This is what happens to your body if you don't drink enough water
It’s crucial you consume enough water on a daily basis. But what happens when you don’t? It might lead to one (or more) of these five possible symptoms and complications.
You probably know that water is très important for all healthy life functions. In fact, about 60% of your body is made up of water. For it to continue to function properly, it’s crucial that you consume enough water every day. “Hydration is the key to helping all the organs in our system work efficiently,” Dr. Sanjay Aggarwal, a general physician at Holistic Health Centre in Delhi, says.
Just as hydration helps everything run smoothly, dehydration – which occurs when you’re taking in less fluid than you’re using or losing – can lead to all sorts of breakdowns in bodily processes. So, how much should you be drinking?
Although daily water intake varies by age and sex, a normal healthy person needs about eight glasses (or two litres) of water a day, which should go up in hot, sweaty weather and during vigorous activities, according to the Indian Council of Medical Research’s Dietary Guidelines for Indians.
Anupam Dey, a Kolkata-based dietician, too argues that the average person should drink about two litres of water a day and more in high temperatures or if you’re particularly active. “Dehydration can be caused by drinking less than that, but also by conditions like diarrhea, vomiting, fevers, excessive sweating, and increased urination,” Dey says, adding, "If you ever get to the point of feeling really thirsty, that's an indication of dehydration."
But what actually happens to your body when you reach the point of dehydration? Read on for five possible symptoms and complications.
You’re more likely to experience a bladder, kidney, or urinary tract infection
Kidneys and water have a sort of symbiotic relationship. Dr Aggarwal says the kidneys work to regulate your body’s water balance, but they also flush out the waste from your bloodstream and along with your liver, they act as your “body’s natural filtration system.” They need water to work properly, and if they don’t have enough to do their job, you could wind up with bladder and urinary infections. “In addition, the mineral and salt deposits that naturally accumulate in your kidneys require water to break down. Without it, those deposits can turn into very painful kidney stones,” Dr. Aggarwal says.
Your skin gets irritated
When it comes to daily water intake, here's a good rule of thumb to follow: just keep sipping, for your skin, anyway. "Drinking six to eight glasses of water does not hydrate the skin from within. Drinking water is essential for overall health, but it has very little to do with the level of skin hydration,” Dey says. This is not to say that drinking water can't make you look and feel better, he adds; it is to say that water contributes to a more holistic state of physical well-being. If your body isn’t getting enough water, the effects can also show on your skin. Dey explains that dry skin, which lacks oil, is different from dehydrated skin, which lacks water. However, there are some similar symptoms, particularly flakiness, itchiness, sensitivity, tightness, and dullness. According to Dey, dehydrated skin can also be prone to breakouts. Bottom line: Drink water to be healthy, but don't expect perfect skin because of it. "It's true that the skin needs water, just like every part of your body to function properly," Dey says. "But as long as you drink enough fluids to maintain body hydration, along with following a regular skincare routine, your skin is fine."
An imbalance of fluids can also affect your digestive system. “We tend to think of fibre as the primary solution to constipation, but water is equally important. Fibre helps to pull out toxins in the gut system, but those toxins can’t exit our system without being flushed out, and for that we need water,” Dr. Aggarwal says.
You feel hungry even when you’re not
A lot of times, people confuse dehydration for hunger, according to Dey. “If you’ve just eaten but you’re not feeling satiated, try downing a glass of water to see if your body is really asking you for a snack. Research indicates that drinking water can help fill you up,” Dey says. He adds that doing so about half an hour before meals can help you figure out just how hungry you really are, so you can eat until you're satisfied, not stuffed.
You feel distracted, confused, tired and maybe dizzy
Dehydration can do a number on both energy levels and cognition, making it difficult to stay alert. In fact, Dr. Aggarwal calls it the most common reason for daytime fatigue and can also lead to mood changes, including increased anger. “All of our body’s systems rely on the oxygen delivered by our blood to function. When that blood delivery is challenged by dehydration, none of our organs work at the level they should, causing sluggishness of not only the body but also of the mind and leading to short-term memory problems and difficulty in focusing.”
The best way to prevent any of these health complications from happening is to follow the recommended intake of two litres of water a day, which can be in multiple forms. Dr. Aggarwal points out that you can get necessary fluids from foods, including soups, fruits, and vegetables, as well as drinks that contain water, including coffee, tea, milk and 100% fruit juice, as long as you watch your calorie intake.
Tea, coffee, milk, yoghurt and whole foods you have will also help meet your hydration target, but water should be the fluid of choice, Dr. Aggarwal suggests. According to various studies, the water content is almost 90% in foods like milk and yoghurt, and in some fruits and green vegetables, such as watermelon, cucumber, cabbage, lettuce, and spinach. Fruits like apples, grapes, oranges, pears and pineapple are 80% to 90% water, while beans and legumes have a water content ranging from 60% to 70%. Even dried fruits, seeds, and nuts are 1% to 9% water.