Most Americans are chronically dehydrated–we either aren’t getting enough water into our bodies or we’re not replacing the water we lose during the day (through exercise or diet). Dehydration goes beyond just feeling thirsty and the 10 signs of dehydration after surgery are even more pronounced.

Right now, as you’re reading this, you’re most likely dehydrated. The Institute of Medicine prescribes 13 cups of water per day for men and nine for women. We’re guessing that not too many of us hit that number. And it only takes 1.5% water loss in your body to become mildly dehydrated.

Why is Water Important?

The human body is composed of around 60% water, making it a vital component for overall health and wellness. You need water to metabolize fat, detoxify the liver and the kidneys, and carry waste away. It also regulates body temperature, protects and cushions joints and organs, aids digestion, and boosts energy levels and mental clarity.

Water is even more important after bariatric surgery. Water is necessary for the absorption of essential micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, which are critical for weight loss surgery patients. In the first few weeks after surgery, you may face nutrient deficiencies, and water helps get the nutrient supplements into the body.

10 Signs of Dehydration After Surgery

Knowing the warning signs of dehydration can hold off serious problems. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms of dehydration for prolonged periods, talk with your doctor as soon as possible.

  • Thirst or dry mouth.
  • Darker urine color and decreased urine output.
  • Dry skin/lips.
  • Headache.
  • Hunger.
  • Muscle cramping in arms and legs.
  • Constipation.
  • Dizziness, weakness, fatigue, or lethargy.
  • Rapid heartbeat and weak pulse.
  • Cold hands and feet.

Thirst or dry mouth

Thirst is a major signal to start drinking more fluid. Unfortunately, thirst occurs after you are already dehydrated. So drink up! If you are thirsty, you are already behind.

Darker urine color and decreased urine output

This is one of the beginning signs of dehydration. The kidneys are attempting to store water to keep the body functioning normally instead of expelling waste.

Dry skin/lips

Decreased water intake = increase in dry skin. Your skin plays a role in your immune system. When it is compromised by dehydration, your first line of defense is not as effective. The body has to prioritize where the water goes when the supply is limited and the vital organs usually win.

10 Signs of Dehydration: Headache

Dehydration can cause the blood vessels to narrow. The temporary narrowing of blood vessels decreases the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain, causing headaches.


Lower fluid intake can cause the body to receive mixed hunger signals causing you to think that you need to eat rather than drink. Drinking plenty of fluid is a natural appetite suppressant, especially if you are struggling with “head hunger” or snacking between meals.

Muscle cramping in arms and legs

Cramping can be caused by a fluid imbalance. A fluid imbalance is not just about the body’s water, but also the electrolytes. Electrolytes are stored both outside of the cell (extracellular) and inside a cell (intracellular)- dehydration causes a shift in the fluid containing these electrolytes which leads to cramping.


Without adequate water, the water entering the large intestine (colon) is diminished. This results in waste moving slower through the bowel or halting movement completely.

Dizziness, weakness, fatigue, or lethargy

Dehydration or lower fluid intake can cause a drop in blood volume. Without an increase in fluid intake, the heart must work harder to send the same amount of blood and oxygen to your muscles.

Rapid heartbeat and weak pulse

A rapid heartbeat occurs with dehydration to keep your blood pressure from dropping. The less fluid that is in the blood means that the heart has to pump more to maintain blood pressure levels.

Cold hands and feet

Some scientists believe that cold hands and feet occur in severe dehydration due to a decrease in blood volume and blood flow is rerouted away from the extremities and toward the vital organs.

An image of five glasses being filled with water to help illustrate the 10 signs of dehydration after surgery.

Notice One of the 10 Signs of Dehydration? Here’s How To Stay Hydrated

Are these surprising? What shocks us is that many everyday problems—confusion, fogginess, fatigue—that we chalk up to so many different things are simply just signs and symptoms of one cause: dehydration. Luckily, there are some pretty simple steps you can take to keep your body hydrated.

But we also understand that the amount of water your body needs during the day can seem like a lot. For bariatric patients, you’ll need at least 96 ounces of water spaced out throughout the day. And remember–no gulping down water! Weight loss surgery patients Gastric sleeve or gastric bypass patients can actually hurt themselves if they drink too much water at one time.

You also have to be mindful about when you drink your water. For the first two weeks after surgery, you’ll be on an all-liquid diet. But once solid foods are introduced, you cannot eat and drink at the same time because there is not enough room in your pouch for foods and fluids. You will also have to wait one hour after your meal to drink fluids.

Otherwise, you will literally be too full of water to finish your meal. Drinking too early after a meal may cause nausea or stomach pain. It also promotes food to be digested quicker, which will make you hungrier.

To make preventing dehydration easier, we’ve compiled a few tips to help you reach these water intake goals. It may take time to get into the swing (swig?) of things, but once you have a routine, it will get easier.

Get a nice water bottle
There are some great inexpensive water bottles on shelves around town that can help encourage you to drink more water. If you splurge for a little bit of a higher-end bottle that keeps the liquid cold, you’ll be able to keep the water cool for a long time and know it’s ready to drink no matter where you go.
Add some flavor
If water seems boring to drink over and over, all day long, consider getting some water flavoring to make it taste a little different every once in a while. You can add any flavor to your water that is sugar-free and caffeine free. Sugar-free sports drinks, broth, decaf coffee, and decaf tea are also acceptable.
Download an app
If you have a busy day ahead, it’s likely that you won’t remember to drink your water unless you start feeling thirsty. Did you know that there are apps out there that remind you when to drink water? Check out apps like “My Water” that send reminders on when you need to refresh your water supply and take a drink.
Reduce your intake of other beverages
If you load up on coffee or juice, chances are, you’re not going to be as inclined to drink water. Reduce your intake of other beverages that are not beneficial to your help and replace them with a full glass of water.

Making sure you drink enough water cannot be overstated. From temperature regulation, protection of vital organs, aiding in digestion, eliminating wastes, and boosting our energy levels and mental clarity, water plays a crucial role in maintaining overall health and wellness.

As a weight loss surgery patient, it’s vital to prioritize proper hydration to ensure a smooth recovery, prevent complications, and support your long-term goals. So, let’s raise a glass of water and toast to a healthier, happier you!

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