Water is perhaps the single most important compound for the human body — and for the body of every living creature. The many systems that keep us alive and thriving require adequate hydration, and those include our bones.
Today we'll look at the importance of hydration for bone health, and analyze a study that sought to create a beverage hydration index to help us compare the hydrating power of different drinks. Then we’ll apply that knowledge to good use with a recipe for a bone-hydrating electrolyte beverage!
How Dehydration Affects Your Bones
A wide body of scientific literature has established that dehydration of bone causes loss of elasticity, makes bones easier to fracture, and that hydration impacts the mechanical properties of bone. One scholarly publication described it this way:
“Early studies demonstrated that the stiffness, tensile strength, and hardness increases, whereas the strain at fracture and energy to fracture decreases, following the dehydration of bone tissues.”1
Researchers investigating those changes in bone hypothesized that water's interaction with both the collagen (organic) and mineral (inorganic) parts of bone contributes to these known effects. They tested this supposition by examining the impacts of water loss on the strength, toughness, and stiffness of bone.
In the end, they found that dehydration had significant effects on all three metrics mentioned above.1
Your spine is particularly dependent on hydration, since not only do vertebrae need water to maintain their strength, but the discs between your vertebrae actually require water. They're like little shock absorbers that protect your vertebrae and make your spine flexible. If the discs become dehydrated, they don't function as well, causing stiffness, back pain, or potentially serious injury.2
Dehydration has a negative impact on both the organic and inorganic components of bone. The impact on bone strength, toughness, and stiffness makes bones more susceptible to fracture.
Not All Beverages Hydrate Equally
A group of scientists published a study in 2015 establishing a beverage hydration index by testing the effect of 13 different commonly consumed drinks on urine output and fluid balance.3
Their results show that plain water wasn't the most effective beverage for retaining hydration. Drinks such as tea, orange juice, and even milk did a better job of staying in participants' systems. (It's worth noting that while milk may be capable of providing hydration, it's still bad for your bones.) The study authors aren't recommending that anyone replace water, but their findings show that there are optimal conditions for achieving hydration.3
Simply drinking large quantities of water isn't the best way to stay hydrated. In fact, chugging a gallon of pure H2O might not result in adequate hydration at all. When you consume a large amount of water all at once, it can run right through you without getting absorbed for use by your body. That's why the study didn't find plain water to be the most hydrating beverage.
Sipping water over the course of the day, and drinking water along with nutrients (like those in a piece of fruit) accomplishes deeper hydration.
The Save Institute recommends that you sip distilled water (or as a second choice, water purified through reverse osmosis) with a few drops of fresh lemon juice throughout the day. Alkalizing lemon juice carries a negative charge that binds to acidic waste in the body and flushes it out through the urine. It also contains antioxidant Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), which is essential for producing collagen for the bone matrix. Sipping, as opposed to gulping, helps your body retain water and won’t overload your kidneys.
Why distilled water? Distillation eliminates all water impurities, which leaves you with clean fresh-tasting water. Water from other sources (spring water, tap water) may contain undesirable inorganic minerals, pathogens, or chemicals. Tap water in many municipalities, for example, contains added fluoride. Fluoride is a mineral that disrupts the bone remodelling process resulting in a reduction in bone quality. An excellent second choice after distilled water is reverse osmosis (RO) purified water. It requires an RO system that needs regular maintenance but produces clean, pure water.
A general rule of thumb is to aim to drink half of your body weight in ounces per day. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, drink 80 ounces of water per day. But remember that this equation is just a guideline. Feel free to vary your water intake 20 percent in either direction, depending on your activity level. If you are highly active, you may need a higher intake of H2O.
Guzzling water isn't the best way to stay hydrated. Studies of the hydrating efficacy of different beverages indicate that nutrients encourage the body to absorb water. Spreading out water intake also helps the body to make the most of the water you drink. Drink half your body weight in ounces of distilled water with a few drops of lemon juice slowly over the course of the day.
Water Is A Whole-Body Helper
Here are a few other major reasons you should endeavor to stay hydrated:
- Dehydration has a negative impact on mood and cognitive function (impacting reaction time, decision making, clarity-of-thought, and emotional life)4
- Dehydration impairs both aerobic and anaerobic exercise performance (preventing you from getting the full benefits of exercise)5
- Water helps your body to flush toxins6
- Water helps to prevent headaches6
- Water keeps your digestive tract functioning smoothly6
A Hydrating Beverage Recipe
This recipe for an electrolyte beverage is designed to effectively and efficiently hydrate your body (it's also quite tasty!):
Watermelon Electrolyte Drink
- Place all ingredients in a blender and whirl until smooth.
What This Means To You
Water is easy to take for granted, so it requires intentionality to develop healthy hydration habits. The benefits of good hydration are enormous (and the risks of dehydration are equally significant) for your bones and your whole body.
Paying extra attention to how much water you drink, along with the type of water you drink, are important components of maintaining healthy bones. It's also part of the Save Institute's seven-day bone-building accelerator, OsteoCleanse. Use it to catch up on lost time, boost your rate of progress, or just to give your body and bones a break from the stresses and toxins of modern life.
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