6 Side Effects Of Not Drinking Enough Water

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Human beings are made up of about 80% water. Every organ, cell, and tissue in our bodies use it to function properly, which is why drinking enough water every day is important.

“We’re made up of water more than anything else,” says Marjan Moghaddam, D.O., a family medicine doctor with Henry Ford Health System. “Drinking six to eight, eight-ounce glasses of water daily is what’s recommended. Six is fine for most people, eight if you’re more active.” (And if you drink Gatorade or Powerade after an hour workout, Dr. Moghaddam says water is still better. “You don’t need to replenish your electrolytes after an hour workout,” she says.)

If drinking water is something that always falls by the wayside during your day, fill a water bottle in the morning and keep it close by to track how much you’re drinking. Eating your water in the form of water-dense fruits and veggies like cucumbers, melons, berries, lemons and limes is also a great way to supplement your fluid intake, says Dr. Moghaddam.

What Happens If You Don’t Drink Enough Water

Whatever you do, make sure you get in those six to eight glasses, otherwise dehydration could cause a whole host of problems. Here are a few side effects:

  1. Persistent headaches. One of the first things you might notice when you’re dehydrated is a throbbing headache. The good news? If dehydration is the cause, it should go away shortly after you drink a large glass of water.
  2. Sluggish bowel function. “There are water receptors in the colon, and they pull water from the body to make the stools softer,” says Dr. Moghaddam. “If you don’t get enough water, hard stools and constipation could be common side effects, along with abdominal pain and cramps.”
  3. Dull skin. Dehydration shows up on your face in the form of dry, ashy skin that seems less radiant, plump and elastic.
  4. Fatigue. If you’re not replenishing your fluid intake, your energy levels could plummet and you could experience fatigue and brain fog. So the next time you reach for another cup of coffee, see if it’s water that you need instead.
  5. Weight gain. “Sometimes people mistake thirst for hunger and they eat more, but really they just need to drink more,” says Dr. Moghaddam. “Sometimes if you have a glass of water, the hunger cues will go away.”
  6. Dry mouth. If you’re not getting enough water, you can have dry mucous membranes—i.e., a lack of saliva. This can make it difficult to talk, swallow, and even breathe. Luckily, this can easily be solved by drinking water.

An important note: If you have heart failure, less water is better—you don’t want your body to retain too much fluid, forcing your heart to work harder. Aim for less than two liters daily from all liquid sources, says Dr. Moghaddam. If you have questions, talk to your doctor to see what is right for you.

For everyone else, while six to eight glasses is preferred, going to far above and beyond that won’t help you—in fact, drinking too much water can lead to brain swelling and fluid overload, says Dr. Moghaddam. Find a happy balance between six to eight glasses daily to stay healthy.


To find a doctor at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936). 

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Marjan Moghaddam, D.O., is a family medicine physician who sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Center in Capitol Park and Harbortown. 

Categories: FeelWell