Water, water everywhere. No, really though. The earth’s surface is 71% water, your body is 60% water, and your blood is 90% water. We need water to survive, yes, but did you know we also need to keep hydrated in order to thrive?
H2O plays a crucial role in pretty much every one of our bodily systems, from our brain and nerves to our heart and lungs to (this one’s kind of surprising) our joints. So yeah, we need water to thrive.
Can you honestly say you drink the recommended amount of water every day? That’s 11.5 cups for women, and 15.5 for men, as per MayoClinic guidelines.
Drinking enough water can improve your mood and reduce anxiety, allow you to workout harder and for longer, and even help you improve your grades in the exams.
And what's really shocking? According to Healthline, just a 1-3% reduction in hydration begins to reduce your brain function and physical performance. You can easily lose that much water through day to day activity, especially in a warm climate.
So, to inspire you to keep hydrated, here are 17 surprising health benefits of drinking enough water.
Let's discuss in detail the top seventeen reasons why you should drink enough water every day.
1. Water Helps Maintain Normal Blood Pressure
Both low and high blood pressure can be caused by dehydration. In fact your blood is over 90% water, and if you’re very dehydrated you can end up with lower blood volume than is ideal. Without the proper amount of water, your blood will be thicker than usual and therefore there will be less of it circulating around your body – that’s what blood volume is, the volume of blood moving around your blood vessels.
A low blood volume leads to low blood pressure, and could potentially mean blood isn’t getting oxygen to your organs properly. One sign of low blood pressure is fainting or lightheadedness, which is reasonably common when you’re dehydrated, according to MedicalNewsToday.
High blood pressures link to dehydration are less definite, but we do know that high levels of sodium in the blood or low blood volume (and so a higher concentration of sodium) can lead to the release of vasopressin, a hormone that, amongst other things, causes your blood vessels to contract. This in turn leads to hypertension (high blood pressure), as noted in a 2015 study published in the Nutrition Review.
If you have consistently high or consistently low blood pressure you should of course seek a medical opinion and treatment, but it might also be worthwhile to make sure you’re getting enough H2O on a daily basis.
2. Water Keeps Your Digestive System Working Well
Maybe most of us don’t want to talk about our digestive systems all the time. Especially the lower half of them. But it’s important to know that proper hydration has been found to help relieve constipation in both adults and kids. (1, 2)
That might be useful knowledge to parents, as children can find constipation pretty painful and difficult to deal with.
Interestingly, mineral water might be particularly effective when it comes to getting things going in the digestive tract. Multiple European studies have indicated that magnesium and sodium-rich water is more helpful than just tap water or filtered water when trying to combat constipation. (3, 4)
Magnesium has long been used as a laxative, but with comparatively low levels compared to this medical usage mineral water is a lot more gentle in its effects.
3. Water May Help You Avoid Kidney Stones
All the fluid you drink ends up passing through your kidneys. When more fluid is passing through (carrying minerals and waste products out of your body) there is less of a chance that minerals will build up in your kidneys and cause kidney stones.
This is quite well studied as a phenomenon, and backed up by a study from the University of Indonesia and another published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.
In case you don’t know what a kidney stone is (believe me, you want to avoid them!), they are crystallized minerals that can clump together in the kidneys, eventually becoming small, solid stone-like objects that can be extremely painful when passed with urine and often requiring medical intervention.
People who have had kidney stones previously are sometimes prone to getting them again, but drinking enough water may help avoid that.
4. Water Keeps UTIs at Bay
Hopefully, not too many of you can relate to kidney stones. But I bet most of you have either had a UTI, or have a loved one who is prone to them. UTIs are caused by bacteria building up in the urethra, and they can be very painful.
According to the UK's National Health Service, hydration may prevent UTIS by flushing out these bacteria regularly via urination. Hydration also helps treat UTIs, so even if you already feel one coming on you should up that water intake, as per MedicalNewsToday.com.
5. Drinking Water May Help You Lose Weight
Many claims have been made about water and weight loss, and I would never try to convince you that water is some kind of magic weight loss bullet. There are, however, several ways that water can help with weight loss and appetite control.
The first is fairly obvious, and backed up by CDC guidelines – if you replace soda and other sugary drinks with water, you cut calories and sugar. This should lead to weight loss.
According to the Healthline, drinking water before meals can also help to reign in your appetite, so that you eat less at each meal but still feel full. In fact, a 2013 study by Journal and Clinical Diagnostic Research found that drinking 500ml of water about an hour before each meal increased weight loss in study participants by a highly statistically significant amount.
Drinking enough water is just one of a whole range of healthy habits that can assist you in finding a weight that is healthy for you, and every healthy habit you practice is a building block for the next. So, why not give yourself a daily water goal to work on if you’re trying to begin a healthier lifestyle?
6. Water Helps Prevent Hangovers
Most of us have woken up with an awful hangover, and an untouched bottle of water by the bed.
That water feels pretty life-giving in the morning, sure, but you’d really be doing yourself a favor if you drank that water before you went to sleep if you have been out drinking. Or, even better, try to drink water regularly throughout your evening if you’re on the sauce (and by that I mean consuming alcohol, not taking part in a hot sauce eating competition or something. Though that might make you thirsty too).
The basic cause of a hangover is dehydration. Alcohol is a pretty strong diuretic, which means it makes you lose more liquid than you take in when drinking it (yes, it makes you pee a lot!) and this results in a hangover, based on the information from the Healthline.com.
Interestingly, a 2017 study by Nutrients is one of a few that conclude that alcohol’s dehydrating effects have more of an impact as we age. This explains why hangovers seem to get worse every year, but it also means that older people should be extra careful about how much they drink.
Whatever your age, if you want to counteract some of the diuretic properties of booze you have to consume additional water when drinking alcohol. To do this, drink water between alcoholic drinks if you can, but if that somehow slips your mind while you’re out having fun at least drink a big glass before you go to bed!
7. Water Helps You To Absorb Minerals and Vitamins
Vitamins and minerals are most accessible to our bodies when they dissolve in water, as illustrated by the MayoClinic. This means that consuming enough water can be key to proper uptake of the vitamins and minerals we consume.
Some water-soluble vitamins and minerals can also be flushed out by water, but generally this is a good thing as our bodies don’t want an excess of anything, so flushing out what it can’t use is a safety mechanism of a kind.
8. Water Maintains Energy Levels
Being even mildly dehydrated can cause a drop in energy levels. According to multiple studies, a 1-3% drop in hydration, something which can happen as a result of daily activities, can increase fatigue. In particular, research has found that dehydration reduces athletic performance in sporting activities that last a half hour or more. (5, 6, 7)
These effects are even more pronounced in high temperatures. So, if you want to be at your best whether at the gym or just carrying out reasonably physical day to day stuff like playing with your kids or cycling to work, you need to make sure you stay hydrated.
9. Water Boosts Brain Function
Drinking enough water helps you think better!
There have been many studies on the effects of hydration on brain function, many of them concluding that hydration is key to brain function and concentration. One Italian 2012 study focused on children in a hot climate, while another published a year later in 2013 looked at dehydration in adults. The results of both studies highlighted the importance of water for the mental capabilities of both children and adults. (8, 9)
Of course, more water does not mean better brain function if you’re already hydrated, but even slight dehydration can reduce mental acuity so unless you’re absolutely sure you’re getting enough water it’s probably a good idea to drink a glass before, say, a big meeting or an exam.
If you are responsible for children, you can also maximize their ability to concentrate and learn at school by making sure they have a water bottle and are regularly drinking during the day.
10. Water Regulates Overall Body Temperature
No one likes to walk around sweaty, but it plays an essential role in regulating the temperature of our bodies. Without it, we would overheat.
When you’re dehydrated, though, your body tries to compensate by slowing down sweating and reserving liquid for other functions. According to multiple studies carried out by physiologists and sports scientists, this leads to poor temperature control, reduced physical performance, and potential hyperthermia (basically, overheating). (10, 11)
There is some evidence to suggest that younger people’s bodies adjust more aggressively to dehydration, while older people continue to sweat at about the same rate as usual as they become dehydrated. Either way, drinking water is extremely important if you are sweating, whether it's caused by weather or exercise. If you stop sweating in the heat, you may be extremely dehydrated and should seek medical help.
11. Thirst Can Cause a Dry Mouth and Sore Throat
This one is a water 101, but one of the first signs of dehydration is a dry mouth and throat. Saliva is mostly water, so when we are becoming dehydrated our bodies produce less of it. A dry mouth and dry throat can be uncomfortable, but a lack of saliva also has an effect on digestion and a dry mouth can lead to bad breath.
Drinking water should quite quickly solve this problem, as water washes the mouth out. In addition to a dry mouth, if you’re dehydrated you might experience dry eyes and a dry nose when you’ve not had enough water – these are also all symptoms of a bad hangover, which as we know is a kind of dehydration.
12. Water is Good for Your Skin
In fact, a study published in Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology in 2015 found that drinking enough water may keep skin appearing younger for longer! On the flipside, dehydration can cause visible skin dryness and redness, so if you’re battling dry skin you should probably reach for a water bottle as well as moisturizing.
According to the Healthline, drinking water may also help stimulate collagen production, keeping skin plump and bright. Of course, getting enough water is only one part of a good skincare routine. Wash your face, moisturize, and for goodness sake please wear sunscreen!
13. Water May Help Reduce Joint Pain
Most joint pain is not entirely caused by dehydration, but it may be a factor (especially in older people, who are more prone to dehydration as our thirst signals tend to weaken over time) and drinking enough water could well lessen your joint-based discomfort. Synovial fluid, which lubricates our joints, is mostly water after all.
Generally, it has been found that people who are dehydrated react more drastically to pain. A study from 2016 concluded that when dehydrated, participants could handle less pain than they could when they’d had enough water.
14. Water Helps Prevent Headaches
Dehydration is a common cause of headaches. In fact, one study published in BMC Public Health in 2018 found that around 40% of people experience a headache as a symptom of dehydration. Staying hydrated might help even if headaches are a regular problem for you. Around 50% of men who took part in a randomized trial designed to study migraines experienced a slowdown in symptoms when they upped their water intake by 50.7 ounces per day.
Most dehydration-headache sufferers claim to feel completely back to normal between 30 minutes and 3 hours after drinking water – but why suffer the headache in the first place? Keep hydrated and you may be able to avoid a sore head!
15. Water Can Prevent Palpitations
Heart palpitations (that feeling of your heart ‘skipping a beat’ can be caused or exacerbated by a whole bunch of factors. According to Harvard Health, one of these factors is dehydration. Dehydration can also cause a fast heartbeat, which can be unpleasant and scary.
As palpitations tend to last only for a few seconds, pinning down their cause can be difficult. Obviously, as with any recurring symptoms related to your cardiovascular system, you should see a doctor if you are regularly experiencing palpitations. You will probably have to work with your doctor to discover what is causing the palpitations, and increasing your water intake might be a good first step to rule out this simple explanation for your fluttering heart!
16. Water Helps Your Body Get Rid of Waste
It ain’t pretty, but taking out the trash is essential to the health of our bodies. Our bodies’ waste management system includes sweating, urination and bowel movements. Water dissolves most of the waste products generated as we digest our food, allowing them to leave our bodies through sweat and urine.
When you are dehydrated, you will probably notice that your urine is dark. That’s because there isn’t enough water in your body to properly dilute the waste your kidneys are trying to get rid of – in the long run, dehydration can be bad for the kidneys so it’s a good idea to aim for clear urine most of the time! Dark urine is more concentrated, and lighter urine is mostly water.
This has been well known for many years, though the importance of drinking enough water and keeping your urine clear is a newer discovery. Hydration levels and urine concentration usually fluctuate throughout the day, as proved by a 2019 Greek study, so don’t worry if the color of yours sometimes changes! (12, 13)
17. Drinking Enough Water Can Help Tackle Anxiety and Depression
A variety of studies have shown that dehydration can lead to or exacerbate anxiety, and one 2018 study published in the World Journal of Psychiatry also linked dehydration to depression. This was a large study, and it found an inverse relationship between levels of depression and anxiety and amount of water consumed. Basically, the subjects who drank more water enjoyed better mental health! Of course, the causation could go either way – depressed people are bad at looking after themselves – but there is undoubtedly a relationship between hydration and mood, as noted in a 2014 study.
Anxiety and dehydration have been linked many times. Some scientists have posited that this is because dehydration causes tension. Others, such as the team who carried out this cross-cultural study of Chinese and American adults published in Sleep in 2019, believe that being thirsty leads to lower quality sleep which in turn ramps up anxiety.
Whatever the exact relationship between dehydration and mental wellbeing, it seems pretty clear that drinking water regularly is a good idea if you struggle with anxiety and depression. If nothing else, healthy habits and routine are helpful for mental health, as is maintaining good physical health.
With such a tower of peer-reviewed scientific evidence to back up many of the benefits of drinking water it seems pretty clear that hydration is incredibly important to our health.
Even slight dehydration can affect both your body and brain, so never underestimate the power of H2O!
If you worry that you don’t drink enough water, why not start measuring your intake? After that, you can build up slowly over time, creating goals that are tailored for you and are never overwhelming. If you carry a water bottle around with you, you’ll be surprised by how easy it is to hit your targets by taking a little and often approach.