You probably already know that drinking enough water is crucial for your health and well-being. But do you know the signs that your body exhibits to let you know that you aren't getting enough water? Some of them can be a little surprising.
Since it's estimated that up to 75% of Americans are routinely dehydrated, knowing these signs can mean the difference between staying dry and experiencing the extreme benefits of good hydration.
If your skin is dry, dull, and itchy, you probably aren't drinking enough. Without enough water, your body's organs, including your skin, can't function optimally. Your system can't flush toxins out as well, and your skin shows the problem by losing its plump, clear, healthy glow. If you're experiencing a breakout or dry skin, increase your water consumption.
Your Urine Isn't the Right Color
When you are well-hydrated, your urine will have only the faintest of yellow hues. Your kidneys' job is to add toxins to water, flushing them out of your system in the form of urine.
If your body isn't getting enough water to do all of its work, the kidneys will attempt to conserve as much as possible, concentrating your urine. That means that your body's byproducts are being released with less water, so your urine is darker in color. If your urine is dark yellow, you probably need more water.
You Have Halitosis
It surprises many people to learn that bad breath can be linked to dehydration. Bacteria are constantly building up in your mouth because they feed on the bits of food left there. Your saliva helps flush that bacteria out. When you haven't had enough to drink, your body can't produce as much saliva, the bacteria population in your mouth increases, and you get halitosis.
You're Battling Frequent Headaches
Your brain actually shrinks when you are dehydrated (Smith, 2010). The sack of fluid around your brain shrinks, too, allowing the brain to push up against your skull. Both of these situations can result in headaches. Of course, there are many other reasons for frequent headaches, and you should check with your doctor if they persist, but try increasing your water consumption to see whether dehydration might be playing a role.
You're Feeling Short-Tempered
Scientists have been learning that being even a little dehydrated can cause people to be grumpy. This effect may be more pronounced in women (Lieberman, 2011). The brain requires adequate hydration to function properly, and that includes mood regulation.
Your Joints Are Bothering You
When you don't drink enough water, the cartilage in your joints deflates a little. Without nice, plump joint cartilage, there isn't as much cushion, and you could experience joint pain. Certainly, other conditions and injuries can also cause this, so be sure to check with your doctor if it persists, but drinking more water can help your joints stay healthier.
Surprisingly enough, feeling thirsty might be one of the last symptoms your body develops when you are dehydrated. Definitely drink water if you're thirsty, but make it a goal to drink enough to avoid feelings of thirst in the fist place.
How Much Water Is Enough?
There is no agreed upon amount of water that each person should have per day. Many times, 8 glasses of 8 ounces each is recommended, but age, sex, climate, physical exertion, and other health conditions can all raise or lower the amount that you need. If you don't feel thirsty very often and your urine is consistently light yellow, you are probably drinking enough.
Ideas for Increasing Your Water Consumption
If you don't want to get up too much during the night to use the bathroom, try to have your daily water ingested by an hour or two prior to bedtime. Here are some ways you can easily increase your water consumption:
- Eat foods that are high in water content throughout the day. Generally, non-processed, whole foods have high moisture content, especially fruits and vegetables.
- Add something flavorful and healthy to your water to make it more appealing. Fruit, a small dash of lemon or lime juice, or mint leaves are all great ideas. You can also make ice cubes out of 100% juice and add them to your water for a little extra flavor.
- Set a timer on your watch or phone to remind you to drink a cup of water every hour or so throughout the day.
- Choose water instead of soft drinks or other sugary drinks.
- Lieberman, L. E. (2011, Dec. 21). Mild Dehydration Affects Mood in Healthy Young Women. Retrieved from Wiley Online Library: DOI: 10.3945/jn.111.142000.
- Smith, M. J. (2010, Dec. 14). Dehydration affects brain structure and function in healthy adolescents. Retrieved from Wiley Online Library: DOI: 10.1002/hbm.20999.