It may surprise you to learn that something as simple as drinking more water can help solve several health issues that can lead to osteoporosis. Yet research reveals fascinating information about our requirements for drinking water, especially as we age, and the influence of hydration on a wide range of body systems, including bones.
You see, even mild dehydration can have a profound impact on our health, affecting everything from brain function to digestive integrity. Every organ needs water to function, and so do our bones.
Today we’re going to take a close look at this research and at three significant bone health problems that are caused by not drinking enough water…and are solved by simply drinking more.
Your Body Was Made To Regulate Fluid Intake
All vertebrates on earth drink water to survive, and they all have internal “maintenance controls” to regulate their intake of fluid. The kidneys can temporarily postpone excretion of urine to conserve water, and when too much liquid is ingested, they can increase urine production. It’s a fascinating balancing act, and “non-regulatory” drinking can make things confusing.
“Non-regulatory” refers to the intake of various fluids (not water) simply for pleasure, while socializing, for the taste, and so forth. It refers to drinking that has nothing to do with thirst particularly.
This is one reason why it’s important to be aware of our fluid intake, and adjust it accordingly.
Fluid Balance Is Maintained By Complex Communication In The Body
Maintaining fluid balance is so crucial that your body has a very detailed and precise system to do the job. It involves a complex interplay between your brain, hormones, and the excretory organs (such as the kidneys and sweat glands).
Essentially, your body has highly-sensitive mechanisms in place to respond to the slightest water deficits or excesses by activating the corresponding system. For example, a lack of water causes a slight shrinkage of cells, which is then detected by sensors in the brain. The sensors then send messages via hormones that cause you to feel thirsty, and also cause your kidneys to cut back on urine production.
Obviously, your kidneys are key players in the regulation of fluid. And the research we’re going to explore today clearly shows that kidney function is more efficient when water is abundant.
Age Matters When It Comes To Dehydration
Studies in the 80’s and 90’s showed a decrease in the amount of liquid that older adults drink in response to thirst. In fact, older adults feel less thirsty when deprived of water, and tend to drink insufficient water following dehydration.1,2
This is likely due to a decrease in receptor sensitivity – specifically, osmoreceptors and barareceptors that detect the fluid within and around cells. So for older adults, it’s more important than ever to drink water regularly, even when not thirsty.
Three Bone-Health Issues Solved By Drinking Water
Even mild dehydration can give rise to the following conditions, and it’s entirely possible that you can be dehydrated and not even know it.
1. Bad Mood
Did you ever think to reach for a glass of water when you’re feeling grumpy? Chances are, you haven’t. But it turns out, you should!
Water significantly affects brain function. This makes sense when you consider that water is part of every human cell, including brain and nerve cells and the neurotransmitters that help them function. Irritability, fatigue, depression, lack of concentration, and headaches have all been shown to have a connection with dehydration.
When athletes were assessed following intense exercise, those with a lack of adequate hydration were much more likely to feel angry, depressed, confused, tense, or fatigued than those who had plenty of water.4
In another study, women of average activity levels were given diuretic pills to induce dehydration during exercise (another group exercised without the diuretics), and researchers found that the women’s perception of how hard the workout was and their ability to concentrate were definitely impacted. When mildly dehydrated, the women were more fatigued during mild exercise and even while sitting still at a computer. The dehydrated group also reported headache and “degraded mood.”5
A bad mood does more than just get on your nerves. Feelings of stress, anger, and fatigue stimulate the production of bone-damaging cortisol, the “stress hormone.”
Savers know that exercise is an excellent solution to depression and bad moods (and it also strengthens bone); but research shows that even mild dehydration affects physical performance by reducing endurance, promoting fatigue, increasing perceived effort, and reducing motivation.3 So it’s best to drink well before exercising to help you stay motivated, prevent dehydration during and after working out, and to make your workout easier and more effective.
By drinking more, your nervous system will function better, and you will be better able to give your bones the weight-bearing exercise they need.
Hydration is one of the keys to preventing and treating constipation, a condition that can cause far more than just discomfort.
Constipation is the result of waste matter moving too slowly through the colon, and the waste then accumulates. It’s been estimated that up to 40 pounds of fecal waste can accumulate in the constipated colon, producing a toxic build-up that can lead to weight gain, feeling sluggish, inflammation, and chronic bowel problems.
A toxic colon allows poisons to spread through the body, creating an acidic environment that is detrimental to your bones.
Water is what makes bowel movements soft; in fact, many laxatives work by promoting water absorption in the large intestine. But the water has to be present to soften stools, so drinking plenty of water is the first major step in cleansing your colon. (More about cleansing in a moment.)
The third and final condition that can be solved with more water intake is…
3. Reduced Kidney Function
As noted above, inadequate water intake causes the kidneys to hold back on urine production…but producing urine is how the kidneys eliminate toxins and waste from the body. So dehydration prevents toxin elimination in a very direct way, and getting rid of these poisons is paramount for bone health.
Your kidneys help maintain the acid/alkaline balance that’s so crucial for bone rejuvenation. If you’re even slightly dehydrated, kidney function is impaired, setting the stage for acidic toxin build-up and even acidosis.
Kidney function tends to decline with age, as does the tendency to feel thirsty. As I mentioned above, older adults tend to be less sensitive to feeling thirsty and usually take in less liquid to quench their thirst than younger adults. So it’s an especially good idea to pay attention to your fluid intake and to focus on creating good water drinking habits. Here are some suggestions.
How Much And What Kind Of Water Should You Drink?
There are many differing opinions on how much water you should drink for optimal hydration, and there are also many different ideas about what type of water is best.
Here are my recommendations:
- Distilled water with a few drops of alkalizing lemon juice should make up the bulk of your water intake. Contrary to what some sources say, drinking distilled water does not leach minerals from your bones. Water is not supposed to be a primary source of minerals anyway, and water that does have minerals contains the inorganic “rock” type.
- If distilled water is not available, water purified by reverse-osmosis with a few drops of lemon juice is a good second choice.
- Feel free to vary your water by adding fruits, herbs, and/or vegetables to a pitcher of distiller water to make a tasty cold infusion.
- Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink. Instead, give yourself reminders throughout the day to stop and drink whether you’re thirsty or not.
- Eat water-rich fruits, vegetables, and soups.
- Regarding how much water you should drink, a good place to start is with 5 8-ounce glasses of water a day, or one-third of your body weight in ounces daily (a 150-pound adult would drink 50 ounces, or 5 10-ounce glasses).
- Note urine color – if it’s dark-colored and concentrated, you need more water. The optimal color is clear or slightly yellow. This is a sign that your kidneys are doing their job, and that you’re drinking enough water.
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Here’s to hydration, health, and strong bones!
1 Morley JE, et al . “Fluid intake, hydration and aging.” In: Arnaud M, editor. Hydration throughout life: International conference Vittel (France) Montrouge: John Libbey Eurotext; 1998. p. 247.
2 Mack GW, et al. “Body fluid balance in dehydrated healthy older men: thirst and renal osmoregulation.” J Appl Physiol. 1994;76:1615–1623.
3 Popkin, Barry M.; D’Anci, Kristen E.; and Rosenberg, Irwin H. “Water, Hydration and Health.” Nutrition Reviews. August 2010. 68(8): 439-458. Doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00304.x. Web. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2908954/
4 D’Anci, Kristen E., et al. “Voluntary Dehydration And Cognitive Performance In Trained College Athletes.” Perceptual and Motor Skills. June 2009. Doi 10.2466/PMS.109.1, pp 251-269. Web. http://tuftsjournal.tufts.edu/2009/12_2/briefs/02/
5 Armstrong, Lawrence E., et al. “Mild Dehydration Affects Mood in Healthy Young Women.” Journal Of Nutrition. December 21, 2011. Doi: 10.3945/jn.111.142000. Web. http://www.webmd.com/women/news/20120120/even-mild-dehydration-may-cause-emotional-physical-problems