Between the morning coffee, afternoon energy drinks and happy hour cocktails your fluid consumption may be significant, but chances are your body isn’t getting enough water. Roughly 75 percent of Americans suffer from chronic dehydration. Even mild dehydration has a variety of negative effects on your mental state and your physical body.

Dehydration is the result of a negative fluid balance within the body. It occurs when more water leaves the cells and the body than is replaced by drinking water and consuming water-rich foods. Everyday you lose roughly two liters of water in the form of vapor when you exhale, and more noticeably when you sweat and urinate. Mild dehydration can occur simply by not consuming enough water on a daily basis. However, severe dehydration is often the result of serious injuries to the skin, diseases and illnesses, extreme heat exposure, excessive physical training or a lack of safe drinking water.

The most common side effects of mild dehydration are generally ignored or blamed on another cause. For example, increased thirst sensations are often confused for hunger pangs and continual fatigue or weakness is commonly blamed on a lack of sleep. Even a small decline in body water can make it more difficult to focus and carry out basic tasks. Other mild to severe symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth and eyes, dizziness, confusion, inability to sweat, shortness of breath and heart palpitations.

You’ve probably heard of the rule of eights, but are eight 8-ounce glasses of water really enough to keep you hydrated and healthy? According to the Institute of Medicine you may not be getting quite enough water even if you are drinking your eight glasses a day. They offer a general recommendation of around three liters a day for men and 2.2 liters a day for women. However, there are a variety of variables that can increase your body’s need for water such as elevation, exercise, heat and alcohol consumption.

If you’ve been feeling a bit sluggish lately or you’re having a difficult time staying focused, try increasing your water consumption. Drink a glass with every meal and buy yourself a reusable water bottle to carry throughout the day. You will always be able to quickly quench your thirst and it will remind you to drink more water. Try adding a squeeze of lemon or lime for a splash of flavor. Your body will thank you.

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