It happens more often than we want to admit. We drink our morning coffee and our happy hour wine, and all too often don’t consider that we are not hydrating. Not drinking enough water can quickly lead to dehydration, which can lead to a variety of unpleasant and concerning health issues from headaches to constipation to fatigue. It’s more than an issue of dry skin and bad for our diet, there are a lot of different functions in the body that can be affected by not staying adequately hydrated.
Here are a few big ones:
This an uncomfortable topic, but…“Fiber is the indigestible part of the carbohydrate and it helps to create healthy and regular bowel movements. “The catch is that in order to do its job, fiber requires water,” says Alix Turoff, a registered dietitian. “Soluble fiber absorbs water like a sponge and forms a gel which is what helps it slow down digestion and keeps you feeling full. It also keeps blood sugar stable by slowing the release of glucose into the blood stream,” says Turoff. Insoluble fiber does NOT form a gel but it does retain water from the intestine which adds bulk to your stool and keeps you from becoming constipated.
If we’re not hydrated, our skin isn’t either. This can lead to dry, irritated skin – and, sadly, probably something a lot of us will notice before the health issues.
Stress on your heart
You may notice that if you go running and are dehydrated, it’ll be harder to catch your breath. This is just part of what’s going on. “As you become dehydrated, your blood volume decreases and your heart has to work harder to pump blood and provide normal levels of nutrients throughout your body,” says Dr. Christopher Hollingsworth, General and Endovascular Surgeon, NYC Surgical Associates.
A headache is a strong indicator you need to drink more water. “Blood vessels constrict In order to maintain steady blood pressure with the decrease in blood volume,” says Dr. Hollingsworth. This constriction is why many people suffer from headaches at the earliest stage of dehydration.
Weakness and fatigue
Feel weak? Faint, even? “During dehydration it becomes harder for cells to maintain their balance of fluids and electrolytes, causing them to shrivel,” says Dr. Hollingsworth. This results in muscle fatigue and overall weakness. “As dehydration affects your vestibular system, which is responsible for regulating balance,” says Dr. Hollingsworth. This may leave you with feelings of dizziness and nausea.
Kidney stones occur because minerals build up and crystallize, leading to painful stones. “When you’re drinking enough water, there is more urine passing through the kidneys which dilutes these minerals and thus, they are less likely to crystalize and form stones,” says Turoff.
Cramping and performance
Water makes up 75% of our muscle tissue. “When we’re dehydrated, we become weak, dizzy and fatigued. Not drinking enough water can lead to electrolyte imbalances which can cause muscle cramps and if dehydration persists, can have serious health consequences,” says Turoff.
Additionally, dehydration is a major concern at extremes of age. Children can get dehydrated quickly at normal activity levels, because they have much more surface area respective to their volume. This means that they can lose a lot of their body’s water simply through evaporation. “The elderly are at higher risk for dehydration, because as we age our bodies become less able to detect and auto-regulate the amount of fluid in us,” says Dr. Hollingsworth. We also have more fat as we age, and less tissue that contains water. For these reasons, children and the elderly can get dehydrated quickly with even a small amount of fluid lost.