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H2Know: Surprising facts about hydration

Link to the Episode

Anshu Bahanda: Welcome to another episode of Wellness Curated. As you know, my aim with this podcast is to help you lead a healthier, happier, more hopeful life and I do so by giving you tips, tools, and techniques from all over the world. This season, we’re going to delve into the fascinating world of nutrition and food and the impact that it has on our health. Today’s episode is going to discuss the importance of hydration. For that, we have Singapore based nutritionist Sheeba Majmudar. Welcome to the show, Sheeba. Thanks so much for being here and for making time to do this with us.

SM: My pleasure.

AB: Let’s jump right into our questions. So we are aware about the obvious benefits of hydration, right? Like on [our] skin, [our] health, and on [our] focus, tell us one surprising benefit, and also what are the dangers of dehydration? 

SM: Right. So, actually, a surprising benefit, which may not be an instant one, is that you’re actually antiaging when you’re well hydrated. In fact, when people are older, they’re actually predictably more dehydrated. So, in essence, if you’re well hydrated, you actually remain fitter and younger. Your cells are kind of kept alive.

AB: Okay, I better drink lots of water, then. And tell me, what are some of the dangers of dehydration?

SM: Actually, most people don’t know they’re dehydrated, and to be honest, that’s 99% of the people. I will talk about that later, but there are ways to measure it. So, unfortunately, most people don’t know that they’re dehydrated. So, there’s no real signs that, okay, there’s going to be a flip— you’ve got a headache. The only thing I could say is that you actually may feel tired. But when you’re talking about where it’s a medical condition, typically when you’re looking at that extreme, you could faint. You could even just collapse. But in between, that’s a little bit harder to tell. And that’s why you can be dehydrated throughout the day and not know it. That’s a bigger danger.

AB:  When you’re talking about through the day, typically people say drink about eight glasses of water a day. But then this is so widely debated because there’s different levels of exercise, there are different climatic conditions, there’s different weight… So, tell us what do you think, what is a good average to give people?

SM: So, there are two parts to that answer, actually. One is that, yes, you’re looking at drinking about a litre per 20 kilos of body weight. So, yes, back to the first question, most people don’t even know that they’re dehydrated, even though they may be drinking three litres a day.

AB: So you’re saying about one litre per 20 kilos of body weight should help. 

SM: Yes.

AB: But you also made a really interesting statement. You said you could be dehydrated even though you’re drinking three litres a day. So will you explain that?

SM: Right. So the deeper question is not how much water you’re drinking, it’s actually how much water is reaching the cells…

AB: is being absorbed…

SM: Exactly

AB: And that is the key here. And what people don’t really know is that hydration or drinking water is not just about the act. It’s really about the water having that electrical charge so that it is bio available. So that it is absorbed by the cells, because the cells actually need a charge so that it can actually absorb the nutrients or the water.  Basically, for water to get in, it needs to have a mild electrical charge.  And that’s the only way it actually kind of moves into the cell. Otherwise, it remains in what is known as the extracellular matrix, which is outside of the cell. So for water to be bioavailable and move into the cell, that electrical charge is important. And how you charge the water, that’s not so important.

So it could be through electrolytes; it could be you’re putting it through some kind of a special filter that ionizes the water; it could be that you squeeze a little bit of lemon in it. So there are different things that can activate the water to have a mild charge. And once that’s done, then it’s easier for the body to absorb it. Otherwise the body has to use a lot more energy to do the same thing. So a lot of the times that you drink water, it kind of passes. So one classic way of being able to tell if you’re mildly dehydrated, is if you’re getting a headache, in and out, sometimes randomly maybe. It could be that you’ve got water retention. That could be chronic. It could be in and out as well. It could also be that when you go for a massage and the masseuse tells you that, hey, you’ve got these tight knots, you’re actually really tight. And they’ll even probably tell you’re dehydrated. Then if you have oily skin or if you have dry skin. Despite whatever you may be doing. So these are some classic signs of the cellular dehydration I’m talking about. Because typically two thirds of the water that the body is absorbing is through the gut, it actually goes into what is known as the lymphatic pathways. And the lymph system does a whole lot other than transport nutrients and hormones and fats. It also transports the water. But when these pathways are jammed, and they would be jammed if you’ve got an infection, for example, if you have a whole lot of toxins as well. There could be other reasons. But if these lymphatic pathways are jammed, then you’ll find that water isn’t quite getting to where it needs to go. So it’s not as simplified as just drinking water. And you’re hydrated.

AB: Okay. And tell me, should you be drinking water when you’re thirsty? Can you use that as a mark of the fact that your body requires water?

SM: Right, so that’s a good question, and most people would assume that to be true, but that’s not, because when you are in a state of dehydration, your body goes into two paths. One, is it’s so thirsty that even when you’re drinking water, you’re still thirsty. So that’s not a great sign either. But it could also be that your thirst mechanism has switched off, so you don’t even feel thirsty. Even though your body may need water, because the signal has been going on for so long, it’s lost. It’s no longer making an impact, so you don’t even realize you’re thirsty. So I wouldn’t go with that at all. I would just say that you really need to kind of just get a very simple bio impedance test done to know if you’re cellularly hydrated or not.

AB: A bio impedance test?

SM: It’s a very simple thing. It’s a microcurrent that a lot of people are using on their weighing scales. So we do have a slightly more sophisticated kind of a weighing scale, which, kind of, can group your muscle mass and body fat and water as well. So then that simple thing can give you an indication whether you’re hydrated or not. And most people are actually very surprised that even though they’re drinking water, it’s not showing in the way they are actually processing.

AB: And again, you had mentioned if you are dehydrated at a cellular level, use a charge in your water, like lemon or like an electrolyte, correct?

SM: Yes. So even if you do feel thirsty, it may be a bit blurred in the sense that you’re actually feeling, oh, I need to eat some fruit, or I need to eat something sweet, or I need to eat something salty. Why? Because they all impart a charge on the water. And fruits and fresh vegetables, uncooked— they all carry natural, organic water. So that’s why when you, for example, have a juice that can be, wow, even more hydrating than water or more satisfying, I would say— it could be. So that’s why it’s a little bit tricky where we’re like, oh, okay, we’re feeling hot. We’re in a tropical climate. Let’s drink coconut water. That’s why you’d probably reach out for those kinds of drinks, because they are better hydrating.

AB: Okay. And tell me if I exercise a lot, do I need to drink more water to replace the electrolytes in my body?

SM: So that’s actually a given, that you would want to do that, irrespective of whether you’re exercising or not. But yes, when you are sweating it out, definitely, you want to put in electrolytes. But when I say electrolytes, I’m a bit fearful because I really don’t like people reaching out for those kinds of bottled drinks, coloured and preserved. So we’re not talking about that. The most natural electrolyte is coconut water. But it could even be, like we said, it could be something with a little bit of fruit. It could be a little bit of honey in the water that’s actually giving it that charge, like we mentioned. So it could be anything that you even create at home that can be simple and usable post workout or even just through the day. It could even be herbal tea, actually. And that’s why the ancient way was always to drink lots and lots of tea during the meal, after the meal, and throughout the day. So the Chinese and all the Eastern philosophies believed in drinking tea.

AB: And you’re talking a lot about fruit. So tell me, for people who consume quite a lot of food, fruit and maybe drinks like juices and things like that, should they reduce their intake of water or can they reduce their intake of water?

SM: Again, what is the water you’re drinking? When we talk about plain water, that’s not charged, it’s still not doing much. So it doesn’t matter. I think if you’re drinking the real charged water, then you can kind of have a breakup where suppose you’re supposed to drink eight glasses of charged water a day, you could drink seven, because you’ve got your electrolytes through another source. So that would make sense. But if you’re just talking about what I call dead or plain water versus that, no, there’s no comparison.

AB: Okay, so let’s get into the possibility of overhydration. So, you know, people go to all these spas and they come back and they’re just gulping litres and litres of water in a day. So what are the signs that your body is overhydrated and could that have some negative effect?

SM: Yes, it’s actually very rare to have water toxicity. There is something that’s called water toxicity when you’ve drank so much water that the kidneys can’t process it as quickly as you’ve drank. So, yes, that does happen. It’s one in a million that can happen. But the whole point of drinking water… because some people do ask me, oh, is it okay if I drink my two litres within half an hour. The body doesn’t work like that. It needs hydration through the day, intermittently spaced out, because water is something that is flushed out, we know that. Which is why it needs to be replenished at intervals of time through the day.

AB: And how does hydration affect the likes of digestion, mental health, metabolism?

SM:  That’s a good question, because water is required by all our trillion cells. So just simply put, it’s from head to toe and imagine that all of your cells are literally like a toilet bowl. And imagine you’re trying to flush that toilet bowl, and there’s just not enough water for you to flush. Oh, my God, that is pretty much  a disaster happening, right? And imagine all your trillion cells with that disaster where they don’t have enough water to flush out the cells. That’s a lot of toxic oxidative stress happening to every single cell in your body. And that becomes not only accelerated aging, but that becomes a bit of a toxic situation. So when you are actually moving water, there’s enough water in the cells, you’re going to find that it’s cleaning it out exactly like it should, like a toilet bowl. And as the cells clean out, you find that there’s a vibrancy in the cells, right. It’s clean again.

AB: The long-term consequences of dehydration. Can you talk about those? Could bad breath be one of those?

SM: Well, actually, no. That’s a misconception that bad breath is caused by dehydration. In fact, bad breath is caused by low stomach acid. So if your stomach isn’t in great shape, digestion isn’t great, you’re going to have bad breath. So, no, those two are not really related. But the dangers of dehydration in the long term, can even mean chronic water retention. And I’ve had pretty much all my clients with lifestyle diseases like blood pressure, diabetes, those kinds of things, even insulin resistance— and all have chronic long term cellular dehydration. So, yes, it can lead to chronic diseases and inflammation factors, because when water isn’t getting in, that oxidative stress is creating inflammation of some kind. And chronic inflammation basically could lead to any disease. That’s what disease is defined as, actually, as chronic inflammation in the body.

AB: And tell me, Sheeba, you said that you have a lot of clients who have diabetes or blood pressure or insulin resistance who have chronic dehydration. So do you advise them to charge the water and drink it?

SM: Exactly…

AB: And that makes a difference? That helps?

SM: In fact, every one of your audiences can actually try it for the day if they’re charging the water in whatever way that suits them. It could be something inexpensive. It doesn’t have to be something expensively done in the market. And when you’re drinking that throughout the day, you’ll find that it’s kind of like you’ve switched on the batteries in your body. And every cell has a battery, so all your trillion cells will kind of light up because they’ve got that electrically charged water. So you will feel an immediate sense of energy, which otherwise you may not. So it’s very interesting. It’s a very simple experiment that can be done at home.

AB: Okay, so I’m going to do that today, and I will report back to everyone tomorrow. And you’re saying just maybe put one lemon or something.

SM: It could be a lemon depending on the season, if you think it’s hot, you can even put a little bit of honey or something sweet. And drink that because that is more hydrating. Or if you’re in a cooler climate or colder climate, it could be just some lemon that you’ve put in the water. Anything you add to the water, either in terms of a fruit, a herb or in terms of the sweetness factor, but lightly, as in naturally sweet, all that will work to charge the water.

AB: And also, to clarify, you’re saying to me that people who are on medication don’t necessarily need more water. They need charged water. Is that correct?

SM: Correct. Because I’ve actually had clients where they’ve actually reduced their diabetes and blood pressure medication when I recommended them charged water. And when they were doing it, just for, like I’m talking about literally a week, they could actually not only feel the difference, but they had to correct their medication.

AB: Wow. Okay. Wow. That sounds fascinating. I’m definitely trying this today, and I recommend everyone who’s out there to try it because it can’t harm you. Also Sheeba, tell me, would you recommend water from a tap or bottled water? Because, of course, water from the tap can be contaminated, but with bottled water, there’s all this danger of plastic and chemicals.

SM: Actually, both are a concern. And again, to go back and reiterate the point that both are dead water, technically, bottled water comes in many forms. They say it’s oxygenated water, there’s alkaline water, there are so many waters. So my point is— yes, please try and use a glass container. I do prefer that versus the plastics. But also, again, if you’re buying water, charge it. It doesn’t matter in some way or some form, charge it.

AB: Interesting. And what about things like copper? You know how in India, people drink out of copper containers?

SM: That’s a different thread. But unfortunately, I find that most people again, I’m seeing clients professionally and assessing their nutritional intake, finding that chronically everyone is low in zinc, which is a very critical mineral we need. And zinc, interestingly, is antagonistic to copper. So the more copper you have, the lower your zinc, and the more zinc you have, then it kind of balances out the copper. So I find that drinking from copper jugs and all that is not necessarily the best way to go because it is in some way pushing or lowering down your zinc. And while copper may have some benefits, that kind of ionic copper from the jug actually is very difficult to absorb by the body. It can’t be that you keep an organic form of copper, not the one that’s directly from the metal, so to speak. So I would actually advise people not to do that. And, I do advise a lot of my Indian clients not to do that, and I get them to top up with their zinc instead.

AB: Okay, so, like, have zinc tablets?

SM: Yeah. The right kind. And unfortunately, copper has its dangers as well. When there is excess, digestion can go off. You can have aches and pains, muscular aches and pains. It can even feed infections and stuff. So know what you’re doing. I wouldn’t go that route.

AB: So you’ve been recommending glass containers, from what I understand.

SM: That’s right.

AB: And tell me about Kangen water, alkaline water, oxygenated water. There are all these kinds of waters available, right?

SM: Yes. So actually, again, it’s all for the same reason that it creates an electrical charge. I really don’t know the quality of oxygenated water in a bottle. It would react with the plastic, let me tell you that for sure. If it’s charged, it would, as simple as that. So I wouldn’t get anything with plastic. But restructured water is the most intensely charged electric water. Kangen water is restructured water because they use multiple platinum plates, and that water comes out supercharged. Not charged, but supercharged. And when it’s supercharged, it can stay that way for up to three days. So even if it’s kept in a jug, it’s still charged. That’s the advantage of a Kangen water filter.

AB: And when someone’s sick and they’re told to have more fluids, are we talking about more water? Are we talking about more charged water? What are we talking about here?

SM: Right, so it’s again, going back to the same concept that you want to have fluids, because— one, it’s easy to digest. Number two, all the nutrients are carried in the fluid form, which is easily bioavailable to the body. And that could even be juice, it could be soup, it could be a broth. All that carries a lot of nutrients where the body doesn’t have to spend a lot of time digesting. Which is why fluids are the best way. And that’s why they say chicken soup for the soul, and chicken soup when you’re not well and things like that. But it could be simple. It could even be just rice water, as in starch. I’ve actually got some of my clients who’ve got gut issues or diarrhoea, or children with diarrhoea, I just get them to drink some of the boiled rice water, the starch that’s left. I tell them, don’t throw it, just drink it. And even that can be soothing and healing for the gut. So, yeah, there could be different ways, it doesn’t have to be water. In fact, unfortunately, when you’re not well, water may not even be sitting well with you. You may even throw it up. So you want something that is a little bit… that has some taste and flavour.

AB:  Would you say the same thing for mental health issues as well? Like if someone’s going through anxiety, would you say the same thing?

SM: Our nervous system is the first one to detect any kind of stress, whether it’s a physical stress, whether you’re talking about a mental stress or whether you’re talking about a biochemical stress. And dehydration is the first stress, actually, because all one needs is water, because all our cells need water, we can’t function at our optimal, right? Like say you’ve got a car and that’s running at gear two, it’s still going to take you from point A to point B, the peak performance of a car or the optimal performance, I would say, for the car, is gear three, gear four. So every time the body is dehydrated, it is one gear down from four to a three, three to a two and two to one. Which is why athletes, pro athletes, they all know this and they all drink some kind of electrically charged water; because even when they’re slightly dehydrated, it changes their game. It changes their performance; it changes their peak state. So they know this. They have ways of actually improving hydration. So yes, anxiety is definitely one and anything to do with the nervous system, I would say. So even sleep, even performance, all of that, all mental states would go.

AB: And let’s talk about how sometimes people mistake thirst for hunger. So very often people will be snacking when they’re actually thirsty. Or like you said, people reach out for fruit when their body is actually asking out for water. So how do they check that habit? 

SM: I think it’s about just getting the body better hydrated on a regular basis. So all those listening now, they know what to do. If they start doing that, they’re going to find that their body signals are not getting crossed. Not only are they better hydrated, but they’re going to reach out for electrolytes, fruits and water at the right time.

AB: And on the subject of habits and good habits, people say that drinking two glasses of water first thing you wake up is a good habit. What do you think?

SM: Yes. So that’s a good question because I do see people trying to inculcate that habit. And again, I would just say that there are a couple of things that you can do. One is definitely charge your water in some way so that you’re getting a better deal out of it, if you’re drinking two glasses in the morning. Some people say that when they drink water it helps flush out and they actually have better bowel movements in the morning. So if that helps, definitely go for it. I actually even tell some of my clients that in order to improve or jump start your body PH, do a little bit of either lemon water or some people even do lemon honey. But I actually prefer just apple cider. Apple cider vinegar in a big glass of water, it could be 500 ML, it could be 250 ML, whatever works. Drink that first thing in the morning and it will actually correct your body PH. Slightly different. It’s not about just pure hydration, it’s more about correcting the body PH at the same time. So that will also help. 

AB: Okay. Thank you, Sheeba. Now, at the end of every session, we summarize everything through a rapid-fire round. So the first question is one common misconception about hydration?

SM: That the moment you’re orally hydrated, you’re done. Not true.

AB: Okay. One little known symptom about dehydration…

SM: The act of craving for anything salty or sweet is also a form of dehydration.

AB: Very applicable to me. How much water should a person drink on an average?

SM: So it’s about how frequently you need to drink water. It’s not just about how much, as we had stated earlier. Try to drink as per your body weight. So one litre per 20 kilos. But that needs to be spaced out through the day, not in bursts and shots.

AB: And one drinking habit you’d advise us to work on developing?

SM: To charge your water in any form that suits you, charge your water. Don’t get sold by all these marketing gimmicks about alkaline water and so on. No— just charge it and that’s it.

AB: Thank you. And that is going to be my biggest takeaway from today, charging the water. Thank you, Sheeba, for that incredible chat and for taking the time out to be with us.

SM: Absolutely most welcome.

AB: We’ve had such an incredible chat and I hope it’s going to make a difference to all our listener’s lives. And to my listeners, I hope you learned something new. I did, for sure. And I hope we brought you a little closer to leading a healthier, happier life. If you did enjoy the show, please encourage your friends and family to subscribe to the channel, please press like, and most of all, do get in touch with me and let me know if you have any questions. My email is Thank you so much. See you next week.