Over 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. That’s a huge percentage, especially when people fail to realize that water makes up over 60% of the human body.
Water is like oil to a machine. The human body cannot function if it is chronically dehydrated. It is required for the body to digest and absorb vitamins and minerals. It is key to proper digestion, and carrying all sorts of toxic waste out of the body. It protects your tissues, spinal cord and joints, and regulates body temperature through sweat. It helps the lymphatic system flow and pump properly, and moistens mucous membranes. Water is important for every bodily function, and we can’t live without it.
One woman actually experimented by kicking her dehydration in the butt by drinking one gallon of water every day for 1 month. She became more fit, her eye wrinkles and dark circles disappeared, her skin looked healthier and her appetite and hunger signals reduced. She got a flatter stomach, her digestion improved, morning joint stiffness disappeared, and her headaches were gone.
Drinking water is important, and making sure you get enough of it every day is a task in itself. Drinking 2-3 litres of water a day for women and 3-4 litres of water a day for men is what you should aim for. Even if you don’t have symptoms of dehydration and you’re only drinking 4-6 glasses of water a day, you should immediately increase your intake.
In addition, consuming plenty of ripe juicy fruits and leafy greens and vegetables will dramatically increase water content in the body, as well as vitamin and mineral concentration.
When drinking water be sure to drink it at least 20 minutes before a meal, or 1 hour after. My go-to routine is 1 litre of water upon waking up, another litre before lunch, and another litre before dinner (a total of 3 litres). If you can, avoid tap water, and drink filtered water, such as spring water (the best) or reverse osmosis.
How do you tell if you’re chronically dehydrated? Check out the warning signs below:
1. Bad Breath
A major cause of bad breath is decreased saliva, and decrease saliva is often a result of being dehydrated. Saliva acts as a cleaning agent that helps reduce and eliminate bad breath. When our saliva decreases (such as when we are dehydrated), bacteria can grow, causing bad breath (1).
2. Food Cravings
“When you’re dehydrated, it can be difficult for some nutrients and organs like the liver which use water to release some glycogens and other components of your energy stores, so you can actually get cravings for food,” says John Higgins, MD, associate professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Texas in Houston, and chief of cardiology at Lyndon B. Johnson (2).
“While you can crave anything from chocolate to a salty snack, cravings for sweets are more common because your body may be experiencing difficulty with glycogen production,” he says.
Instead of reaching for junk food, opt for water-dense fruit and vegetables instead. They can help satisfy cravings as well as help the body in numerous ways that junk food can’t.
3. Painful Joints
Pain and inflammation can result when not properly hydrated. Reducing the amount of diuretics you take in (like coffee, soft drinks, non-herbal teas and alcohol) and increasing the amount of water you drink can dramatically help with joint pain.
The cushioning, lubrication, and shock absorption that is supplied to the cartilage in our joints is made possible by glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). These form a thick gel-like liquid, which acts similar to a sponge. For the sponge to be “full” and cushion-like, it needs to be filled with water. And that’s where being properly hydrated comes in (3).
Not consuming enough fluids is enough to trigger a headache. Lack of fluids causes shrinkage in brain volume, resulting in the brain pulling away from the skull. This triggers pain receptors in the meninges (the membrane that surrounds the brain) (4).
Dehydration also reduces blood supply to the brain, which can also trigger a headache. So instead of taking a Tylenol to make your headache go away, try to drink some water first.
5. Heart Palpitations
Dehydration can cause your heart to skip, because dehydration depletes your body of minerals that help regulate the bodies natural rhythm (such as sodium, magnesium and potassium) (5).
Palpitations normally occur when there is low potassium and low sugar levels in the body, which can cause premature contractions of the heart’s upper chambers (atria) or the lower chambers (ventricles) (6). Low magnesium can also lead to an abnormal heart rhythm.
6. Constipation and Poor Digestion
I cannot stress how important it is to drink water to improve your digestion. In fact, dehydration is one of the most common causes of chronic constipation (7). If you don’t have enough water in your body (aka. you’re dehydrated), the large intestine will soak up water from your food waste and create stools that are hard and difficult to pass.
Water also helps break down food so that your body can better absorb nutrients. Just be sure to drink water 20 minutes before a meal, or 1 hour after eating so as to not interfere with nutrient absorption.
7. Dry Skin and Lips
Your skin is made up of about 30% water, so if you’re dehydrated, your skin and lips are going to be too. In fact, drinking more water improved my dry skin almost completely. I used to suffer from extremely itchy legs and flaky skin, however, after switching to a high raw plant-based diet (high in water) and drinking 3-4 litres of water a day, my skin completely changed.
If your skin is not getting enough water, the lack of hydration will present itself by turning your skin dry, tight and flaky. Dry skin is not as resilient and will be more prone to wrinkling (8).
8. Brain Fog
Lack of water to the brain can cause numerous problems like inability to focus, memory problems, brain fatigue, brain fog, headaches, anger, depression and sleep issues. The brain is approximately 85% water, and so to have it functioning properly, you should increase water intake.
Water gives the brain the electrical energy needed for all brain functions, including thought and memory processes. Mild dehydration can diminish short-term memory, perceptual discrimination, arithmetic ability, visuomotor tracking, and psychomotor skill in people of all ages (9).
By drinking more water, you’ll be able to think faster, be more focused, and experience more clarity and creativity. Go drink some water!
9. Dark Urine
Dark urine is one of the tell-tale signs of dehydration. When we’re dehydrated, our kidneys, which filter waste, tell the body to retain more water. This means less water in our urine, causing it to become more concentrated and darker (10).
Dark urine has a high concentration of toxins and should be an immediate sign that your body needs more water. Chronic dehydration can actually cause kidney stones, so drink up!
10. Fatigue and Lethargy
Being even slightly dehydrated can make you sleepy and tired. When your body doesn’t have enough water, your blood volume drops and your blood pressure starts to rise. Your heart needs to work more, and as a result, you become more sleepy.
In one study, participants who weren’t sufficiently hydrated after exercise scored lower on questionnaires assessing mood. They also experienced more fatigue and confusion than when they were properly hydrated (11).