Healthy Body

Here’s How Your Body Tells You That You’re Not Drinking Enough Water

Saanya Ali

Photo: Getty Images/Cavan Images
The human body is made up of nearly 60 percent water. It relies on water for breathing, digestion, lubricating joints, removing waste, maintaining homeostasis—essentially, every bodily function. When your body doesn't get enough water, or if it's losing more water than it's taking in, dehydration is likely, the results of which can cause both immediate and longer term complications, says Adam Brittain, MD, senior physician at WorldClinic.

Whether you realize it or not, you're losing water all day long—some when you sweat or cry, more when you pee, and even a little with every breath you take. As such, it's recommended to sip on water all day in order to prevent early dehydration symptoms like fatigue, headaches, mood swings, and trouble focusing.

According to Dr. Brittain and Erika Schwartz, MD, your body does a good job to warn you that you are not drinking enough water, or putting yourself at risk of mild dehydration. Dehydration lowers blood flow and oxygen to the brain, which in turn causes inflammation. Therefore, not drinking enough water can cause headaches, brain fog or confusion, fatigue, and dizziness. Additionally, since water plays an important role lubricating your joints and muscles, a lack of water can mean that you experience joint pains and stiffness or cramping in your muscles and ligaments. Some other signs are dry mouth and skin, increased thirst, darker, more concentrated, and decreased urine.

While listening to your body and drinking when you feel thirsty is important, the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has determined that an adequate daily fluid intake for a healthy adult living in a temperate climate is about 11.5 cups a day for women and 15.5 cups for men. This may change based on how much you exercise, the environment in which you live, and other health conditions. (Dr. Schwartz even goes as far as to recommend drinking 1/2 your body weight in ounces of water.) More simply, you should drink water when you're thirsty.

Drinking water is not the only way to stay adequately hydrated. Fruits and vegetables with high water content are a great way to keep your systems in tip-top shape as well. Produce like broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, watermelon, and grapes are all high in H2O.

Dr. Schwartz and Dr. Brittain say your body knows how to tell you that you're not drinking enough water—as long as you're listening to it.

A dietitian's guide to the most hydrating foods:

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