What Happens When You Don’t Drink Enough Water

Jug and glass of water with lemons
Feeling a little thirsty? If you're not getting enough water each day, this is what could be happening to your body!

By now, we all know that we should be drinking plenty of water. But whether or not we are actually drinking plenty of water… that’s a different story.


Some people don’t like water, while others get so busy that they forget to keep sipping throughout the day. No matter why you’re not getting enough water, it’s time to fix that. Why? Well, up to 60 percent of the human adult body is water. And when we start breaking it down, the brain is at least 70 percent water, blood is more than 80 percent, the heart is roughly 79 percent, and muscles are about 75 percent water.

When we don’t get enough water, none of that stuff works properly. Everything goes haywire. Well, just how haywire are we talking here? As it turns out, not getting enough water each day can leave you functioning a little faulty, to say the least.

Effects of Dehydration

Let’s take a look at some of the things that can happen when you’re dehydrated.


woman holding hand over face, headache concept

Frequent and persistent headaches are probably one of the first symptoms you might notice. Even mild dehydration can give you head troubles. If dehydration is the cause, a big glass of water will make it go away pretty quick.

This is all because our brains are composed of at least 70 percent of water. When you don’t get enough water, it causes your brain and other tissues to shrink. The shrinking means your brain is pulling away from the skull, putting pressure on nerves and causing pain.

Dull Skin

Drinking enough water is a key part of any skincare regimen, so it’s probably easy to imagine that not drinking enough water isn’t great for your skin. On the surface, you’ll find that dehydration will cause dull, dry skin that is less elastic, and certainly doesn’t have that youthful glow.

And under the surface, dehydration can cause problems with connective tissue like collagen. Without hydration, the fibers start to crack and break down, causing wrinkles – and it’s irreversible.


Tired woman lying in bed

If you’re not getting enough fluids, your energy levels are going to plummet and leave you sluggish. That means fatigue, drowsiness, and brain fog. You might find it harder to focus, and you could find yourself waking up tired.

You’re going to read this a lot throughout this article, but water is essential for our body’s organs and basic functions. All of them. Without water, we can’t function properly. There are a few different things that are affected by dehydration that lead to fatigue, but your brain and your ability to convert food to energy might be the biggest factors here. Dehydration means our bodies can’t convert calories to energy, and it severely impairs our brains, which are at least 70 percent water.

Read More: Ways to Get Over That Afternoon Slump

Water Retention

Woman having painful stomach ache

It seems contradictory, but not drinking enough water can actually cause water retention, leaving you feeling bloated and swollen. Instead of excreting water (like, when you go to the bathroom), your body starts retaining any existing water to reuse for basic functions.

It’s kind of like a fail-safe that probably helped out a lot before humans had things like modern water infrastructures and indoor plumbing. Your body panics, goes into emergency mode, and holds on to what little water it does have to prevent severe dehydration.

Weight Gain

Aside from bloating due to water retention, not drinking enough water could do more than make you gain water weight. It might lead to you gaining actual weight, too. This happens for a few different reasons. Sometimes we can confuse our body’s call for water as a hunger cue. I know it seems silly, but it’s true! Being dehydrated could lead you to eat more than you need when you could have just had a glass of water.

That could be partially tied to sugar cravings. Dehydration can interfere with your body metabolizing glucose stores for energy. In other words, it leaves your body panicking for energy, so it starts begging for sugar as a quick pick-me-up. Water helps your organs function properly, and that includes helping your liver convert fat into usable energy. If it can’t do its job, that fat isn’t getting burned off.

And finally, dehydration can mess with your metabolism, too. Drinking water gives your metabolism a big boost – one study saw water increase metabolic rates by a whopping 30 percent. Conversely, your metabolism will slow down a lot without enough water. Every organ and all your muscles are not working optimally, which means calories aren’t getting burned as they should.


More organs, hooray! Nope, your bowels won’t be functioning properly, either. Dehydration plays a big role in digestion and bowel movements. The colon pulls water from your body to make stools softer and, uh, easier to get rid of. When you don’t drink enough water, you’re looking at harder stools and constipation, which can also lead to abdominal pain and cramps.

And remember when I said that dehydration causes your body to hold on to every drop of water that it can? Here’s a slightly gross way it does it: dehydration can cause your body to start pulling water from your stool to compensate for lack of water.

Frequent Illness

woman indoors sneezing into tissue

Water plays an important part in our immune system. It helps flush unwanted bacteria, toxins, and waste from the body. And again, it’s also a huge part of keeping all of your bodily functions running at an optimal level, and that includes your immune system.

When there isn’t enough water in there, eliminating all those toxins and waste becomes pretty difficult. This in turn leaves your body more susceptible to illness, and you could be getting sick more frequently.

Heat-Related Illness

If you’re not a fan of overheating, it’s time to make sure you drink enough water. Dehydration means you could wind up with heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or potentially life-threatening heatstroke.

Water helps your body regulate its temperature. As we get hot, our bodies cool off by sweating. Now, what happens when you don’t have enough water to do this? And while heat-related illness can occur in individuals who aren’t dehydrated, being dehydrated can increase your risk of experiencing these, or worsen them.

Drink More Water!

Okay, so have I convinced you to drink more water? Great! Let’s talk about great ways to drink enough water throughout the day. Sure, you can just chug plain water all day, but I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, you’re not water’s biggest fan – no offense. Look, plain water all day everyday can get pretty boring. Sometimes you need to figure out ways to ensure you’re getting enough of the stuff every single day.

Read More: A Glass of Water Should Be Part of Your Daily Morning Routine

Pick Up a Really Cool Reusable Water Bottle

reusable water bottles

It seems kind of silly (and maybe kind of materialistic), but purchasing a new and cool reusable water bottle will likely make you a little more excited to drink water. There’s power in looking really cool, so don’t underestimate having a water bottle that you love. It’ll keep you interested, and you’ll want to carry it everywhere you go.

Set Reminders

Alarms and reminders are your friend, here. You can set them on your phone, smart watch, and even your voice-controlled virtual assistant. This is a great option for anyone who tends to get so busy that they forget to sip on some water. Set reminders every so often to remind you to take a drink, or give yourself deadlines for when a certain amount needs to be done.

Don’t Restock Other Drinks

If you keep a stock of other drinks, like soda or sports drinks, skip buying them for a while. I’m not telling you to give up your Diet Coke habit for good or anything, but at least make it a little harder to drink other beverages that aren’t exactly good for your health. If you don’t have a full stack of Gatorades in the fridge ready to go, you’ll be much more likely to reach for some water.


Give It Some Flavor

We don’t all have to be raving fans of plain, flat water. There’s no rule that says you can’t add a little flavor to your water. To keep it healthy, try infusing your water with fresh fruit. Cucumber is always a classic choice. I’m a big fan of throwing sliced strawberries in my water or adding a bright burst with lemon slices. You can really use any fruit (or combination of fruits!) that you love, and add herbs for some brightness, too!

Add Some Bubbles

Thanks to the rising popularity and availability of soda siphons, you can add bubbles to your water whenever you want. There’s something about carbonating water that makes it feel infinitely fancier. Plus, you can then flavor it however you want! This is also a great option for anyone who can’t quite kick that soda habit.

Eat More of These Foods

ceasar salad

True story: I call iceberg lettuce “solid water.” That’s because it’s made of something like 95 percent water. Just eating a salad can help boost your water intake! There are other fruits and vegetables that are high in water content, too. Start eating lots of cabbage, watermelon and other melons, celery, and zucchini. Not only will you get some extra water, but you’ll also get important vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, and more.

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