Healthy Living: What Happens to Your Body When You Drink Enough Water?

Adequate water keeps your bowels regular.

You Stay Regular

It's common to get a little constipated if you don't drink enough water. Inactivity, diet changes, illness, and even stress can add to the problem. The constipation usually passes on its own, but you can help move things along with exercise, over-the-counter meds, and of course, water.

See a doctor if your constipation lasts for more than a week or two or you have dizziness, bad pain in your belly, or blood in your stool. These could be signs of something more serious.

Water flushes toxins out of the body and helps lubricate joints.

Your Joints Work Better

Water makes up a large part of your joint cartilage that helps absorb shock and make bone-against-bone movements smoother. Water also can help keep gout (a painful joint condition) at bay. It helps flush toxins from your body that could inflame your joints, too.

Drinking water helps you sweat and expel toxins from the body.

You Sweat

And that's a good thing! As sweat evaporates from your skin, it cools down your body. Have a couple of extra cups of water in the couple of hours before you head out for exercise. Try to take about 10 big gulps every 15 minutes or so during your workout, too. Remember, you might not see the sweat you lose if you're in the pool or an air-conditioned gym.

Stay hydrated to replenish minerals and avoid dehydration.

You Avoid Dehydration

Without enough water, you can sweat away too much fluid. You can also lose sodium and potassium that your body needs. It's especially true in the heat. When it happens, you may be thirsty, pee less than usual, and your mouth might dry out. You could even feel dizzy, lightheaded, and confused.

Hydration helps flush toxins out of the body via the kidneys.

Your Kidneys Stay Healthier

Water helps your kidneys remove waste from your blood. If you don't get enough water, that waste -- along with acids -- can build up. That can lead to your kidneys getting clogged up with proteins called myoglobin. Dehydration can also lead to kidney stones and urinary tract infections.

Adequate hydration helps your brain work better.

You Keep Your Brain Sharp

You may not remember as well, think as clearly, or concentrate as easily when you're low on water. And you don't have to be seriously dehydrated. It can happen if you're just a little below where you should be. How little? Less than 4 cups of water in a 150-pound person.

Drinking water may help improve your athletic performance.

You May Gain an Athletic Edge

Even mild dehydration can make you tired. So it makes sense that athletes who replace the sweat they lose with water and electrolytes (minerals like sodium and potassium) have lower body temperature, more muscle, stronger hearts, more brain power, and more energy. It all adds up to better performance.

Drinking water may help you lose weight.

You Could Lose Weight

People who had just 2 or 3 more cups of water a day seem to have less fat, sugar, salt, and overall calories through the day. That means proper hydration could help you lose weight.

Extra water can replace empty, sugary calories many people drink with meals. Water also seems to speed up your metabolism, and it takes up space in your stomach so you feel more full.

Drinking water keeps your blood volume up and may help your heart work better.

Your Heart Works Better

Your ticker doesn't have to work as hard when you drink enough water. In fact, even mild dehydration affects your blood vessels (making them less springy) about the same as smoking a cigarette. Skimping on water also leads to less blood in your body, which can lower your blood pressure and raise your heart rate. It takes just 15 to 20 minutes for enough water to even things out.

Drinking adequate water may help you avoid fainting.

You're Less Likely to Faint

You're less likely to pass out when you give blood if you've had enough water. The same seems to be true if you're careful to replace water lost through sweat or urine. When levels get a bit low, your blood pressure can drop and your nervous system can't control it as well. That could make you faint. Watch out for this if it's hot outside, and especially when you exercise.

Adults may get approximately 20 to 30 percent of their daily water intake from food.

How Much Is Enough?

A good rule of thumb is 15 cups a day for men and 11 cups for women. But keep in mind that includes total fluids. You get 20% to 30% of your water from food. You get more from other drinks like juice, tea, and milk. If you're sick, you'll need more (especially with diarrhea or vomiting). If you're exercising or outside in the heat, focus on getting a little extra, too.

Drinking too much water may lead to low sodium.

Don’t Have Too Much

Too much water can dilute the salt in your blood enough to make you sick (it's called hyponatremia). Plus, you don't want to overdo it if you have certain health issues or take drugs that cause you to retain water, like NSAIDs, opiates, antidepressants, or others. Drink enough to keep a hint of yellow in the color of your urine, but not so much that it's always clear, or you spend all day in the bathroom. Talk to your doctor if you're unsure.

Sources:

IMAGES PROVIDED BY:

  1. magicmine / Getty Images
  2. Jupiterimages / Getty Images
  3. Wavebreakmedia / Getty Images
  4. iStockphoto / Getty Images
  5. PASIEKA / Getty Images
  6. ktsimage / Thinkstock
  7. oneinchpunch / Getty Images
  8. Wavebreakmedia / Thinkstock
  9. SergeyNivens / Getty Images
  10. Stockbyte / Thinkstock
  11. (Both) tetmc / Thinkstock
  12. schulzie / Getty Images

REFERENCES:

  • ACSMs Health and Fitness Journal: "The Hydration Equation: Update on Water Balance and Cognitive Performance."
  • American Academy of Family Physicians: "Constipation."
  • American Council On Exercise: "How Hydration Affects Performance."
  • Arthritis Foundation: "Best Beverages for Arthritis."
  • American Heart Association: "Staying Hydrated - Staying Healthy."
  • British Journal of Nutrition: "Effects of hydration status on cognitive performance and mood."
  • CDC: "BAM! Body and Mind: Keeping Your Cool," "Water and Nutrition."
  • Cleveland Clinic: "Osteoarthritis: What You Need to Know," "Constipation," "Constipation: 6 Hints to Help You Return to Regular Bowel Movements."
  • European Journal of Nutrition: "The effect of hypohydration on endothelial function in young healthy adults."
  • Frontiers In Nutrition: "Increased Hydration Can Be Associated with Weight Loss."
  • Harvard Health Publishing: "How much water should you drink?” “Drink more water to cut calories, fat, and sugar?"
  • Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Dehydration and Heat Stroke."
  • Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics: "Plain water consumption in relation to energy intake and diet quality among US adults, 2005–2012."
  • Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: "Effect of acute mild dehydration on cognitive-motor performance in golf."
  • Journal of The International Society of Sports Nutrition: "Individualized hydration plans improve performance outcomes for collegiate athletes engaging in in-season training."
  • Mayo Clinic: "Water: How much should you drink every day?"
  • Merck Manual: "Hyponatremia (Low Level of Sodium in the Blood)."
  • National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Symptoms & Causes of Constipation,"
  • "Nutritional Needs in Hot Environments: Applications for Military Personnel in Field Operations." (Book)
  • Nutrients: "Contribution of Water from Food and Fluids to Total Water Intake: Analysis of a French and UK Population Surveys."
  • Nutritional Review: "Water, Hydration and Health,” “The impact of water intake on energy intake and weight status: a systematic review."
  • Sports Medicine: "The Influence of Drinking Fluid on Endurance Cycling Performance: A Meta-Analysis."
  • UC San Diego Health: "10 Colors That Suggest Urine Trouble."
  • University of Arkansas News: "New Study Finds Hydration Levels Affect Cardiovascular Health."
  • Vanderbilt University Medical Center: "Plain water has surprising impact on blood pressure."
WebMD does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. See additional information