Water makes up about two-thirds of your body weight, and a person cannot survive without water for more than a few days. Every cell, organ and tissue in the body depends on water. It plays very important roles, for instance:
- It helps maintain the balance of body fluids.
- It regulates and maintains body temperature.
- It lubricates your joints and eyes.
- It protects your tissues, spinal cord and joints.
- It helps your body remove waste products and toxins.
- It aids digestion.
- It helps control calorie intake.
- It helps keep your skin looking good and youthful.
Without water, your body would stop functioning properly. Hence, it is important to keep your body hydrated. To stay hydrated, drink fluids and eat foods rich in water content.
At times, your body may lose water more than usual. This can occur due to vigorous physical activity, excessive sweating, diarrhea, vomiting, diabetes and frequent urination.
This causes an electrolyte imbalance in your body, leading to dehydration and making it difficult for your body to function at its best.
Many people are unaware when their body lacks adequate water. Understanding the signs of dehydration will help you know when you need to boost your water intake.
Here are the top 10 warning signs that indicate your body lacks water.
1. Headaches and Lightheadedness
Headaches and lightheadedness are some of the possible signs that your body lacks water. A drop in your body’s hydration level leads to a reduced amount of fluid surrounding your brain, which protects it from mild bumps and movement.
This triggers nagging headaches as well as migraines. Furthermore, dehydration reduces the flow of oxygen and blood to the brain.
A 2010 report published in the Handbook of Clinical Neurology highlights the possible triggers of migraines and tension-type headaches, and dehydration is one of them.
When suffering from a headache, instead of reaching for a pill, drink a glass of water. If the headache is due to dehydration, it will go away soon.
2. ‘Brain Fog’ or Poor Concentration
As the human brain is made up of approximately 90 percent water, it definitely shows signs when dehydrated. Lack of water in the brain can affect your decision making, memory and mood.
Dehydration can even cause symptoms of brain fog, such as forgetfulness and difficulty focusing, thinking and communicating.
A 2013 study published in Clinical Autonomic Research says that dehydration is one of the most frequently reported brain-fog triggers, along with fatigue, lack of sleep, prolonged standing and feeling faint.
In a 2011 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that mildly dehydrated people performed worse on cognitive tasks and also reported difficulty making decisions. There were also adverse changes in mood states of fatigue and anxiety.
Another 2011 study published in the Journal of Nutrition concluded that degraded mood, increased perception of task difficulty, lower concentration and headache symptoms resulted from a 1.36 percent dehydration in females.
3. Bad Breath and Dry Mouth
Bad breath is another sign that your body lacks water. Due to lack of water, your body produces less saliva, which contains antibacterial properties. This leads to an excess growth of bacteria in the mouth, causing bad or stinky breath.
Along with bad breath, you can have a dry mouth. Water works like a lubricant, which keeps the mucus membranes moist in the throat, thus preventing dry mouth.
4. Constipation and Other Digestive Issues
Water helps lubricate the digestive system and keeps the digestive tract flexible and clean. This helps keep your bowel movements regular and prevent constipation.
Plus, excessive fluid loss due to diarrhea or vomiting may also harden the stools and lead to constipation. Lack of water in the body can even cause heartburn and indigestion.
A 2003 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition notes that fluid loss and fluid restriction increase constipation. It is thus important to maintain hydration to prevent constipation.
5. Sudden Food Cravings
The next time you have sudden hunger pangs or food cravings, drink a glass of water before grabbing a snack. When dehydrated, your body sends false signals to your brain that you are hungry, when actually you are thirsty.
Craving a salty treat can be due to loss of water and electrolytes in the body. Simply drink a sports drink that contains sodium, or make your own lemon water by mixing the juice of 1 lemon in a glass of water along with 1 teaspoon of salt.
Some people experience cravings for something sweet. This happens when your body experiences difficulty with glycogen production. In this case, opt for fruits like watermelon, papaya or berries that are sweet as well as high in water content.
6. Reduced Urination and Change in Color
Believe it or not, if you are not using the restroom every few hours, your body is probably lacking water. A healthy amount of water intake results in regular urination, about four to seven times a day. As your body releases toxins through urination, not urinating at regular intervals can be problematic.
Also, keep an eye on the color of your urine. It is an important indicator of your hydration level. Clear or light-colored urine indicates a well-hydrated body, while dark yellow or amber-colored urine indicates concentrated urine and is usually a sign that your body lacks water.
7. Fatigue and Lethargy
If you are feeling fatigued and lethargic, it can be due to your dehydrated body. Lack of water causes low blood pressure and inadequate oxygen supply throughout the body, including the brain. Lack of oxygen causes sleepiness, fatigue and a lethargic feeling.
Furthermore, when you are dehydrated, your body has to work much too hard to ensure proper blood circulation, transporting nutrients and even breathing. Expending extra energy obviously makes you tired faster than usual.
Staying hydrated is one of the easiest ways to stay alert and energized, so keep your water bottle handy.
8. Joint and Muscle Pain
Water is a vital component of healthy joints and cartilage. In fact, they contain about 80 percent water. When your body lacks water, your bones start grinding against each other, causing pain in the joints.
When your body is well hydrated, your joints can handle sudden movements, such as running, jumping or falling awkwardly, without any pain.
Furthermore, depletion of fluids through perspiration can cause muscles to contract, leading to cramps. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology notes that body water status is an important consideration in modulating the hormonal and metabolic responses to resistance exercise.
9. Scaly, Dry Skin and Lips
Another sign that your body lacks water is dry skin that lacks elasticity. The skin is the body’s largest organ, and it requires a good amount of water to remain in good condition.
A low water level causes less sweating, which means the body is not able to wash away excess dirt and oil accumulated on the skin throughout the day. Furthermore, as water helps flush toxins from the body, dehydration increases the risk of acne, eczema and psoriasis.
Another obvious sign of dehydration is dry and chapped lips.
Hence, along with moisturizing your skin with a good moisturizer, make sure you are hydrating your skin from the inside out by drinking an adequate amount of water.
10. Accelerated Heartbeat
Dehydration also has a direct impact on heart rate and performance. Dehydration causes a decrease in plasma volume, making the blood more viscous. This affects blood circulation and increases your heart rate.
A 2014 study published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research agrees that dehydration negatively impacts performance.
Researchers found that the heart rate changes an average of three beats per minute for every 1 percent change in body weight resulting from dehydration.
Furthermore, dehydration causes changes in electrolytes present in your body, leading to low blood pressure. Due to extra stress on your body, heart palpitations become faster. This can be frightening and cause anxiety and panic.
If you feel your heart beating faster, try sipping water slowly to see if you feel better. If the problem persists, consult your doctor immediately.
Tips to Prevent Dehydration:
- Drink plenty of water and other fluids every day. The amount of water you need to drink usually depends on a number of factors, such as the climate in which you live, how physically active you are, and your overall health.
- Start your day with a large glass of water (room temperature) and drink one full glass of water before every meal.
- If you are busy and often forget to drink water, set a reminder to drink a glass of water a few times a day.
- Carry your own water bottle, no matter where you are going.
- Along with water, start including water-rich fruits and vegetables in your diet.
- Avoid drinks that can cause dehydration, such as alcohol, energy drinks and others that contain caffeine.
- When suffering from a fever, vomiting or diarrhea, increase your fluid intake to prevent severe dehydration.
- Consult your doctor immediately if you are having symptoms such as extreme thirst, dizziness, not passing urine for more than eight hours, and a rapid or weak pulse.