Dr. Ashley Jefferies
We have all heard that we need to stay hydrated and the way to do so is by drinking 8 glasses of water daily or half your body weight in ounces. But what if all of that water you are consuming is not actually being absorbed into your cells? How does one truly increase their level of hydration and prevent dehydration?
Stacy Sims, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist and nutrition scientist at the University of Waikato in New Zealand, and the author of Roar says, “Plain water has a low osmolality - a measure of the concentration of particles like glucose and sodium it contains-which means it doesn't get into the body effectively through the small intestines, where 95 percent of water absorption takes place." In other words, water within our body moves from areas of high particle concentration to an area of low concentration through the process known as osmosis. If the water you consume has a low osmolality, it will not naturally diffuse into the cells of your small intestine and the rest of your body. This means despite consuming water, one may still experience symptoms of dehydration.
For this reason, it may be important to consider adding electrolytes to your water or try to consume other sources of electrolytes such as coconut water and bone broth. Even adding a pinch of naturally occurring salt such as pink Himalayan sea salt (1/8th of a teaspoon per every 16 ounces of water) or some lemon to your water will help. Stores often cell hydration tablets for the same purpose, however, be careful to read the nutrition labels as these may also contain artificial sweetener or added sugar. Fruits and vegetables also contain some molecules of glucose or sodium, which also helps your body to absorb the nutrients and the water from the food you are eating.
In areas like the desert where there is little to no water to be consumed, people maintain their hydration by consuming electrolytes but also by finding foods like cacti and chia seeds. These plants contain water in a gelatinous form. Research by Dr. Gerald Pollack, a bioengineering professor at the University of Washington, has shown that water in this form has a negative electrical charge. This electrical charge allows it to better absorb other molecules of water into the body through the digestive tract, similar to how electrolytes improve the absorbability of water. This means that “gel water” is also an extremely effective way to stay hydrated, energized and healthy. You can get this form of water into your system by consuming plants such as aloe, melons, green vegetables or adding crushed chia seeds to your water.
If this is something that interests you, you can read more about his studies in his book, The Fourth Phase of Water: Beyond Solid, Liquid, and Vapor, which is a simple read and easy to understand. It thoroughly explains the theory of the fourth phase fundamentally being living water and how it can help one increase their level of hydration.
What about dehydration? How does one know if they need to be drinking more water or trying these tips? Firstly, common signs of dehydration are fatigue, headaches, dizziness, dark colored urine, less frequent urination, and feeling thirsty. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms regularly, you may be experiencing dehydration. Adding some of the strategies listed above to your routine may be worth trying. Secondly, there are times when people are more likely to experience dehydration and possibly develop these symptoms. Times when one is sick (vomiting or experiencing diarrhea), living in or traveling to areas of higher altitude, exposed to high heat environments, increasing their activity levels or intensity, consuming alcohol, and naturally, as one ages they are more likely to become dehydrated. The tips listed above will help keep you healthy by preventing dehydration or helping one recover from being dehydrated.
In conclusion, so many things depend on hydration when it comes to your health, down to the health of your individual cells. Whether you are an athlete, someone trying to conceive, pregnant or growing child, or just a resident in an arid climate, you may be drinking all the water and more, but are you really staying as hydrated as you could be? Hopefully, this information helps you to improve the absorbability of the water that you are consuming regularly!