The Consequences of a Lack of Water

Although there's no standard amount of water you should drink on a daily basis, water is universally recognized as important to human health. Initially, the consequences of a lack of water in your body can be fairly mild. However, long-term dehydration can be dangerous and lead to death.

Water deficiency symptoms can vary, ranging from dizziness to kidney problems. (Image: kazoka30/iStock/GettyImages)

Drinking Enough Water

According to the Mayo Clinic, human beings depend on water for our survival. Every aspect of our function, from breathing to sweating, causes us to lose water.

Despite this, the Centers for Disease Control state no recommendation for how much water people should drink each day. This is because the amount of fluid people should consume on a daily basis varies based on factors like age, sex and whether they are pregnant or lactating. However, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine states a value for total adequate daily fluid intake: About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) for men and 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) for women.

This is in line with the Harvard Medical School Special Health Report, which states that most people need between 4 and 6 cups (32 to 48 fluid ounces) of water a day. However, if you're in a hot environment or are exercising, you may want to drink as much as 2 or 3 cups (16 to 24 fluid ounces) per hour, instead.

You should also drink more water than average if you've been ill. Staying hydrated is particularly important if you've had a fever, have been vomiting or are experiencing diarrhea.

Lack of Water in Diet

Although water is recognized as an essential component of human life, many people don't consume enough of it. In some parts of the world, tap water is unsafe or unhealthy to drink and purchasing bottled water can be costly.

In most Western societies, dietary lack of water is often voluntary. Many people simply don't like the taste and prefer caffeinated, alcoholic or sweetened beverages, instead. People may also choose to do water fasts, which are fasts that eliminate all food and beverages, including water.

Even people who believe they are consuming enough water may not be. Older adults are particularly prone to becoming dehydrated, with 20 to 30 percent of older adults suffering from dehydration and dehydration related issues.

Dehydration, which means that there's been a reduction in the total amount of water in your body, can occur due to both lack of water or excess loss of water. Dehydration is associated with a higher chance of disability, illness and even death. Fortunately, these are longer-term effects of water deficiency, and it is usually possible to easily resolve dehydration effects.

Importance of Water Consumption

Humans are mostly water. You're more than 70 percent water when you're born, although this number goes down to 50 percent by the time you become older. Given how much of you is liquid, water is crucial to your survival and function. Despite this, drinking water and staying hydrated is more important than many people realize.

According to the Harvard Medical School Special Health Report, hydration is important because water has a variety of different, important roles in the body. Water helps to:

  • Cushion your joints
  • Protect your organs
  • Help nutrients and oxygen reach your cells
  • Remove bacteria from your bladder
  • Remove waste from your body
  • Promote healthy cardiovascular health
  • Regulate your body temperature
  • Balance your electrolytes

Consequences of Dehydration

Given the varied importance for water in the body, the consequences of poor water intake can also vary substantially. Mild water deficiency symptoms include weakness, low blood pressure, dark urine, dizziness, confusion and reduced cognitive function. You may also see visible changes like sunken eyes, reduced tear production and decreased skin elasticity when dehydration is mild or moderate.

Without proper rehydration, more serious water deficiency issues like acidosis, electrolyte disturbances, urinary tract disease and kidney problems may occur. Most people wouldn't be able to survive for more than 100 hours without water.

Staying Hydrated Without Water

Since all living organisms need water to survive, the food you eat and the beverages you drink can all help you stay hydrated. Almost all drinks are made up of primarily water.

This means that juices, milk-based beverages and even caffeinated and alcoholic beverages can keep you hydrated. Even certain foods, like soups and foods like celery, tomatoes and melon can help prevent dehydration. Despite this, water is typically considered to be the healthiest choice as it has no calories, added sugars or carbohydrates.

Alternatives to Water

If you're not keen on drinking tap water or other types of water but want to stay hydrated, there are many beverages that are marketed as alternatives to water. These include products like:

Many people prefer products like these as they have distinctly different flavors to water. However, you should be aware that products like tonic water and flavored water tend to contain additional ingredients.

In most cases, beverages like these contain added sugars or unhealthy sweeteners like high-fructose corn syrup. Even diet drinks contain artificial sweeteners, which may be detrimental to the health of your gastrointestinal system.

Healthy Alternatives to Plain Water

If you're keen on drinking water but want it to have a different flavor, you can add fresh herbs or slices of fruits or vegetables to your water. Homemade mint water, lemon water or cucumber water can all be flavorful alternatives without any of the added sugars commercial products contain.

Carbonated products like sparkling water don't usually contain added sugars. However, products like these may have more sodium and other minerals.

Sparkling water has additional minerals as its carbonation comes from natural sources. Seltzer water's carbonation is artificial, which means it typically has no additional minerals. Club soda is artificially carbonated, like seltzer water, but contains small amounts of added minerals that give it a slightly different flavor to water.

Despite their carbonation, these beverages are similar enough to water. Sparkling water, seltzer water and club soda can all be considered to be healthy beverages that can help you stay hydrated.

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