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If you’re feeling thirsty, you’re already in a state of mild dehydration

It’s a busy day. You’re in and out of meetings, got a conference call to jump on, a deadline to meet, grocery shopping on the way home then cooking dinner for the family. There’s so much on your mind that only when you look at the full glass on your desk you realize that you’ve hardly had any water today. Plus, during the colder months, we tend to forget about carrying a bottle of water around, like we do during summer. That may be a problem.

Water is essential. A person can survive for only three or four days — a week at most — without water. Two of the most important organs, the brain and the lungs are around 70% and 80% water. Plus, every cell in the body depends on water to function properly. It regulates body temperature, transports nutrients, supports the structure of cells and tissues and preserves cardiovascular function.

Research shows that at least 7 out of 10 of Americans are dehydrated, and drink below the recommended levels. According to the Institute of Medicine, men are advised to drink 13 ounces of fluid, while women require nine ounces per day, and it should be more during hotter weather and after exercise. It doesn’t necessarily have to be H2O, but a combination of foods that have a higher fluid content such as fruits and vegetables, and other beverages.

Keep in mind, that although sugary drinks and sodas do fall into the “other beverage” category, they may increase dehydration eventually. That’s because the body uses water to metabolize sugar, which increases its need for more water.

It’s easy to forget about being thirsty and not notice the signs. Yet, when the body is dehydrated it shouts loud and clear, and we must pay attention.

Here are nine signs that should be a reminder that a glass of water is in order.

Fatigue and dizziness

Dehydration may cause a drop in blood pressure decreasing the blood flow to the brain and according to the American Heart Association, even mild dehydration (a loss of as little as 1 percent to 2 percent of body weight) can cause weakness and dizziness.

Constipation

When the body lacks enough water, it starts extracting from other parts of the body that are in less need of it, for example your stool, making it harder to pass. Besides the discomfort, it also exposes the body to toxins and waste products longer.

Insomnia and disrupted sleep

Going to bed dehydrated may decrease the quality of sleep and in a long run cause insomnia by reducing the amount of essential amino acids needed by the body to produce melatonin, the sleep hormone. And, when you’re dehydrated, your mouth and nasal passages could get dry leading to irritation and snoring that might wake you up or even the person sleeping next to you.

Reduced cognitive function

It affects the youth and the elderly more drastically than it does healthy adults, but researchers have found that being dehydrated may impair performance in tasks that require attention, mental activity, and immediate memory skills.

Headache and migraine

Because of dehydration, the blood volume to the brain may drop and temporarily lower blood and oxygen flow to the brain. Hence, the blood vessels in the brain may dilate, which can cause some swelling and increased feeling of pressure.

Dry skin and lips

Lack of hydration may cause a loss in skin elasticity making your skin dry and lips chapped. Lotions help but you should hydrate from the inside out too.

Bad breath

Not having enough saliva can lead to excess growth of bacteria in the mouth that may cause unpleasant odor. A mint might cover up the symptoms, but you must treat it by its roots, so solution to your bad breath may just be a glass of water away.

Low or dark-color urine

Have you ever noticed the darker color of your urine when you go to the bathroom first thing in the morning? When kidneys filter waste, they pull extra water out of the blood to produce urine. But since the body isn’t getting any external water for at least six hours at night, there isn’t much extra by the time you wake up, so it contains less fluid and becomes more concentrated. Skipping the bathroom could also cause waste and fluid to build up to unhealthy levels in the body.

Kidney stones

This could be the next terrible stage after having low and dark urine, especially if there’s a lot of sodium in your diet. The kidneys can’t break down salt properly if there are not enough fluids in the urine causing a build-up of minerals that may form those rock-like crystals.