Dehydration is More of a Problem Than You Think – Risks of Not Drinking Water

We can survive 2 weeks without food but only 3 days without water. Dehydration can be a much more serious problem than you think, especially when you learn how easily it can happen. 

person drinking water to prevent dehydration
Drink water – source

Find out how often dehydration actually happens, what the risks are, and easy ways to up your water intake today!

A Common, Mild Dehydrated Day

Dehydration can sneak up on you. Not only do we wake up slightly dehydrated, but we also tend to drink coffee instead of water when we wake up. Coffee does provide a little bit of hydration, but it is nowhere near enough to replace what was lost.

Then, imagine you go for a walk or run outside. You lose even more water due to this physical activity meant to help you.  Or, picture driving to work, the AC in your car damaged and even with the windows rolled down, you are sweating. The office has the air off and you continue to sweat and have no time for a sip.

Importance of Water

Yup, we all know that the body is made up of about 60 to 70% water. Water is used for vital reactions in the body including the usage of energy, regulating body temperature, protecting the joints, and usage of nutrients by the body. It is important to replenish water lost by the basic functioning of the body daily.

Did you know that the brain is made of about 75% water though? This can be the reason why even slight dehydration has such a negative effect on us.

What is Dehydration

Dehydration is an event that occurs when the body has less water than it needs. Due to this, the body cannot function properly.

Just a 1 to 2% loss of total body water can be considered mildly dehydrated. Anything above 2% is considered fully dehydrated. While full dehydration can lead to horrible risks, even mild dehydration has consequences.

The first stage of dehydration is thirst. This is when you feel your mouth to be dry and maybe a bit cranky. Perhaps you can’t spit or aren’t producing enough saliva. Well, the next stage is conserving fluids, which means less saliva production, less going to the bathroom, and less sweat. The last stage is organ failure.


Overall, dehydration can cause headaches, dizziness, lack of concentration, and fatigue.

Even being mildly dehydrated has horrible symptoms. A study found that individuals that had a mild case drove worse than the fully hydrated group. In fact, the people who were slightly dehydrated made twice as many mistakes overall in a simple driving test. Driver errors were similar to a drinking blood alcohol level of 0.08. Some studies found cognitive impairment in mild cases. This means it impacts our ability to perceive, think, learn, and remember information. Even mood was impacted.

People with less water felt less calm, less happy, and more stressed. Mild cases of dehydration are also related to more anger, more confusion, and higher tension.

This study found that mild dehydration had similar symptoms to a concussion, with a decrease in memory, increased tiredness, and reduced balance. In another study, children given water before playing a game were able to concentrate more and gain a better score.

A dehydrated person’s brain has more neural activity, meaning the brain cells are working hard to do a task. Plus, people think of tasks as more difficult when dehydrated.


Our brains will physically shrink if we have not consumed enough water, particularly gray matter. The brain volume, including the hypothalamus, gray and white matter, and cortical thickness decrease. The hypothalamus is responsible for coordination, gray matter is responsible for higher cognition, and the cortical also influences attention, decision-making, personality, emotions, and behavior. 

Blood flow can also be reduced. A thicker blood means the heart works harder to pump it, using up more energy and reducing blood flow to the brain. Less blood flow means fewer nutrients and oxygen supply. 

As mentioned, the last stage of dehydration is organ damage. It can be so bad that the body takes 2 years to fully recover, as in the case of Mauro Prosperi. He went 10 days without water after getting lost in the desert in 1994 and experienced repercussions for up to 2 years due to organ failure.

Quick Tips to Prevent Mild Dehydration

Brain volume returns to normal as soon as you drink some water. Plus, studies only found a correlation, not causation. But a smaller brain is definitely a reason why even mild dehydration affects attention and thoughts, so it is important to get enough water daily. Here are some quick tips for that!

  • Drink a glass when you wake up – we wake up with mild dehydration, so try to drink a glass of water when you wake up!
  • Set goal – set a goal to drink at least 3 glasses of water a day.
  • Listen to your body – you don’t have to force yourself to drink water. Instead, listen to the body more. We tend to ignore thirst as we go through our busy days.
  • Carry a water bottle – make it more convenient for yourself and carry a water bottle to drink when you’re thirsty.
  • Cut out sugary drinks – added sugar can decrease overall health. Cut out sugary beverages and drink water.

The Takeaway

Dehydration is a real issue we can face every day. Maybe you forget to drink water in the morning, or maybe your office is very hot and causing you to sweat. Whatever the case, know that dehydration, even a mild case, can have negative consequences on health. Dehydration affects brain volume, mood, cognition, attention, and ability to concentrate. 

Make it easier on yourself by drinking water when you wake, carrying a water bottle, and listening to your thirst.

Remember that health comes from within, so eat well, exercise daily, and take care of your mental health. Develop good habits to form building blocks for emotional, mental, and physical health. Take care of your gut health too for even more health benefits! Learn everything you need to know about gut microbiota today for free here.

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