What Happens To Your Stomach When You Don't Drink Enough Water

Drink eight glasses of water every day. This is probably a saying you've heard over and over again. While the jury isn't out on the exact number (especially since not everyone's lifestyle is the same), there's no discounting the importance of drinking water. 

Ailments like brain fog, fatigue, muscle cramping, headaches, and dry skin can be prevented if you drink enough water every day. But did you know that your stomach and your entire digestive system — from your mouth to your anus — also require water to get their jobs done? "Water is involved in literally every step of the digestive process, which is just another reason why staying adequately hydrated is so critically important to your health," shared Susan Bowerman, a registered dietitian and senior director of Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training at Herbalife

When you don't get enough water, your stomach suffers, literally. From gastritis to acid reflux and even ulcers, dehydration can cause a lot of problems, per Digestive Health Specialists. Let's take a look at why.

Water helps prevent an overly acidic stomach and constipation

Your stomach, one part of the digestive process, needs water to produce the digestive juices that eventually help break up the food you consume. If you don't drink enough water, you're not only disrupting this process of nutrient absorption, but this can also lead to an overly acidic stomach, per Medical News Today. In fact, it is recommended that people who have GERD and acid reflux sip water while they eat to make for easier movement of their food through the digestive tract. If you want to prevent stomach ulcers and heartburn, you should be fueling your body with adequate amounts of water. 

According to registered dietitian Candace Pumper (via Everyday Health), water plays a role in maintaining a healthy gut too, which again is an important part of digestion. "Hydration plays a key role in intestinal secretions, nutrient digestion and absorption, gut motility, waste removal, and gut microbiome support," explained Pumper.

If you want to avoid constipation, drinking enough water could be the key. "There are water receptors in the colon, and they pull water from the body to make the stools softer. If you don't get enough water, hard stools and constipation could be common side effects, along with abdominal pain and cramps," shared family medicine doctor Dr. Marjan Moghaddam (per Henry Ford Health). This is not all water does for your digestive system, though.

Water helps with the production of saliva

Ever wondered why you wake up in the morning with a parched mouth and bad breath? Blame the lack of water for this particular morning delight. As Dr. John Higgins of the University of Texas told Everyday Health, "If you're not producing enough saliva, you can get bacterial overgrowth in the mouth, and one of the side effects of that is bad breath." Drinking enough water can keep your saliva production in check and prevent dry mucous membranes, which invariably affects everything from talking to swallowing, per Henry Ford Health. 

Saliva also performs the important function of moistening your food, explained registered dietitian Susan Bowerman (via Herbalife). "It is also a vehicle for enzymes that begin the process of chemically breaking down the fats and carbohydrates as you chew." 

Now that you know the importance of water for stomach-related activities, just how much should you be drinking? And do coffees, green teas, and your daily intake of fruits count as water consumption? The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends close to 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) for adult men and 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) for adult women, and this includes any and all water that might come from foods and other beverages (via Mayo Clinic). Routinely filling a water bottle every morning and keeping it close to you might be a good way to remind yourself to hydrate throughout the day. You can also include water-rich sources of fruits and vegetables in your diet. Find creative (yet healthy) ways to increase your fluid intake so you remain consistent.