on January 15, 2018
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Are you drinking enough water? Water is very important for sustaining life and keeping you healthy. You need to drink a minimum of 8 glasses of water each day to prevent dehydration and make sure that all body processes are functioning well.

You can become sick if you do not drink enough water. That is because the toxins and pollutants in the body are not “flushed” out of the system. Your metabolism, blood circulation and body temperature are all affected.

Symptoms of Dehydration

You may feel the following symptoms if you are mildly or moderately dehydrated:

  • Fatigue, tiredness or feeling sleepy all the time
  • Increased thirst
  • Low urine output that is more yellow in color
  • Dry mouth
  • Digestive disturbances including constipation
  • Headache or lightheadedness
  • Pimple
  • Dry or flaky skin or dry hair
  • Crying with not much tears

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More Signs of Dehydration

Your health condition can become worse if you ignore your need to drink enough water. With severe dehydration, you may feel the following symptoms:

  • Rapid heartbeat because the heart is trying to compensate for low blood volume.
  • Shriveled inelastic skin. This is when you pinch your skin and it tents up and does not return to its normal appearance.
  • Dry mouth and mucous membranes
  • Extreme irritability
  • Confusion or lethargy
  • Severe dizziness that is felt when standing up from a reclining position.
  • Low blood pressure or orthostatic hypotension, which often occurs when getting up from a lying or sitting position.
  • Little or no urine. If ever there’s any, the color is deep yellow or amber.
  • Sunken eyes
  • Rapid breathing
  • Low grade fever
  • Seizure
  • Coma
  • Extreme shock that can be fatal

Long Term Effects of Not Drinking Enough Water

Severe dehydration can also damage the kidneys. Without fluid to flush through the tubules, you may suffer from acute kidney failure. With damaged kidneys, it’s possible to have cerebral edema when attempting to replace body fluids too fast.

Not Drinking Enough Water Is Bad for Kids' Health

How Do You Know You Need to Drink Water or Not?

We all know from our science subject that we need 8 glasses of water a day. But studies actually tell us people have different water requirements because of activity levels or weather condition. How do you know you need to drink more water?

When you feel thirsty, it's a signal that your body has already lost 1-2% of its total water. If you don't ignore this thirst mechanism and drink some water every time you feel thirsty, you'd most likely meet your daily need for water.

If you ignore your thirst, as many children and adults do, you're subjecting yourself to the early stages of dehydration. So, remember to drink water when you're thirsty.

When you're hungry and craving for sugar, in particular, it's probably another sign that you're thirsty. Better drink a glass of water first before you eat anything.

Check the color of your urine and the frequency of urination. Light-colored or clear urine means you’re well hydrated. Dark yellow urine means you are not drinking enough water (unless you're taking vitamin B2, which makes urine bright yellow).

Urine becomes concentrated or dark-colored because the kidneys are retaining the fluid in your body to sustain bodily functions. That means, you need to drink more to give enough water supply for your body processes.

A healthy person urinates 7 to 8 times per day on average. So, if you're not urinating for several hours or the amount is very little, drink more water.

What to Do When You’re Dehydrated

Mild dehydration is not dangerous. It can be easily corrected by increasing your water consumption. Your best option is to drink pure water. But, drinking some Gatorade or Powerade can help replenish the electrolytes your body lost because of dehydration.

If your dehydration is accompanied by vomiting or diarrhea, taking oral rehydration solutions like Pedialyte is recommended. You may also take over-the-counter anti-nausea or anti-diarrheal medication. But if you were food poisoned, it is better to take fluids only and not take anti-diarrheal medication to let the bad bacteria be flushed out of your system.

When suffering from severe dehydration, you need emergency help. Go to a hospital to get IV fluids to restore your electrolyte balance to normal level.

You should do this when you've been: vomiting constantly for more than one day, having diarrhea for 2 days, suffering from fever over 101 F and feeling weak and confused.

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How to Drink More Water Everyday

1. If you’re exercising, drink water before and after the activity. When you sweat while working out, you lose water, thus rehydration is important.

2. To help you drink water throughout the day, always keep a small bottle of water with you, in your car or at work. Refill it often so you can drink every now and then.

3. Sip some water after every bathroom break. After getting rid of some fluid, you need to add more to your body's water supply.

4. Drink a glass of water before your meal. This trick also works if you're trying to lose weight.

5. Drink flavored water. For people who don’t like to drink plain water, a good option is flavored water. Another healthy alternative is juice like apple juice or cranapple juice. Just avoid those which are loaded with added sugar, or you can dilute it with water or ice.

6. Use marked water bottles to monitor how much water you're drinking. This is specially recommended for children so parents can monitor their children's water drinking habit.

Nalgene Tritan Wide Mouth BPA-Free Water Bottle
Nalgene Tritan Wide Mouth BPA-Free Water Bottle

This BPA-free water bottle is marked with milliliters and ounces so you can easily measure how much water you've been drinking. I like the fact that this has a wide mouth which makes cleaning it really easy and ensure my family is drinking safe and clean water. It can accommodate both warm or cold water.

 

In addition to the above tips, you may want to consider the following suggestions to help keep your body hydrated.

1. Eat water-rich foods to hydrate your body. Choose fruits like citrus, tomatoes, watermelon and cantaloupe; and vegetables like greens, celery and lettuce.

2. Avoid foods that contribute to dehydration. Examples are French fries, coffee, cured meat and soy sauce.

3. Avoid hypernatremia or electrolyte imbalance by drinking Gatorade or other sports beverages when you are dehydrated.

Avoid the health complications associated with dehydration. Stay hydrated by drinking your water all throughout the day.

Questions & Answers

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      • SoniaSylart profile image

        Sonia Sylart 

        14 months ago from UK

        I like the idea of drinking water before meals when trying to lose weight. I don't drink nearly enough and so if I can develop this habit it could help me all round. Thanks for sharing all this.

      • Chin chin profile imageAUTHOR

        Chin chin 

        20 months ago from Philippines

        Thank you MsDora. I just heard from a TV program yesterday that temperature rose by 1 degree in the past year because of climate change. More than ever we need to drink more water because it's getting hotter.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        20 months ago from The Caribbean

        Thanks for this very useful article. We are not always aware of the basic things like water which we take for granted. We cannot be reminded often enough. Very timely!

      • Chin chin profile imageAUTHOR

        Chin chin 

        20 months ago from Philippines

        Thanks Thelma. I think I drink more than 8 glasses of water a day. I always tell my children to do so, too. But it can be difficult because they seem to be looking for a different taste than just plain water. I just keep on reminding them.

      • Thelma Alberts profile image

        Thelma Alberts 

        20 months ago from Germany

        I drink at least 2 litters of water a day except a few mugs of teas. Thanks for this informative hub. Well done!

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