How Hydration Can Support Immunity + Ways To Stay Hydrated

mbg Contributing Writers By Roxanna Namavar, D.O. & Catherine Waldrop, M.D.
mbg Contributing Writers
Roxanna Namavar, D.O. is an adult psychiatrist focusing on integrative health. Catherine Waldrop, M.D. is a physician with a background in psychiatry.
Fresh Lemon Lime Citrus Fruit And Water

In the summer heat, we hear a lot about "staying hydrated," but how exactly does one do that? Hint: It's not quite as simple as just taking a sip when you're thirsty. Proper hydration is absolutely essential for a healthy body. Humans need water, as well as the right balance of electrolytes, for almost every single bodily process, including immunity.

How hydration affects immunity.

Good hydration is critical for immune system function. Mucous membranes, such as those in the mouth and nose, are the body's first line of defense against viruses. If they become dehydrated, they can't produce their moist coating, which prevents viruses and bacteria from adhering to tissue. 

Hydration also plays a well-known and essential role in the flow of the body's lymphatic system, which supports the body's production and distribution of antibodies and immune system cells. 

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So, how much do I really need to drink? 

Some popular advice suggests drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. However, everyone's needs will vary depending on their size, activity level, diet, and the weather.  

Assuming a temperate climate and moderate activity, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends 15½ cups of fluids daily for men and 11½ cups of fluids for women.

The recommended fluid intake includes about 20% of liquid from food. In terms of drinking, that comes out to about 12½ cups a day for men and a little more than nine cups for women.

People should increase liquid intake in hot and humid weather, at high altitudes, when sick, or during any physical activity that causes sweating. Essentially, any time the body naturally loses more fluids through skin evaporation and breathing, water intake should increase. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should also up their fluids.

Tell me more about hydrating with food.

In addition to packing a punch of vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, and antioxidants, many fruits and vegetables are rich in water. Cucumbers, celery, leafy vegetables, zucchini, melons, berries, and (surprise!) cauliflower can help keep the body properly hydrated. 

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What about sparkling water?

Sparkling water will hydrate. just as well as flat water, but even sugar-free carbonated beverages can have some negative effects. There is evidence that carbonation can worsen heartburn and, in large quantities, may negatively affect tooth enamel. Moderate amounts of sparkling water, however, are perfectly fine. 

What are electrolytes, and why are they important? 

Electrolytes are minerals, such as calcium, sodium, and magnesium, that carry an electric charge when dissolved in bodily fluids. This small electric charge is what helps the body regulate fluid and pH balance. It also allows for proper functioning of the nervous system and musculature, including the heart. In short, electrolytes are critical.  

Electrolyte minerals can be found in many foods and beverages, including these:

Many sports drinks are also fortified with these minerals but may be high in added sugars. To avoid any unwanted ingredients, consider making a DIY electrolyte drink or sticking to whole food choices, when available.

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Bottom line.

Staying hydrated is important year-round, but liquid intake should increase during warm summer months. Incorporating enough water, hydrating foods, and electrolytes into a day can have critical effects on immunity and other bodily systems.

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