Most people know that staying on top of their water consumption is important, and that dehydration is not good. But beyond feeling thirsty, do you really know what goes on in your body when you get dehydrated and what sort of crappy side effects it can have? Dehydration occurs simply when there is more fluid leaving the body than coming into it, and we rely on those fluids to carry out a whole lot of the natural body functions.
Anyone can become dehydrated from simply not drinking enough water, but things that increase the possibility include exercising a lot, being out in hot weather, taking diuretics, or of course having a fever or getting sick from either end of the body. Here are some weird things that happen when your body gets dehydrated.
13 It Can Give You Headaches
Being dehydrated is believed to cause headaches in a couple of different ways. One suspected reason is that when the blood volume drops there is just less oxygen getting to the brain. Another idea is that the small blood vessels in the brain respond to the lack of hydration and cause different kinds of headaches. Yet another idea is that being dehydrated messes with our serotonin levels and leads to headaches. Whatever the exact mechanism is, even slight dehydration can negatively affect the brain pretty quickly. This applies to regular headaches and hangover headaches alike.
12 It Puts You In A Bad Mood
Being dehydrated has certain neurological effects on the body that shouldn't be ignored. A study that was published in the Journal of Nutrition determined that women who were dehydrated only one percent lower than ideal hydration started to experience negative changes to their mood, as well as losing focus, and getting more headaches. So next time your mood suddenly shifts for no apparent reason and everyone starts to bug you, you might want to consider whether or not you could use a tall glass of water.
11 It Can Make You Constipated
Without plenty of water in the body, the digestive system can't effectively move things along and out of the body. The more dehydrated you are the more the body will draw water out of the stool which makes it harder and harder to move the bowels along. Drinking plenty of water can be enough to jump start the digestive system if you're experiencing constipation from dehydration. Although if it doesn't help, there might be other things going on such as lack of fiber, stress, or medications that can mess with the system.
10 It Can Cause Muscle Cramps
When the body is dehydrated it is not circulating blood as efficiently as it could be, which can lead to muscle cramps. This is a natural defense system that the body puts into place where it diverts the water to the most important things in the body such as the organs. The muscles fall a little further down on the importance scale since they're not generally a life or death scenario like say your brain. Muscle cramps aren't dangerous per se, but they can be pretty uncomfortable and are more easily avoided if you stay on top of hydration.
9 It Makes Your Skin Look Bad
To keep our skin looking and feeling good it's really important to keep the body hydrated. There are a ton of lotions and products that are quite effective at holding moisture in once it is in there, but for it to be there to begin with, it needs to come from the inside. Everyone needs different amounts of water depending on their diets and activity levels, so adjust accordingly. If you workout a ton, for example, you might need more water than the next person, but if you eat a ton of fruit you might get a decent amount of hydration from that.
8 It Can Make You Crave Sugar
When we exercise with the body in an already dehydrated state, it means that we start to use up our glycogen stores more quickly than normal. When we burn up our glycogen stores we start to crave more carbohydrates to refill them, which often comes about in the form of a sugar craving. That's fine if you're good at not giving in to your cravings, but do pay attention to those days you feel more hungry than normal and consider why that might be. Being dehydrated can also make you feel tired, which can also lead to sugar cravings as the body tries to get a burst of energy from anywhere it can.
7 It Can Make You Feel Cold
When we're dehydrated it actually make us feel chilled for a couple of different reasons. For one thing, as we become dehydrated the body has less blood flow going on, which means less blood is circulating in the skin which can make the temperature feel colder. For another thing, the water in our body can help hold the heat in, so when we become dehydrated there is less of a natural insulation thing going on. It sounds a little strange that drinking a normal temperature cup of water can help warm you up, but it makes sense when you hear the reasoning.
6 It Can Make You Feel Foggy Headed
As mentioned above, when the body is dehydrated it is not sending blood everywhere that it needs to be going, which means that the body is not being oxygenated as it should be. When the brain is being denied the good stuff it can both make you feel dizzy and just plain foggy headed as well. Feeling foggy can affect your ability to handle general mental tasks and slow you down at work, which is a great reason to remember to either get up and drink water throughout the day or to bring a big water bottle with you to sip throughout the day.
5 It Makes You Feel Tired
That afternoon slump at work might be due to more than just general fatigue. (Or blood sugar crashes, or caffeine crashes.) Being dehydrated can also make you feel tired, since the blood pressure drops and the blood flow to the brain slows down. When that happens it makes your body feel like going to sleep is the best option to keep conserving whatever precious fuel you do have in there. Being dehydrated can also increase the heart rate which can make normal physical tasks feel like they take more work, and therefore tire you out even more. Think climbing the stairs when you're totally parched.
4 It Can Give You Bad Breath
When we're dehydrated we produce less saliva in the mouth, which becomes an issue since our saliva is there for a reason. Saliva has antibacterial properties and helps us to wash down food particles that get stuck in our teeth. When food particles and bacteria stick around in that moist, dark, environment, then the bacteria can start to grow and create some terrible smelling breath pretty quickly. Hopefully you'll notice that you're thirsty before it gets to that stage, which you can often tell by feeling a bit dry in the mouth.
3 It Makes Your Heart Work Harder
When we're dehydrated our blood gets thicker from the lack of water which makes it move slower throughout the body. Since the heart's job is to pump the blood throughout the body, it has to start working harder to get that job done. It's when the heart can't keep up with the pace that it needs to pump the blood that it can cause heat exhaustion which is similar to heatstroke. In that state of being carrying out even small tasks can get really hard, which is your body's way of saying take a chill pill. Being dehydrated isn't just a feeling we get from not taking care of ourselves, it can actually be pretty dangerous.
2 It Negatively Affects Your Workout
Heading to the gym dehydrated? Think again. Some research has shown that even being dehydrated by just two percent can lead to a whopping ten percent decrease in the output you put forth at the gym. It also affects how we feel those exertion levels, so you might think you're putting in full effort but be over perceiving your exertion levels because the dehydration is making you tired. So technically if you stay hydrated you'll have better workouts in general and be more likely to reach your fitness goals because of it.
1 It Can Make You A Bad Driver
File this one under a bit surprising. One study found that people who are dehydrated make twice as many driving errors on a two hour drive as people who are normally hydrated. That's pretty good to know considering the fact that so many people try not to drink too much water before they get in the car for a long drive to avoid making pit stops. Turns out it's quite important to stay hydrated for your driving safety, just like it is to avoid driving while tired and never drink and drive.