Ways Your Body Tells You When It Needs Water

With 60 percent of our bodies comprised of water, it might seem strange that roughly three-quarters of Americans could be chronically dehydrated. According to the CDC, dehydration can contribute to mood swings, lack of mental focus, constipation, kidney stones and overheating, among other conditions. Drinking a sufficient amount of H20 brings a bevy of benefits, helping to promote healthy digestion, proper brain function and optimal kidney function, in addition to regulating body temperature and blood pressure. The near-miracle elixir also helps deliver minerals, nutrients and vitamins to the body, all while lubricating the joints and improving the appearance of the skin.

As if that’s not reason enough to reach for your water bottle more often, it can also aid in weight loss efforts as a replacement for soda, juices and other calorie-packed beverages. "Drinking extra water will fill you up while eating, and help prevent overeating because your stomach will fill up quicker," notes Dr. Allen Conrad of the Montgomery County Chiropractic Center. "This will tell your brain that you are full quicker, thus reducing calorie consumption."

The best way to ensure adequate water intake is to sip on it regularly throughout the day. But with busy, fast-paced schedules and a flood of daily distractions, it’s all too easy to fall short on your H20 intake. Luckily, the human body offers plenty of cues that it’s time to hydrate. All you have to do is listen up—and then drink up.

Thirst and/or hunger: When you feel parched, it's because the body is already dehydrated and is telling you it’s time to drink, says Kristen Peterson, MPH, RDN, LDN, of PrimeLife Nutrition. "Our bodies are composed mostly of water, so it needs to signal you when water is getting too low," she notes. Also, when you think you're hungry but you’ve eaten recently, it could actually be your body’s way of telling you it’s dehydrated. As a general rule of thumb, Peterson suggests drinking an eight- to 16-ounce glass of water when you feel hungry. "If that hunger doesn't go away, then by all means it's time to eat," she says. "If it does go away, it was probably due to dehydration."

Urine changes: Keeping the body hydrated is important for most bodily processes to work efficiently, notes Karen Shopoff Rooff, ACE-certified health coach and personal trainer with Running on Balance. "The best way to know your body needs water is to monitor urine color," she says. "If urine is any darker than a pale yellow, the body is underhydrated. The darker the urine, the more dehydrated a person is." You may also notice that the body produces less urine as it tries to retain more fluids.

Fatigue: The body relies on water for many physiological processes, including producing energy and delivering nutrients throughout your system, notes Dr. Thanu Jey of the Yorkville Sports Medicine Clinic. "Once your hydration levels drop, your body slows down these processes, making you feel tired and fatigued," he says. "Fatigue is an early indication that your body needs more water, and staying hydrated will provide benefits that include having more energy and feeling more productive."

Dry skin and lips: According to Dr. Alain Michon of Ottawa Skin Clinic, when you are dehydrated, your body works to pull water from various parts of the body, like the lips and the skin, in order to hydrate the cells. To remedy this, he says it’s important to replenish moisture levels to the body and hydrate your cells. "To start, drink lots of water, avoid alcohol and caffeine, and use a medical-grade moisturizer with ingredients like hyaluronic acid and essential vitamins," he recommends. "Hyaluronic acid retains over 1,000 times its weight in water, making it a great moisturizer. To maintain the water and replenish at the cellular level, consider adding a bit of lemon and salt to your water for electrolytes."

Lightheadedness or dizziness: When you don’t replenish the fluids your body has lost, less oxygen will be carried to the brain and your blood pressure could drop—an equation for feeling woozy. According to content from Harvard Medical School, "Without enough fluids, the volume of your blood goes down, lowering your blood pressure and keeping your brain from getting enough blood, causing lightheadedness."

Skin "pinch test": One quick way to check hydration levels is to pinch the back of your hand. If the skin doesn’t quickly return to normal, it could be an indication that you need water, says sports chiropractor Dr. Alex Tauberg. "Dehydration affects your skin’s turgor, or ability to return to its normal flexible state," he explains. "When you are dehydrated, the skin does not quickly return to its normal state, but instead stays bunched up after being pinched."

Excess saliva: If you notice that you’re producing more saliva, says registered dietitian Katie Chapmon, that could be a sign of dehydration. "Our bodies are incredible at adapting, and will produce more saliva to keep the mouth and throat lubricated," she notes.

Muscle cramps: Could a sudden charley horse be your body’s way of demanding water? There are many factors that can cause muscle cramps, but among them is a depletion of fluids.

If you experience any of these dehydration cues, respond by increasing your intake of water, avoiding sugary sodas and coffees. If the symptoms continue, see a doctor to determine whether you require medical attention.