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New Zealand Listener - - GOOD HYDRATION -

GREEN SMOOTH­IES filled with cu­cum­ber, cel­ery, let­tuce, spinach and zuc­chini are wa­ter­rich. The Quench plan in­cludes flavour­ings such as minced gin­ger, freshly squeezed lime, basil and mint. A blended smoothie will give you the same fi­bre, calo­ries, and other nu­tri­ents, as eat­ing the veg­etable whole.

FIZZY WA­TER is cre­ated by adding car­bon diox­ide un­der pres­sure, mak­ing it more acidic. Soda wa­ter has a pH of 5.1 and min­eral wa­ter of 3.9. Any­thing with a pH be­low 5.5 has the po­ten­tial to erode the enamel sur­face of the teeth.

FRUIT JUICE does con­tain some nu­tri­ents but is high in su­gar and all the healthy fi­bre has been re­moved. Drink­ing a glass of com­mer­cially pro­duced ap­ple juice will give you more calo­ries and about the same amount of su­gar as a glass of Coca-Cola. Both have tooth-dam­ag­ingly low pH lev­els.

MILK, both whole and skimmed, is more hy­drat­ing than wa­ter, ac­cord­ing to one UK study. That is prob­a­bly due to a com­bi­na­tion of ca­sein pro­tein, sodium and potas­sium; milk stays in the stom­ach for longer.

SPORTS DRINKS tend to be high in su­gar and con­tain elec­trolytes such as sodium and potas­sium. They are de­signed for rapid re­hy­dra­tion and, if you’re sweat­ing a great deal, will help the body re­turn to the os­motic bal­ance needed for good hy­dra­tion. But if you are ex­er­cis­ing to lose weight, it makes no sense to get a lot of en­ergy very quickly in fluid form.

TEA AND COF­FEE con­tain caf­feine, which is a mild di­uretic, but you’ll still gain more fluid from drink­ing mod­er­ate amounts than you will lose to the di­uretic ef­fect.

AL­KA­LINE WA­TER has a higher pH than reg­u­lar wa­ter. Ad­vo­cates, in­clud­ing Aus­tralian model Mi­randa Kerr, be­lieve it neu­tralises acid in the body. Di­eti­cian Ien Helle­mans is scep­ti­cal. “The body’s acid bal­ance is very finely reg­u­lated,” she says. “When you think about the stom­ach be­ing ex­tremely acidic, then it’s very hard to imag­ine a slightly al­ka­line wa­ter is chang­ing that en­vi­ron­ment.” Typ­i­cal Western di­ets high in sug­ars, pro­cessed foods and meat are acid pre­dom­i­nant, Helle­mans says, so if peo­ple want to re­duce acid­ity, they should eat more fruit and veg­eta­bles. de­hy­drat­ing us even fur­ther,” she says.

She be­lieves desert dwellers hold the se­cret to op­ti­mum hy­dra­tion. “How do peo­ple who don’t have eight glasses a day sur­vive and thrive? They are us­ing strate­gies of hy­dra­tion ap­pro­pri­at­ing a dif­fer­ent kind of wa­ter locked in plants and foods. Once you look for it, you find it’s a wide­spread prac­tice.”

When her el­derly mother, who is in a rest home, was strug­gling with de­hy­dra­tion, Bria had her eat more ap­ples and drink or­ange juice laced with chia seeds to in­crease her mois­ture re­ten­tion.


Mean­while, in her Man­hat­tan clinic, Dana Cohen has found that im­prov­ing hy­dra­tion is con­tribut­ing to the well-be­ing of her pa­tients in a wide va­ri­ety of ways. “I be­lieve this low-grade, chronic or sub-clin­i­cal de­hy­dra­tion is ram­pant,” she says. “I see it on a daily ba­sis and, by hy­drat­ing bet­ter, pa­tients feel bet­ter – less fa­tigue, less headaches, less

Bria be­lieves desert dwellers hold the se­cret to op­ti­mum hy­dra­tion. “How do peo­ple who don’t have eight glasses a day sur­vive and thrive?”

aches and pains, more mo­bil­ity.”

To­gether, Cohen and Bria have de­vised the Quench plan. This in­volves hy­drat­ing more ef­fec­tively by eat­ing lots of wa­ter­rich plant foods – cu­cum­ber, cel­ery, ap­ples, wa­ter­melon, ice­berg let­tuce, leafy greens and fruits along with healthy fats, soups, bone broths, soaked or ground chia seeds (these re­lease a form of gelled wa­ter that hy­drates more slowly and ef­fec­tively, says Cohen), co­conut wa­ter and sea salt.

“Adding one green smoothie a day to your reg­i­men is life-chang­ing for a lot of peo­ple,” Cohen says. “A green smoothie is de­fined as blended greens – as op­posed to juic­ing – where you’re keep­ing the fi­bre. If you ex­per­i­ment on your­self, you’ll see that hy­drat­ing this way is much more ef­fec­tive than by wa­ter alone.”


Our seden­tary life­styles are an­other rea­son many of us aren’t ad­e­quately hy­drated, say the pair. Move­ment is re­quired to push wa­ter through our fas­cia – con­nec­tive tis­sue – and into our cells. The pair have de­vel­oped a series of mi­cro-move­ments – head tilts, twist­ing the spine, wig­gling the toes or cir­cling the an­kles – so that even the chron­i­cally desk-bound can hy­drate to a cel­lu­lar level.

The wis­dom of desert dwellers isn’t the only ba­sis for the Quench plan. It is also in­formed by sci­ence, par­tic­u­larly the work of Dr Ger­ald Pol­lack, a pro­fes­sor of

“By hy­drat­ing bet­ter, pa­tients feel bet­ter – less fa­tigue, less headaches, less aches and pains, more mo­bil­ity.”

bio­engi­neer­ing at the Univer­sity of Wash­ing­ton. His claim is to have iden­ti­fied what is var­i­ously de­scribed as gel wa­ter, struc­tured wa­ter, EZ wa­ter or fourth­phase wa­ter. This is the fluid that ex­ists in plants and in our own cells, and, Pol­lack says, it is denser, ac­ti­vated by light waves and neg­a­tively charged.

“If you don’t have enough of that wa­ter in your cell, it can’t per­form prop­erly,” he says.

Pol­lack de­scribes him­self as a rev­o­lu­tion­ary. Al­though it is fair to say he has had a mixed re­sponse from the sci­ence com­mu­nity, there is still much in­ter­est in his work. On an up­com­ing trip to Europe, he and his wife have been in­vited to stay with He­ston Blu­men­thal, the chef famed for fus­ing sci­ence and cooking. And Pol­lack is revered by many of those with an in­ter­est in al­ter­na­tive health and well­ness.

“The re­sponse has been ex­tra­or­di­nary,” he says. “Some­times, I’ll go to con­fer­ences and find huge num­bers of peo­ple who want to be pho­tographed with me or get my sig­na­ture. It’s a bit em­bar­rass­ing. I’m just a sci­en­tist.”

Like the au­thors of Quench, Pol­lack ad­vo­cates re­plen­ish­ing our cells by drink­ing lots of green smooth­ies. He also ad­vo­cates ex­po­sure to UV light, but when told this is a prob­lem in New Zealand – which has the world’s worst rate of melanoma – sug­gests in­frared saunas as an al­ter­na­tive. He has been re­search­ing how var­i­ous sub­stances help build EZ wa­ter. Turmeric, basil, co­conut wa­ter and co­conut fat all proved ef­fec­tive. “We also tried a poi­son – glyphosate – and, even in small doses, it made EZ wa­ter smaller and caused de­hy­dra­tion,” he says.

This is all a long way from the con­ven­tional wis­dom that eight glasses of wa­ter a day will see us right – ad­vice that ap­pears to have no real ba­sis in sci­ence. It seems to date back to 1945, when the US Food and Nu­tri­tion Board rec­om­mended that peo­ple con­sume 2.5 litres of fluid a day, adding a sig­nif­i­cant – but largely ig­nored – coda that much of this quan­tity could be found in foods.

As adults, we are about 60% wa­ter. It lu­bri­cates our joints, fills our cells, helps de­liver oxy­gen round our bod­ies, forms saliva for diges­tion, flushes away waste, acts as a shock ab­sorber for the brain and spinal chord, reg­u­lates body tem­per­a­ture and more. But ex­actly how much fluid we need to con­sume on a daily ba­sis to re­plen­ish our wa­ter is highly in­di­vid­ual. It de­pends on where we live, what we do and eat, how much we sweat and how fat or lean we are.

Mea­sur­ing how well hy­drated you might be isn’t straight­for­ward, ei­ther, says Jim Cot­ter, a pro­fes­sor in the Univer­sity of Otago’s phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion school. “It’s a re­ally slip­pery no­tion,” he says. “What is hy­dra­tion?”

Tra­di­tion­ally, ath­letes mea­sure it by weigh­ing them­selves be­fore and af­ter an event, on the ba­sis that the ma­jor­ity of the weight lost is go­ing to be fluid. The rest of us can use the colour of our urine as a guide – pale yel­low is healthy, dark sug­gests you are de­hy­drated – but that is not a fool­proof method, ei­ther.

To Cot­ter, the best ad­vice for those not en­gaged with ex­treme sports seems to be to drink to thirst.

“If we can’t be trusted to rely on our thirst, to me as a phys­i­ol­o­gist it’s an anom­aly,” he says. “We reg­u­late a whole lot of things to do with our tem­per­a­ture, glu­cose lev­els, lev­els and acid­ity. We do all that with­out be­ing told how, and yet we seem to have to be told how to drink. Why is it so spe­cial? I can’t help feel­ing we wouldn’t be here if we got that wrong.”

Our bod­ies are good at reg­u­lat­ing fluid, up to a point. We have re­cep­tors that mea­sure the vol­ume of wa­ter we have on board and its con­cen­tra­tion of solutes, largely sodium, so that, if we drink too much or too lit­tle, the body ditches or con­serves it as needed.

“Evo­lu­tion­ar­ily, we have adapted to hav­ing wa­ter, then not hav­ing ac­cess to it, then hav­ing it again,” says Nancy Rehrer, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor and col­league of Cot­ter. “Our bod­ies have al­ways been go­ing through these dips and our hor­mones re­spond. It’s a nat­u­ral process.”


Be­com­ing very de­hy­drated is ob­vi­ously bad for you, as is drink­ing far too much. Hyp- notremia – or wa­ter in­tox­i­ca­tion – is a peril par­tic­u­larly for marathon run­ners who con­sume large amounts of fluid, caus­ing their sodium to drop to dan­ger­ous lev­els. In very se­vere cases it can be fa­tal.

Gen­er­ally, elite ath­letes don’t get into trou­ble by over-drink­ing. “The front pack are run­ning hard, they’ll take min­i­mal time to drink and they’re sweat­ing more be­cause their heat pro­duc­tion is great­est,” Rehrer says.

The su­per-fit are also less prone to de­hy­dra­tion be­cause they have less body fat (so, more wa­ter) and their en­ergy sys­tems are re­leas­ing wa­ter along with stored glyco­gen from their mus­cles.

It is the less fit “week­end war­riors” who are run­ning slower, sweat­ing less, and with more op­por­tu­ni­ties to drink, who are more prone to wa­ter in­tox­i­ca­tion. “I think there is a mis­per­cep­tion that wa­ter cures all and that if you’re hot it will cool you down and im­prove your per­for­mance,” says Rehrer.

There are some sit­u­a­tions in ev­ery­day life where up­ping fluid in­take is ap­pro­pri­ate. If you’ve had a stom­ach bug with vom­it­ing or

“Even recre­ational ath­letes on the whole don’t need elec­trolytes. They get enough from their food.”

di­ar­rhoea, it goes with­out say­ing that you’ll need more hy­dra­tion. The el­derly in rest homes can be prone to de­hy­dra­tion be­cause their thirst sig­nals can be less ef­fec­tive and of­ten they are on med­i­ca­tion that af­fects fluid reg­u­la­tion. Those with kid­ney prob­lems – such as kid­ney stones – can ben­e­fit from more flu­ids, as can peo­ple on a high­pro­tein diet, as they have a high urea out­put and need to flush it through the kid­neys. Chil­dren can be at greater risk of de­hy­dra­tion than adults, and there is ev­i­dence that giv­ing them ex­tra wa­ter im­proves con­cen­tra­tion and fine mo­tor skills. But there is no sim­ple guide­line to be fol­lowed by any­one and ev­ery­one, de­spite all the re­search.


Di­eti­cian Ien Helle­mans has worked with many of New Zealand’s elite sports teams and ath­letes. Al­though there is a lack of sci­ence to back it up, she thinks we could do worse than the old eight-cups-of-flu­ida-day rule.

“There’s noth­ing wrong with do­ing that,” she says. “And I think drink­ing to thirst is all right, too, but you don’t want to be ex­tremely thirsty. When you look at fluid bal­ance, we need two to two and a half litres a day. Some of that is pro­duced by the body dur­ing en­ergy me­tab­o­lism. About 20% of the fluid we need comes from solid food. The rest has to be ob­tained from wa­ter. So drink­ing one to one and a half litres a day is enough to ful­fil the body’s func­tions. And that’s not just wa­ter; it’s all your flu­ids. The eight cups doesn’t do any harm, but whether or not you need it …”

Most of us don’t need elec­trolytes, sports drinks or to add salt to our wa­ter, ei­ther; that is the do­main of ath­letes who are sweat­ing up a storm. “Even recre­ational ath­letes on the whole don’t need elec­trolytes. They get enough from their food,” Helle­mans says.

Cohen and Bria ad­vo­cate giv­ing our wa­ter bot­tles a rest – quite apart from the fact they are not pro­vid­ing us with op­ti­mum hy­dra­tion, bot­tled wa­ter uses vast re­sources and cre­ates more waste – and hy­drat­ing more of­ten with fruits, veg­eta­bles, roots and seeds. They main­tain the re­sult will be bet­ter sleep, a sharper mind, im­proved diges­tion, di­min­ished in­flam­ma­tion, more flex­i­ble joints, and maybe even weight loss.

Both will ad­mit to oc­ca­sion­ally get­ting busy and for­get­ting to drink enough or eat well.

“But I can quickly get my­self re­hy­drated,” Bria says. “In fact, I just flew 12 hours from New York to Bul­garia, us­ing mostly food, wa­ter with a pinch of salt and mi­cro-move­ments to ar­rive re­freshed and ready for an im­por­tant con­fer­ence. If any­thing has me con­vinced we’re not hy­drat­ing by drink­ing all that wa­ter, it surely has been fre­quent fly­ing.”

There is ev­i­dence that giv­ing chil­dren ex­tra wa­ter im­proves con­cen­tra­tion and fine mo­tor skills. “Adding one green smoothie a day to your reg­i­men is life-chang­ing for a lot of peo­ple.”

Make mine a wa­ter: from left, Cindy Craw­ford, Bey­oncé, Elle Macpherson, Vic­to­ria Beck­ham, Ju­lianne Moore.

Smart hy­dra­tion:Quench au­thors Gina Bria, left, and Dana Cohen; re­searcher Ger­ald Pol­lack.

From top: Ien Helle­mans, Jim Cot­ter, Nancy Rehrer.

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