Symptoms of Not Drinking Enough Water

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Young woman holding glass of water.
Young woman holding glass of water. (Image: View Stock/View Stock/Getty Images)

Adequate water intake is essential for your body to function properly, and not drinking enough leads to dehydration, which can have serious health consequences. The water you consume must balance the amount your body loses daily. Water loss occurs in a variety of ways, such as breathing out, urinating and sweating. Vomiting and diarrhea can also contribute to significant water loss. Recognizing the symptoms of dehydration will help you determine whether you're drinking enough water.

Mild to Moderate Symptoms

There are a few early signs to watch for that can alert you that you are not drinking enough water. The most obvious symptom is thirst or a dry mouth. You may also find that you are sweating less and not urinating as much as usual, or when you do urinate it is a bright yellow color. The Cleveland Clinic suggests that if your urine ranges between bright yellow and a honey color, you need to drink water as soon as possible. Muscle cramping is another symptom of moderate dehydration, according to MedlinePlus.

Severe Symptoms

If you don't pay attention to initial symptoms of dehydration, you may begin to experience severe symptoms. Your urine may turn from bright yellow to dark yellow or amber. Your eyes may look sunken and your skin may feel dry and cool. The most severe and dangerous symptoms affect your nervous system and heart. You may become lightheaded, dizzy and confused. Dehydration may also alter your mood and affect your brain function and short-term memory, contribute to headaches and prolong migraines, according to a review in a 2010 issue of "Nutrition Reviews." Your heartbeat and breathing may become rapid and you may lose consciousness or go into shock. Brain damage, seizures and even death can occur if dehydration is untreated.

Treating Dehydration

If you experience any of the symptoms noted and you believe that it is because you are dehydrated, drink some water immediately. If your symptoms are severe, seek medical attention or call 911. If you have trouble drinking enough water because you find it tasteless, add some lemon or lime to give it flavor. If you're dehydrated due to illness, nausea may prevent you from drinking enough water or keeping it down, so try sucking on ice chips or popsicles or sipping chicken broth. Electrolyte drinks are a wise fluid choice and can also replace lost electrolytes, according to MedlinePlus.

Getting Enough Water

Your fluid intake is determined by more than how much plain water you drink. Foods high in water content, such as soups, fruits, vegetables and even some meats, account for roughly 20 percent of your daily intake, according to the Institute of Medicine. The institute also notes that the recommended daily intake of water is 3.7 liters for men and 2.7 liters for women. The Merck Manual reports that the elderly are at particular risk for dehydration, as their brains can't register thirst as actively and accurately as the brains of younger people can. The older you are, the more you may have to force yourself to drink water to stay hydrated.

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