This is what happens to your body when you don’t drink enough water

You may think that little bottle of water you keep on your desk or in the cup holder of your car is enough to hydrate you for the whole day, but that’s not going to cut it. While it’s true that coffee and tea can count towards your daily water intake, you can’t rely on those beverages to do all the heavy hydration lifting — especially not during a summer heatwave.

READ MORE: Is carbonated water as good for you as regular water?

“Heat and rising humidity will exacerbate all kinds of heat injuries, like cramps, exhaustion and heat stroke,” says Angela DuFour, a registered dietitian and sports dietetics specialist in Nova Scotia. “We know that when we don’t get enough water, thirst, headaches and dizziness will indicate that, as well as the colour and frequency of urination.”

But there are other things that happen to your body when you don’t get enough water, and they’re probably alarming enough to inspire you to refill that water bottle a few more times throughout the course of the day.

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Water retention

Contrary to what you would expect, not drinking water can cause you to feel bloated and swollen.

“This comes down to the basic principles of osmosis. If the intracellular concentration of fluid is greater than the extracellular concentration, you’ll start pooling water into that low-concentration area and it will cause swelling or bloat,” DuFour says.

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By getting ample hydration, you’ll be able to strike a balance between your cells and therefore prevent bloating.

But hydration doesn’t mean sugary drinks.

“Drinks that are high in sugar, like pop, are too concentrated and will create a back flow of fluid in the extracellular space, once again causing swelling or bloat.”

Increased risk of stroke

This is especially dangerous for elderly people who may have decreased thirst sensations due to age, in addition to water and sodium imbalances.

Research has shown that 60 per cent of people are dehydrated at the time of stroke and that recovery is boosted by being well-hydrated.

“It’s not clear why proper hydration at the time of stroke is linked to better stroke outcomes,” Dr. Mona Bahouth, an assistant professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins Hospital, said at a 2015 international stroke conference. “It’s possible that dehydration causes blood to be thicker, causing it to flow less easily to the brain through the narrowed or blocked blood vessels.”

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READ MORE: How much water do you really need to drink in a day?

In addition, the thicker and more concentrated your blood becomes, the harder it is for your cardiovascular system to compensate by increasing heart rate to maintain blood pressure.

Loss of cognitive function

If you find yourself having trouble focusing in the middle of the day or being slow to react, whether that’s physically or verbally, that could be a sign that you don’t have enough fluid in your system.

“The brain requires almost 60 per cent of the body’s fluids for energy,” DuFour says. “If you’re not getting enough water or are even slightly dehydrated, that can affect cognitive function and concentration, causing issues with coordination, reaction times and confusion.”


This condition sets in when the body’s internal heat regulating system is unable to bring down body temperature.

“Our internal body temperature is controlled by the hypothalamus of the brain. If we’re not cooling fast enough for that cognitive neuro function to work, it will cause an increase in body temperature,” DuFour says.

READ MORE: ‘Raw’ water is the latest health fad that could make you very sick

If the body doesn’t cool down to at least 38.9 degrees C, it can require immediate medical attention to prevent serious injury and even death.

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“You want to cool the body with external and internal mechanisms as a result. Use ice packs or a sponge on your head to cool the area where the hypothalamus is, and drink plenty of cold water.”

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