Why water on its own just isn’t enough- the importance of hydration for autoimmune disease and chronic disease conditions.

The Autoimmune disease series

“Water is the matter and matrix of life”.

Albert Szent-Gyorgi,  Nobel laureate biologist.

Hydration wordle

In my last blog post, I listed many things that were extremely helpful at reducing inflammation.  Number 1 on that list was hydration and it was no coincidence that I put it first.  It really is that important.

I am going to start by writing a simplified summary of my blog – for those of you who just want to know what is required and don’t need a full and more complicated explanation.  For those of you who need to know why I am asking you to do something read on after my summary:

So to summarise:

Water is crucial at a cellular level to ensure that a correct balance of nutrients can enter the cell and that waste can leave the cell.  If dehydration occurs then the cell membrane can thicken and movement into and out of the cell can become much harder and the whole process is less efficient.  This can effect your cleansing at a cellular level but this in turn will also affect the whole of your body making you more tired and sluggish.

Eat soups, smoothies, stews, raw foods in addition to plenty of water through the day (not more than 1 litre in an hour).

Fatty acids are a crucial part of this hydration picture – lending themselves to a much more permeable cell membrane which will allow for much better movement of water as well as the all important nutrients into and out of the cell.  Ancient cultures recognised the need for oil and the crucial part that it plays in hydration.

Reach optimum hydration and you will be living  your true potential; you will feel more connected and with more confidence to trust your inner wisdom to heal yourself.

Now to the longer, more in depth part:

I have said it before and I will say it again, hydration is the cornerstone of everything that I do as a Naturopath.  It is a big wide world out there and many people will be trying to sell you diets and supplements to help you to overcome your long term disease, be it autoimmune or otherwise.  I would say that before you embark on any new diet or start taking supplements, that you address your hydration levels first.

Your cells and your body are comprised of 60-70% water, so if you only concentrate your efforts on  getting that bit right, imagine the impact that you can have on your health.

If your body does not get enough fluids through pure fresh water, soups, smoothies, stews, raw fruit and vegetables etc, then it will try to preserve what fluids you do have.  It does so by coating each cell in more cholesterol (don’t get me started on that one, but yes we do produce our own, especially when our body is under stress). We can see an extreme situation of this fluid retention in oedema or swelling of hands or feet; a  severe symptom that may have its roots in serious levels of dehydration (always consult with a professional health adviser before treating such a condition as there may be issues with  other organs such as the kidneys or the heart  that may be compromised by sudden increases in fluids).  Always increase fluids gently.

The thickened cell membrane helps our body to prevent fluid loss, but this is at the expense of the integrity of our cell membrane.  We refer to this self protection mechanism by the body as it’s “dehydration alert”.  As a Naturopath it is the thing that I look to first to “switch off” so that the body and its organs,tissues and cells can relax and restore their normal functions.

You see our cell membranes are meant to be able to allow a free exchange of nutrients into the cell and of waste products out of the cell. This creates a cleansing cycle which is part of what allows us to wake up each morning feeling refreshed and with a spring in our step and enthusiasm for the day ahead.  Such exuberance might all be something that you can only remember feeling in the distant past, when you are in a chronic state of disease.  Feeling sluggish and ‘toxic’ in the morning is a sure sign that you are not fully hydrated.  There will be more work to do, but hydration is the first place to start.

So why isn’t just water enough?

In her book Cellular Awakening  Barbara Wren explains:

“People living in arid countries also have ways to maintain hydration within their culture.  For example in Morocco the women working in the fields don’t take a lot of water with them; instead they take freshly pressed argon oil.  We see how certain cultures have retained the knowledge that a very important ingredient for maintaining hydration is oil containing fatty acids.”

To understand this we need to go back to our cell membranes.  Our cell membranes are made up of phospholipids which make use of fatty acids.  These fatty acids are a crucial component of hydration as they create a much more flexible and responsive cell membrane.  If there is too much cholesterol protecting our cells from fluid loss, there will also be a loss of fluids entering the cell.  Fatty acids seem to displace this cholesterol and help to increase hydration at a cellular level.  Although oil and water does not mix it seems that osmosis can, does and must occur through cell membranes but this all important process is aided when fatty acids are present and plentiful in our cell membranes.  So next time you swill from your  water bottle consider your need for increasing your fatty acid intake.   Fatty acids are found in flax seeds and Krill oil which can be taken in therapeutic amounts in supplement form.

The fatty acids working within the phospholipid membranes also help to keep the membrane fluid and flexible allowing for an efficient exchange of nutrients and electrolytes.

It is this, in and out movement of electrolytes that maintains the correct charge on our cell membrane which in turn recharges our batteries so to speak .  The charge on our cell membrane attracts electrons which in turn receive photons of light.  This light keeps us switched on, ‘enlightened’.  It keeps us connected…connected with others, but perhaps more importantly with our very own innate wisdom, with intuition and from this comes our trust in ourselves and from this our ability to heal.