10 Dangerous Side Effects of Not Drinking Enough Water
Here's why you really need to keep that water bottle on hand.
Photo: Getty Images / Anass Bachar / EyeEm
Water is super, super important for good health and, really, it helps with everything. Since about 60% of the human body is actually water, it needs to maintain hydration levels to fuel cells and keep the brain and body functioning.
And while you can get water both from foods (especially those with high water content, such as cucumbers, watermelon, bell peppers and tomatoes) and, of course, from a glass, many of us aren't drinking nearly enough daily-or are even drinking dehydrating sources, like booze, which can strip the body of hydration too. (Beyond slowing down intoxication, that's another reason why it's smart to pair an alcoholic beverage with a glass of water.)
Read more: How Water and Health Are Connected
So, what happens if you don't drink enough? Here are 10 potential side effects of not getting enough water.
When dehydrated, you might notice your energy levels plummet, as water helps keep your mind alert and the body balanced. If you're not drinking plenty during the day, that afternoon slump will hit even harder, and you might feel too tired to continue on with work or make it to your evening workout. Keep a water bottle on hand to remind you to consistently drink throughout the day.
Your brain needs water (our brain is about 80% water), and drinking enough keeps you mentally sharp, even long-term. A study in the journal Nutrients found that drinking water boosts brain health and prevents memory decline and mental drowsiness. If you're feeling fatigued and are spacing out, chug some water and see if it helps.
Higher Risk of Stroke
Water is good for your ticker, too. According to a study in BMC Cardiovascular Disorders, not drinking enough water and being dehydrated can raise risk of strokes and prolong recovery time, if you've had one. So, to keep your heart in tip-top-shape, pay attention to how much you're drinking. If your pee is yellow or you feel faint, drink some water pronto.
Unless you want to isolate people at the office, get your drinking regimen in check, as dehydration can make you irritable and cranky, too. Two studies that took place at the University of Connecticut studied both men and women on a series of cognitive tests, and they saw that being dehydrated led them to a bad mood, drowsiness and even headaches.
Sometimes we confuse thirst with hunger, so it's smart to drink water when you feel a craving coming on instead of digging right into the cookie jar. That's why it's a good idea to drink water before sitting down to a meal, as you may consume fewer calories and you'll have a better sense of your hunger cues and appetite, as shown in a 2018 study in the journal Clinical Nutrition Research. Water can prevent you from being super-hungry as you sit down to eat, and listening to your thirst and hunger cues can give you insight into what your body really wants.
That's right, your metabolism also naturally slows down when you're thirsty. As shown in a small study from The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 17 ounces of water (around two glasses) can increase the metabolism by 30%, which is substantial when you're looking to lose weight. (Get four more, easy metabolism-boosting strategies.)
Since your brain needs water, when it's lacking it can lead to headaches and fatigue. So, before taking medication, have some water first and rest. That head pain might go away without you needing to take any other measures. Learn more about headache triggers and myths.
Skin needs to stay hydrated from water to look dewy and young. Not drinking enough can increase the effects of aging 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.
When you're sweating, you're losing electrolytes and water, so it's important to drink before, during and after working out to replenish lost stores. As shown in a study in Physiological Reports, workouts might suffer from lack of water, and your body might not burn as much fat.
While a little gain isn't really dangerous, if it continues over time or is in the belly region in particular, that gain can put you at risk for various chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and more. Drinking water can even help you lose weight and lower water retention. And likely you'll consume fewer calories from filling up on good old liquid and preventing confusion between hunger and thirst cues.