What Not Drinking Enough Water Does To Your Body And Brain

Fewer than one in 10 Brits are drinking enough water. Naughty, naughty.
Elizabeth Fernandez via Getty Images

It’s no secret that Brits love drinking. Just not water. In fact, fewer than one in 10 of us are drinking enough, according to new research.

A survey of 2,000 consumers by drinks brand Aqua Pura found that only 6% of the UK is drinking the recommended amount of water per day. On average, we are gulping down just 850ml – less than half the recommended daily intake.

Many of us don’t even realise how much we ought to drink – less than one in 10 know the recommendation is 2 litre (around six to eight glasses) a day. The survey also found men are less likely to stay hydrated, with over a third (34.3%) saying they don’t drink still water at all, in comparison to 25% of women.

Almost a third (32%) drink more water during the week, while just 13% drink more at weekends. Most (80%) said they choose tap water over bottled water, and on average, those who do choose tap water drink it more often (every 2 hours 20 minutes), than those who drink it bottled (every 2 hours 42 minutes).

So what effect is this all having on our bodies and brains?

What happens if you don’t get enough hydration?

More than half your body weight comes from water. So if your levels are off, it can show up in a few different ways. Mild dehydration can make you feel tired, give you a headache, and affect your mood and focus. And when you go hard at the gym, all that sweating actually lowers how much blood you have for a bit.

If you’re not drinking enough, you might be thirsty, and your mouth might feel dry or sticky. You might not pee very often – less than four times a day. When you do go, there may not be much pee, and it’ll be dark or have a strong smell. You may feel dizzy or lightheaded, and you may pass out.

As it gets worse, your thirst cranks up. Your breathing and heart rate may be faster than normal. You can overheat, and you might feel confused or cranky.

Dehydration might also leave you with less energy and brain fog. One study, published in the journal Nutrients, found that getting enough hydration boosts brain health and prevents drowsiness and memory decline.

Duncan Reid, a medical expert at Pharmacy2U pharmacist, says: “Not drinking enough water causes dry mouth, trouble concentrating and tiredness among other problems. It is recommended to drink six o eight 200ml glasses of water per day.

“However, there are times when we will need to drink more water. For example, in hot weather or after exercising when we lose fluid through perspiration or when we are unwell and can lose fluid due to sickness or diarrhoea.”

Does it have to be water though?

Reid adds: “Water is a great choice as it contains no calories, so has no effect on weight, or sugar that can damage teeth. If you do not like the taste of plain water, then drinking sparkling water or adding a slice of fruit or some no added sugar squash can help to make it more palatable. Fruit teas (without sugar) can also be another healthy way to increase water consumption.

“Tea, coffee, milk and soft drinks all count, however they can contain fat, sugar and caffeine, so checking the information label is a good way to make healthy choices. Fruit smoothies can also provide hydration plus vitamins and minerals, but consumption should be limited to 150ml per day as when the fruits are blended, they release their sugar, which can damage teeth.”

Easy ways to get drink more water in your day

There are ways to remind yourself to hydrate. You could try drinking water when you first wake up, or get a nice water bottle that you enjoy carrying around or is even decorated with motivational messages reminding you to drink up.

You could set an alarm until you’re in the habit of doing it intuitively. And if it’s too many trips to the toilet you’re worried about, there are hacks to control it.

Try sipping from a glass over a period of time, for eample, instead of drinking large amounts in one go which can leave you bloated and wanting to go.

And once you’re done reading this, don’t forget to get some water.