The Healing Power of Water

I turned 39 at the end of December, and with that came a whole host of aches and pains. I thought I was just imagining things because I was eyeing my impending 40s with some trepidation. But then the spasms began, starting with my left hand. My left shoulder joint starting feeling like it was seizing up, and then the right shoulder blade seemed to be grating itself into little pieces. My back was killing me, each vertebra crunching against each other like little disks of sand. These were pains I had never experienced before, and the usual three-day window it normally takes my body to bounce back from a strain had stretched well into 9 days, no improvement in sight. In fact, things seemed to be getting worse, which didn’t help my mood.

“So this is how it begins,” I thought gloomily. “Total body distintegration. Just in time for my 40s.” I mentallly flipped through the various exotic illnesses that could be afflicting me, my imagination fueled by the recent House marathon I had taken in over Christmas, none of them particularly amusing in this context. I feel into a dark mood, lacking energy and clarity. I stayed in the house for almost the entire week, talking to no one, pushing at projects in a vain attempt to keep my mind off the imminent physical collapse of my body.

Then yesterday, I grudgingly went to have dinner with a group of friends at a very nice Sze-Chuan restaurant in Billerica that serves what is possibly the best Chinese food I’ve had in the area. Grouchy and in pain, I nevertheless put on my best face to fulfill my social obligation. Why? I know from experience that when I put myself in a place where I’m forced to deal with different realities, new insights always arise.

As usual, the company and meal were excellent, which helped lift my spirits. My friends, however, noticed that I was having some back pain because I was making very odd contorted stretching motions. I explained myself.

“You’ve never done THAT before, Dave,” commented B with some concern.

The other B nodded. “You should take some Alleve to make the swelling go down. That will help.”

I nodded grimly. I’d taken some pain medicine, which is a rarity for me since I don’t like putting drugs in my body. I also knew it was just a temporary measure, because this type of pain was something entirely new to me. The “Lion’s Head” soup, a specialty that I normally enjoyed, failed to register on my tongue at all as I stewed in my thoughts. I noted with disconsolation that I’d finished the bowl without remembering to enjoy it. “Yes, I’ve been taking some Tylenol, but this back pain is something new I haven’t experienced before. I’m worried it’s something really bad.”

P, who had come a little later than the rest of us, perked up at the mention of my back problems. “Oh, I had that a while ago, and it turned out that I was just really dehydrated.

This was an unexpected diagnosis, and I found the idea that dehydration and back pain were related interesting. I had noticed that I was drinking unusually little water recently, and I pressed for more details.

“I was googling for information on back pain,” answered P, “and one of the first things that popped up was dehydration and chiropractice. Apparently, when you don’t drink enough water, your body isn’t ‘lubed up’ enough and your muscles shrink, which causes joints to rub together more. So I drank a lot more water, and the pain went away.”

When I got home, I started drinking water to make up for lost time. Normally, you’re supposed to drink at least 64oz a day. I had been probably doing less than 24 oz of liquid a day for several weeks, since I was just not feeling that thirsty. I drank water throughout the next day as well, and you know what? I felt better. The crackly pain in my back went away after about 12 hours. The knife-like pain in my right shoulder turned into a regular throbbing. I felt…juicier! Apparently I had been turning my muscles into beef jerky by not drinking enough water. The numbness and spasms in my arms and hands have also started to fade away. It might be too early to call, but I can say that drinking water seems to make a palpable difference in the way I’m feeling. A quick Google seemed to corroborate P’s diagnosis:

The human body also has its emergency calls for water. These are localized emergency calls. We call these heartburn, rheumatoid joint pain, back pain, migraine headaches, colitis pain, fibromyalgiac pain, even angina pain — signs of dehydration in the body. — from Joint pain, back pain, arthritis cause by chronic dehydration, says doctor Pain may be a warning of localized thirst; that is, the pain signal may be a warning of dehydration in that specific area (a regional thirst), for example low back pain, migraine headache, joint pain, and angina. Chronic dehydration may contribute to a reduction in lymph flow, which in turn may contribute to or cause varied problems. — from Diagnose Me: Condition: Dehydration

I knew that drinking water was good for you, but I had never bothered to find out what could go wrong when you are a pint or two low. Dehydration is usually mentioned as a cause of death only when you’re reading about shipwrecks, which is outside the realm of our everyday experience.

So the moral of the story: DRINK LOTS OF WATER. Or else!

UPDATE: There are many excellent reader insights in the comments below, presenting a multitude of views. Well worth reading.

69 Comments

  1. Dean Johnson 10 years ago

    While I heartily endorse the notion of drinking a lot of water and I don’t discount the fact that you could have had restorative effects from drinking more water, there is also another possibility. It could certainly be the placebo effect and in your case you were looking for a solution and extremely susceptible to suggestions from close friends. What is great is that you are feeling better.

  2. Ian Muir 10 years ago

    I’ve actually run into this before. I used to have back problems every morning. It turned out I wasn’t getting enough water and once I started drinking more it went away.

  3. Dave Seah 10 years ago

    Hey Dean,

    That was the first thought on my mind as well, that this was a placebo effect. Or it’s possible that this is just coincidence, and that I was healing all along.

    What gives me pause is not that the pain has entirely disappeared (it hasn’t), but that it’s been replaced with a more familiar pain, which is the kind of soreness that I feel when I feel things are healing. It’s not the weird gritty feeling that has been plaguing me for the past few days, and THAT is very interesting to me. In other words, it’s not that I feel better “in general”, but very specific pain sensations I’ve been monitoring closely have been alleviated.

    That said, I’m continuously surprised by the mind’s ability to play tricks on me, and your point about good feeling having something to do with it can’t be discounted. On a similar note, there is some empirical evidence that positive thinking / “happiness” is correlated with good health.

    Thanks for the comment! It provides a good balance :-)

  4. zzap 10 years ago

    Did you just discover the bold button on WordPress or what?

  5. Dave Seah 10 years ago

    Dude, I’ve been using the bold styling forever. The reason I do it is to allow people to skim through the text without having to read every word.

  6. Mike 10 years ago

    Welcome to Middle Age, Dave! I turned 45 last Sunday. What’d I get for my birthday? Percocet! I managed to spark a major attack of sciatic pain on Saturday; the culmination of some months of growing back pains. I’ve been seeing a chiropractor over the last year, and trying to work towards better health, but I’m playing catch-up and it’s easy to fall behind.

    The lesson of keeping up with hydration is important, but it’s just part of the equation. Weight control. Diet. Exercise. Stretching.

    It’s a shock to realize, as we all must, that we can’t get away with it anymore. Not the way we could when we were young. It takes work, and dedication.

    Your “House Marathon” comment resonates with me. My wife and I love that show. The character study is fascinating, but I hate what that show has done to my medical imagination. I’m now capable of inflating the tiniest pain into a hybrid mutation of flesh-eating bacteria and cancer of the soul.

    I combat this by taking an active interest in my health care, questioning my Doctor and Chiropractor (and Dentist) closely to make sure I understand, in my terms, what’s going on and what I should be doing.

    It helps that, at 45, I am now considerably older than they are. I used to be very shy with grey-haired medical professionals. NOw they seem to be 12 years old, to me.

  7. Jeff 10 years ago

    When I learned that you’re “supposed” to drink eight glasses of water a day, I tried that for a while, running to the bathroom every hour.

    A few years later, my table tennis coach told me that it wasn’t necessary to drink a full eight a day. It’s enough when your urine runs clear. I’ve been fine ever since. I never realized that I had to adjust the proportion of water for my tiny frame. Eight glasses is something like half my body weight.

    I’ve noticed a few blogs using the strong tag, but never realized the functional purpose of it. I may just have to implement this myself. :)

  8. Joan 10 years ago

    My sister goes one step further, and thinks you can line up all your water molecules (like a magnet lines up iron shavings) for further well being.
    At any rate, I’m glad your feeling better.

  9. Tracy Smith 10 years ago

    Thanks for the information.  I have been having a horrible headache for the last 1.5 days.  Usually, my headaches go away pretty quickly.  I know I don’t drink enough water every day (plenty of soda) and think dehydration might actually be the cause of my headache pain.  Thanks for bringing this to light.

  10. Jeff L 10 years ago

    Hey Dave!

    Happy belated birthday.

    Interesting article.  I play football on Sunday mornings and usually end up with quite a headache on Sunday afternoons, which I image is probably dehydration related.  I still don’t manage to drink enough to fix the problem, however.  Good to know extra water worked for you.

  11. Jed Christiansen 10 years ago

    It’s great that you’re getting this info out there.  I started rowing a couple of years ago; it was the first time I ever exercised consistently at a high level.  Our coaches forced us to keep hydrated, and encouraged us to do it at work, etc.

    Wow, what a difference it’s made.  I can definitely FEEL myself healthier when I’ve kept myself hydrated.  (Of course, it helps that where I currently work has a free water cooler built into the coffee vending machine!)  I try to drink about 1.5L of water before lunch and 1.5L after lunch, and when I do that I feel really refreshed all day.  No coffee or any other caffeine needed!

    Again, I’m glad you got this out to a wider audience; it’s good all-around healthy info.

  12. Jeroen Leenarts 10 years ago

    Yeah I’ve got some positive expierences with drinking enough water as well. I’ve grown into the habit of drinking atleast a litre of water a day, if not more. Next to that there is my regular fluid intake (other drinks and food). It seems to reduce the frequency of my headaches. From a solid headache a week I went down to once or twice a month. Althougho other factors in my life have had an influence.

    Also women always complement me on the softness of my skin. Don’t know if that’s a good thing when you are a male. But it is one of the better known effects of drinking enough water. Try to add a litre of water a day next to your regular drinks and you’ll notice the difference. Also it helps a lot against awfull coffee breaths as well.

  13. Doug Karr 10 years ago

    I have a good friend that swears by this.  He jokes that the number of times he has to get up and run to the bathroom helps, too!

  14. robert 10 years ago

    By and large, we all need to drink more H20. Great post.
    A not so rooky mistake is to overdue your water intake and dilute your sodium %. As a regular runner, I’ve seen guys load up on essessive H20 before a race and loose it because they’ve essentially flushed all their sodium from their body.

  15. Daldianus 10 years ago

    Yep, water rules! It’s amazing what it can do for you.

    So get rid of the junk drinks. At least most of the time ;)

  16. Fufgf 10 years ago

    Snopes on 8 glasses a day:

    The story finishes with a quote “The advice fully meets three important criteria for being an American health urban legend: excess, public virtue, and the search for a cheap “magic bullet.””

  17. Laura B 10 years ago

    I wasn’t at all surprised to read you post celebrating water as a pain reliever.  I was having awful back spasms this fall and went to the doctor for muscle relaxants.  He gave me the meds, but mentioned that I should try drinking more water.  After a few days of crappy muscle relaxant side effects, I stopped taking them and the spams came right back.  As skeptical as I was that water would fix my problem, I decided to give it a try.  12 hours later, I was shocked… and the spasms were gone.  Crazy.  Hard to believe it was placebo in my case, because I really didn’t think it would work.  (I’m too used to crack cures that don’t help….)  Glad it worked for you, too.

  18. MPB 10 years ago

    The most powerful book I’ve ever read:  “My Story as Told By Water” by David James Duncan.  Usual disclosures; I have no financial interest in the book, etc.

  19. Dave Seah 10 years ago

    Wow, I didn’t expect this post to strike such a chord :-) It’s great to hear everyone’s experiences with this regard.

    Thanks “fufgf” for the Snopes link…I’ve made it clickable because healthy counterpoint is always good to have. It is, though, one of the weakest Snopes links I’ve seen. The assumption they make is because they can’t find the original reference, that this “myth” must be false. That’s not up to the usual standard I expect from these guys.

    The whole “8 glasses a day” thing is, in my opinion, a useful phrase that was designed to be a memorable soundbite. It’s a form of useful marketing, it’s easy to remember, and more importantly it gives people a target to focus on. It’s probably a healthy margin…enough to be “more” than you need, and self-regulating through bathroom inconvenience :-) It’s a good direction to move toward, and a phrase like “8 glasses a day” (which I don’t think I actually mentioned I said 64oz instead, which is basically the same thing) is more compelling a call to action than “Hey guys! Drink enough water!”

    As Jeff and others point out above, the actual amount is dependent on body weight and what you’re doing, and it’s overdo it. I like that “magic bullet” quote from the unnamed L.A. Times reporter for its sheer snarkiness, but it’s a good example of rejecting a good idea based on the assumption that if you can find a few factual flaws, the whole thing must be ludicrous. That’s just as closeminded, if not actually WORSE for keeping people from doing something that IS good for them.

  20. Junior 10 years ago

    Long time water drinker and believer in its healing abilities, including our largest encompassing organ, skin. Meanwhile, waiting in line for the Macworld Keynote on Tuesday AM, a fellow standee told the story of his brother with major back pain who was on the verge of disk surgery. The last specialist he spoke with asked if he drank filtered water. Of course he used a Brita. Specialist said Stop! not only is it removing the bad junk, it is likewise removing essential minerals. His back pain ceased once he started supplementing his Brita intake with mineral water. This is merely anecdotal info that has been in the front of my brain since hearing it and triggered by this discussion. H20 rules!

  21. zzap 10 years ago

    @David: Yeah, you have… but it just seems more obvious this post. Heh.

  22. Adam 10 years ago

    There may be a relationship between your aging and your dehydration. As the link from Fufgf suggests that most people mistake dehydration for hunger and then eating can just make you more dehydrated. But also the ability to discern when your body is dehydrated reduces with age. It is very common for the elderly to be chronically and seriously dehydrated by missing the signals and sometimes to avoid the problems of incontinence. But I am pretty sure your not worried about incontinence (?).

    For me it was a revelation to find the restorative powers of water. The primary cause of my lethargy and reduced mental alertness seems to be dehydration and probably just very minor at that.

    My required intake seems to be higher than most which I have put down to a high metabolism. Paradoxically I seem to need/desire less water when I am exercising often. Perhaps there is some relationship to fitness and reduced ability to detect dehydration.

    Anyway, water gets my panacea vote.

    Great post David.

  23. Jimmy Glenn 10 years ago

    Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink water. By the time you notice the symptoms of dehydration—dry mouth, dark urine, lightheadedness—you’re already very dehydrated.

  24. Dave Seah 10 years ago

    Thanks for all the comments, everyone! Interesting information on aging and “missing the triggers”. I was just reading the comments on LifeHacker by “idoru”, who posted this link to an article about a Dartmouth prof debunking the 8×8 myth. It’s a good read, in the same vein as the Snopes article but a bit more credible. Idoru also had some advice: “Drink when you’re thirsty. Your body is a wonderfully tuned organism, which is more than capable of telling you when it needs more of something.” This was interesting to me because many of us are really bad at listening to our own bodies, which undermines the effectiveness of advice like this. That aside, he makes good points.

    The main lines of argument seem to be:

    <ul>
    <li>Drinking 8×8 is an urban myth, unnecessary, and sometimes dangerous.</li>
    <li>People are chronically dehydrated and don’t know it; many bodily ills are cured by proper hydration.</li>
    </ul>

    Both statements appear to be true, and the important takeaways are how to determine proper hydration, and then how to maintain it.

  25. Jeff 10 years ago

    Hey Dave, I just came across this article where a woman died trying to win a Wii…by drinking water. Turns out you can drink too much, considered water intoxication. Turns out there are a few famous cases of it too.

  26. Darryl 10 years ago

    You know, it’s funny that I never really thought of Water.  I’ve tried things in the past and nothing really worked for the same types of symptoms listed.

    I can say for sure though that I don’t drink enough water – and I should start.

    maybe this is my placebo ;)
    peese.

  27. frool 10 years ago

    Sounds like you have TMS, the water stuff is likely to be a placebo, ifwhen it passes, and the pain is back, I suggest you look up ‘Tension Myositis Syndrome’.

  28. Nikolas Tyle 10 years ago

    I had an ongoing problem with “fibromyalgic” related symptoms, adult-onset asthma, difficulty breathing, etc. I was prescribed everything from Aleve to Vioxx. I was told I probably has rhumetoid arthritis, etc. all at age 31.

    Then one evening, when I was feeling much pain and having difficulty breathing, I drank about a liter or water.

    The pain vanished, I could breath! BREATH!

    When I get dehydrated, sure enough, all those symptoms return. I drink water, they go away.

  29. Reinier 10 years ago

    I am not sure about the effects on backpain. I’ve had a herniated disc and the onyl thing that really helped was doing exercises to force the disc back.
    The ONLY way to see what’s really going on in your back is to get an MRI. This is the best damn invention since sliced bread. I had an MRI, took the prints to a physical therapy place and they taught me some exercises to fight the pain. It helped miraculously. In no time th pain was gone. Now if I ever feel it coming back I start doing these exercises and can feel the relief almost right away.
    NOT to discount the healing effects of water. If I’ve had a night where I’ve had a couple too many drinks, I always drink 2 or 3 big glasses of water before near the end. The next day I feel NO hangovers, no matter how much I drank.
    Also, at work when I get a headache it’s almost always a sign that I am not drinking enough water. I start pounding down the water and the headache is gone in no time. I also agree on the urine comment. If you go frequently and the urine is colorless, you are drinking enough. IF you go less frequent and/or the urine is yellow, you are NOT drinking enough water.

  30. Arin 10 years ago

    Hey, thanks a million for posting this. I’m twenty-four and a pretty strict vegetarian and mostly a healthy person, yet I’ve been going nuts for about the last two years. My left arm constantly spasms and the shoulder bone feels like its grinding against something. I’ve been taking some glucosamine to help things along, but nothing really solves the problem. And now that you mention it, I don’t get nearly enough water at all in my diet. I’m going to start making sure I get adequate water every day and see how things go. Wow, so the internet IS good for something. Cheers and thanks again.

  31. Dave Seah 10 years ago

    Frool: I wikipedia’d Tension Myositis Syndrome and got a quick overview. The idea that emotional stress can cause these kinds of physiological effects is really fascinating. After the dinner my spirits had been considerably lifted (and I was on the upswing to begin with), so the water thing might have been coincidence. I do feel better though when I’m drinking enough of the stuff, though. Thanks for the info!

    Reinier: That’s a good wake-up call for me to go get my physical and talk to a back specialist. Thanks for sharing your experience with the physical therapy exercises keeping your back pain under control. That’s great to know!

  32. Dave Seah 10 years ago

    Nikolas: wow, that’s amazing with the ashthma symptoms disapearing with more water intake. Did you mention it to your doctor? I’d be curious what he said.

  33. Ed 10 years ago

    I’ve been reading the Primal Diet (WeWant2Live.com) by Aajonus Vanderplontiz. The author claims th4 bodies cells can only absorb water that is associated with nutrients. If you drink plain water then you’re not really hydrating your cells. If you juice vegetables like celery the water in the celery is bonded to nutrients and thus easily absorbed by the bodies cells.

    The second point that Aajonus makes is: Imagine two pieces of metal rubbing together and there is a lot of friction? What do you put between the metal pieces to reduce the friction? Water? No. You put in some oil. Likewise the body needs fat in order for the joints to mmove smoothly over one another and water isn’t going to do the trick. The best fat is raw unsalted butter.

    Aajonus had several life-threatening health conditions in his early life. He healed himself of all of these by eating raw foods.

    For more information see WeWant2Live.com.

    Ed

  34. groovehouse 10 years ago

    Just don’t drink so much that you kill yourself!

  35. BeFriendlyToo 10 years ago

    There are ground rules about your body’s water level for general health:

    a) Yellow Pee Chart
    This is known to roofing employees and people who took a good survival training course or for all the ones that observe well. Assuming you do not have eaten something with a high B12 Vitamin content (remember Vitamin C is colorless in water, B12 causes yellow-orange in your pee), the degree of yellowness in your pee is directly equivalent to your body’s water level. If clear or slightly yellowish great, other than that, start drinking.

    b) Forget eight glasses. The real formula is daily intake of water equals to 1 oz. per 1 lb. body weight. If you exercise, you may need even more, especially during summertime. Some rig companies drilling in hot climates often require that their employees drink about 20 liter per shift.

    c) If you start to get a headache, start drinking water in a jiffy. At least half a gallon.

    d) Right out of bed, drink at least one liter straight before you drink or eat anything else. Your sleep time is also a water depletion period in your body.

    e) Back pain has to be investigated carefully. Your body’s fascia (connective tissue) may cause actually your pain and it is not nerve nor muscular related (cause and effect problem). The older you get, the more your fascia plays a role. Your fascia needs water water water. By the way, your largest external fascia is called commonly “Skin”. And what does your skin need? Water! So does your internal fascia body web. A diet coke is NOT water!


    Too bad that the Bush administration lowered all clean water standards, fresh water and salt water. L.A.‘s beach waters went downhill from a great clean 1 to a terrible 7. Go figure!

    Future wars will not be about oil but about water!

  36. Matt 10 years ago

    Dave,

    I second TMS as a factor here. Between stress, anger, and who knows what else we manage to pack away up in our noggin, it’s amazing that we can even function at all!

    The thing is people who suffer from TMS often are TOO good at coping with things. In other words, rather than having and all out breakdown, where you’re forced to deal with emotions, we have a near limitless ability to pack up those difficult to deal with emotions.

    TMS tends to center around the what, which many people can tend to acknowledge, but it’s the why that I find the most interesting– constant ‘coping’ = never resolved. Never resolved = near constant stress.  Near constant stress some how translates into a triggering of the ‘fight or flight’ response, in turn screwing with oxygen delivery to our muscles. The end result is localized pain due to tiny trigger points/cramps.

    Since we as a culture have a tendency to look down upon those in emotional pain, it’s not really all that surprising that the body some how finds a different way to cry out. I mean, do you really feel bad for someone in the office who breaks down for ‘having a lot on their plate’? Or do you feel worse for the person doubled over with back pain?

    Coping to the point of ignoring isn’t coping.

    I had back pain, and then leg pain to the point that i was hunched over at about 30 degrees at all times, both forward and to the left. I couldn’t walk well, couldn’t lift my right leg more than 30 degrees when laying down, and I couldn’t sleep for more than an hour at a time.

    Now I run 6-12 miles a week, sleep like a log, and have very little leg pain. And when I do, I take it as a sign that there’s something that I’m not dealing with– and I take a moment to figure out what that is– and deal with it.

    Seriously, check out John Sarno’s books.

  37. Lordi 10 years ago

    One thing you didn’t appear to mention here is that caffeine is a diuretic.

    When I’m drinking a lot of coffee I notice my back trouble getting worse.  I read the water thing before but I’d forgotten it until now.  Hmmm.

  38. Michael B 10 years ago

    It seems that only the extremes in hydration are on the public mind.  You hear about death by over-hydration or death by dehydration.  What goes relatively unheard of is the importance of proper hydration.  You’re not automatically safe just because you stay within the two extremes of over/under-hydration illness.  You simply just die slowly instead of instantly. ;)

    Your body is a machine and one of its principle constituent fluids is water.  Ensuring that it has the proper fluid levels is the difference between a getting great mileage and one that breaks down prematurely.

    In all seriousness; I think the “pee test” is a good bodily equivalent of an oil dip-stick.

  39. J J 10 years ago

    David you are on to something here.  This can be TMS and/or dehydration related.  Most people do not pay attention to their feelings including the feelings from their body, including it’s real needs (for water, etc).  Your body was trying to tell you something and I’m glad you are now listening to it.  It is very intelligent, listen to it.

    A great many people live in a ‘thinking’ mode and not a ‘feeling’ mode.  Observe your thoughts and realize they pull attention away from feeling and into the thoughts.  This is the ego, the false self.  Of course there can be a practical side to thinking but if we are compulsively thinking and don’t come into a feeling awareness of our body and our emotions, then this is when dysfunction sets in.  This means to live unskillfully and cause pain on ourselves.

    There is a book I suggest you read called The Power of Now by Echkart Tolle.  He goes into this subject in great length.  It is on Oprah’s reccomended book list and is a best seller.

    Bring awareness not only to your body but also your emotional state.  Just be present with them but don’t think about them.  There is a realized and transformative power when doing this.  It is the power of your presence.  I have only so much room here but could go on.

  40. deev 10 years ago

    We’re mostly made of water so makes sense to keep topped up, I always have a glass to hand once I’ve had my morning influx of tea of course.

  41. Dave 10 years ago

    I recently completed a pain rehabilitation program at the VA.  One of the classes we attended mentioned the importance of water.  Apparently when we don’t get enough water, the discs start to dry out and shrink.  After that, nerves can get pinched and vertebrae can start grinding together.

  42. Motorcycle Guy 10 years ago

    I hope I don’t have such pains by the time I’m 39.  I ‘ve always drank alot of water, sometimes wondering if I drink too much.  I guess time will tell.

  43. Jim C. 10 years ago

    I don’t know why water works for anyone posting above. Perhaps all of you really were clinically slightly dehydrated.

    It is, though, one of the weakest Snopes links I’ve seen. The assumption they make is because they can’t find the original reference, that this “myth” must be false.

    Actually, that’s not what they say. Here’s what they really say (emphasis added):

    Claim: the average person needs to drink eight glasses of water a day to keep from being “chronically dehydrated”.

    Status: False.

    You appear to be assuming that since water works for you and some other people, Snopes must be wrong. That apparent assumption is false. All we really know is this: we have lots of anecdotal evidence claiming the benefits of drinking lots of water, but there are no controlled studies that back up the claims.

    I used to drink 4-5 extra glasses of water a day. The only thing it did for me was frequent bathroom trips and feeling waterlogged.

    It did have one negative effect: everything I drank or ate didn’t taste as good. When I cut back, I was really surprised at the noticeable improvement in the taste of foods. Apparently thirst is a factor in taste. That’s obvious for drinks, but it was true for me for foods as well.

    And unless your water tastes bad or has been tested and shown to have harmful substances, filters and bottled water are just a waste of money.

  44. Dave Seah 10 years ago

    Jim C: Looking back at the snopes article, I see what you’re saying, and you’re right to point out the emphasis. Hoisted by my own petard! :-) My reaction, though, was based not on “if it works for me, it must be right” reasoning, but the closing L.A. Timer reader submitted quote. I admit it colored my reading of the article as that had been the first part I’d read (quoted as it is here in these comments). So I was looking for a real smoking gun, instead of the the “most doctors agree” reasoning that the Snopes article puts forward. I think there is probably a difference in interpretation in what constitutes being well-hydrated or not, and really what effects are due to it.

    In any case, this is a good reminder that I’m not as objective as I think I’m being…a good lesson to be reminded of. All this from a post that I didn’t think anyone would be reading :-)

  45. twiggle 10 years ago

    It’s not your muscles, it’s your kidneys that were hurting. When you don’t drink, it’s your kidneys that hurt. Kidneys are in your lower back.

  46. StevenRay Petersen 10 years ago

    Dave –

    Thanks for your efforts in posting about this – I have noticed the same effect – joint pain disappears with water drinking.  I also have a milk allergy that causes joint pain even in small quantities.

    When I replaced milk and caffeine and sugar drinks with water I eliminated constant pain during movement from my daily life (I am 61 years old)

    You might like this quote from Thoreau – “Water is the only drink for a wise man”

    Cheers

  47. David 10 years ago

    I have gone to only drinking water and tea.  I have felt great and lost weight.  Other friends of mine have gone to drinking more water after they saw the difference it made on me.  Most of then still drink cokes and energy drinks.  But they have increased the amount of water they intake greatly. They all say they feel better and healthier.  I would suggest any one to try drinking water for a week instead of energy drinks and feel the difference.

  48. Gary Henning 10 years ago

    I liked the article. Many years ago I had a persistant gritty feeling in my eyes. After seeing many doctors about it I was told that I was going to have to use visene or wet eyes to alleviate the problems. A friend of mine came over and as he was leaving late at night I asked him if he’d like a Coke for the long drive home. His father (a pharmacist) had told him that caffeine dries out your eyes and makes you want to blink which can lead to falling asleep at the wheel. I lowered my caffeine intake and raised my water intak and found that my problems went away. I read up on dehydration and was shocked to learn that dehydration is the root cause of something like 80-90% of headaches. Whenever I feel a headache coming on strong I drink a full 8+oz glass of water as quickly as I can and find that the act of “chugging” down the water takes away the headache.

  49. sean 10 years ago

    I found out I was dehydrated when I tried to give blood.

    The last time I gave blood, there was a water cooler at the office and I drank a lot of water—when I went to give blood, they found a vein easily, the bag was full in minutes, and the whole thing was over quickly.

    The next time I went to give blood, there was no watercooler at the office, and I was aware that I was not drinking the amount of water I should be, but I had no idea how dehydrated I was. The nurses could barely find a vein to poke (I had to have two nurses try)—then when the bag got half full of blood, the output stopped.

    They were going to quit and throw away what blood they did get, but I convinced them to poke me a again and fill the bag the rest of the way up—there was no way I was going to let them throw away what they did get.

    The only difference between the two blood-giving sessions was the amount of water that I drank daily—the second time I gave blood I did not have a daily cup of water in front of me at the office.  I didn’t feel thirsty, but I knew I was not drinking as much water as I should.

    I even tried drinking a lot of water right before giving blood, but it did not work—after that I becamee a believer in proper hydration.

  50. Bill Busen 10 years ago

    Likewise on the headaches – longtime migraine problem just went away when I started drinking ~120 oz/day.  I throw juice, Gatorade, milk, and some tea into the daily mix, since the reason I wasn’t drinking 8 glasses of water per day was that I don’t particularly like water!  If my mouth is dry, that is like a warning light going off on my dashboard.

    I don’t drink tap water, since I have a study that correlates tap water intake and bladder cancer – I spring for the bottled water with the chlorine filtered out.

  51. Pat Collins 10 years ago

    I would suggest a regimen of vitamins with your water. I started taking them a few weeks ago and I can actually feel the difference!

  52. doug peeters 10 years ago

    I find that my energy level at any given time is related to my water intake.
    Also, I’m surprised no one mentioned constipation. Good hydration fixes it and keeps one regular.
    And don’t forget about much smoother skin.

    Pee clear

  53. adwin 10 years ago

    yes, lack of water causes constipation problem. I am a sufferer. I would always force myself to drink at least 1.5 liter each day. But seems like water rentention play a important part. Some people drink little water but dont have such problem. Strange.

  54. Tim 10 years ago

    Check out “Your Body’s Many Cries For Water” at Amazon. Good read.

  55. Bob Mercer 10 years ago

    I have been a migraine sufferer since age 17, and had been told by my son that it is triggered by dehydration.  So I would try to drink water or Gatorade after working up a sweat. Despite that effort I have been having numerous late morning migraines. It finally dawned on me that my routine was leaving me dehydrated. No evening beverages, eight hours of sleep and then 2 cups of coffee left me vulnerable to the migraines. Now, the first thing I do in the morning is have an 8 ounce glass of tap water and no more migraines. What a simple solution. Of course it’s advisable to have more water as the day goes on, especially if you work up a sweat.

  56. James Bain 10 years ago

    Thanks to all of you for being my teachers!!
    While I have been aware of the water connection for basic body maintenance for most of my life, new input is always appreciated. To wit: a close friend, having worked in a boilerroom wherein most fellow employees experienced mild to severe stomach upsets due to the typically unrealistic business goals discovered that a small glass of water, heated to lukewarm in a microwave, was sufficient to quell the heartburn brought on by such overwhelming emotional pressures. I have tried it-mind you, I was rather skeptical-and was amazed at the speed and efficacy of this simple remedy. Add to this the fact that exercise(something as seemingly insignificant as a daily half-hour walk has truly demonstrable beneficial effects on digestion, etc.) in combination with all the clues you folks have shared here might only be ignored to our detriment and we have ample reason to look into the subject that much further.
    Wonderful postings, all of you. A tip of the hat!

  57. jon jay 10 years ago

    Maybe I missed it but I dodn’t see any references to work done by Dr. Batmanghelidj, who, I believe, is one of the originators of the water cure idea.

  58. Dan Brooks 10 years ago

    A great thread. It has certianly opened my eyes again concerning water.

    Let me start by saying that I drink approximately 8-10 cokes a day.

    Many years ago while I was working as a golf pro. My back would hurt pretty severly on and off. I was playing in a golf tournament, 36 holes in 1 day. I was leading after 18 holes, went in to have lunch between rounds, and when I got up I had that 30% bend thing going on that others have described. I struggled through the 2nd round, lost the lead and drove home very dejected. When I arrived home I literally could not get out of the car. Had to honk the horn to have my girlfriend, now my wife to get me out of the car.

    So I had no clue what to do, so she sent me to see a holistic chiroprator. So I went and she snap me a little and said that my problem was not drinking enough water. That my kidneys were under so much stress it was effecting all the muscles in my back. she told me to try to drink a glass of water with every Coke. I did it and a few days later I was fine. Of course i was not faithful, and to this day i only think about drinking water when my back hurts, it always relieves the pain quite quickly.

    I did go through one period(about 3-4 weeks) where I drank almost only water. As I think about it, this was also the period where i shot my lowest career tournament score (64). I always thought it was due to the absence of Cokes, but as I think it about it, it was probably more due to the addition of water.

    All that isn’t even while I am writing. The real reason was the water – headache link. I have suffered through migraine headaches all my life (1-2 week), they have pretty much put a damper on almost everything I do. I never could find any relief. I read somewhere a few weeks ago about using Gatorade when you feel a headache coming on. I tried it and it was just partially successful. I went to find out more and came across the “80% of migraines are caused by dehydration” quote. Yesterday after playing golf on a hot day(86), near the end of the round the migraine starte coming. Once they come there is usually little relief for many hours. But yesterday I drank a couple bottles of water and viola the migraine was gone withing 15-20 minutes.

    If this continues, it will be absolutely life changing. And also it makes me feel like a GD jerk, as many people all through my life had told me the cokes will kill me. Although they are not entirely right, (Coke won’t kill me, but lack of water will) I really regret waiting to listen to them.

    Onwards to a life full of H20. By the way, there were many days of drinking a gallon + of cokes. If I can drink that,  there is no way in the world that drinking 8 glasses of water a day is going to hurt anyone. I am going to make sure that I get the 64 oz of water everyday and then perhaps I will not even want nearly as many cokes.

  59. Ramesh 10 years ago

    The jury is out.. I started this four days back .. Am feeling good .. Notice that i get lesser back aches .. Definitely want to check out for a longer period and check the claims.. have been doing 1.25l a day in the morning and am still alive :-) … but yeah excess is reported to kill .. caution is advisable ..

    These and the practice by a few of my friends is what got me into it .

    http://www.ashram.org/html/WaterAsMedicine.htm

    http://www.wonderfulinfo.com/vinfo/wtherapy.htm

  60. Julian MacLulich 9 years ago

    <http://acq-thehealingpowerofwater.blogspot.com&gt;::shameless plug::</a>A friend of mine has just self-published a book on the “Healing Power of Water”. Unfortunately that more famous Japanese writer published the same title the same week! Anyway, I’d just like to invite anyone interested in this topic to get the book. There is an exact formula for how much each individual should drink each day. And the author covers the relationship of water intake to weight-loss, good skin and body-building, and looks at the role dehydration plays in a number of common ailments. It’s an easy read but well-researched and thought-provoking. <http://acq-thehealingpowerofwater.blogspot.com&gt;::shameless plug::</a>

  61. Nicole G. 9 years ago

    Just a reminder, drinking enough water means water. Sports drinks or herbal tea ok but really water is best. Coffee, black tea and caffinated beverages are diuretics, they take water out of your system. So when calculating how much you are drinking reminder to subtract atleast one or even two cups of water for every one cup of coffee.

  62. moneca yardley 8 years ago

    hi david,
    i was reading a book called blog blazers and you are listed as a blogger to watch.  of course i have been reading but not browsing any of the blogs due to my schedule and lack of time.

    yet as i read your article heading, the healing powers of water, i thought, wow that is right up my alley.  as you will read in my blog, i am a water dealer and i am doing my best to figure out how to get the water ideal out to the general public and not just hound my friends and clients to death.

    water is essential and this last year i have learnt so much about the body and its relationship with water.  there are great books on the subject but the one that everyone likes talking about is by dr.batmanghelidi, the water cure.  all the aches and pains you were discribing are mentioned in his writings. 

    as an aside, i have always told my clients that when you turn forty, it feels like every cell in your body dries up.  really, the endocrine system especially.  so now that i am 48, finding ionic, alkalining water system was a no brainer.  to pay for my own unit and to build a future business, i am learning to market any way i can and i think blogging is one of the best ways. 

    that is why i am on the road of learning to blog and market http://www.ionways.com/yeswater and also find a client base for my virtual quantum biofeedback technology.  i am a registered shiatsu therapist but really how long can i expect myself to do just that when i have bigger and better things share. 

    thanks a lot for being in the blogblazer book and letting me write a comment on your blog. 

    be well and take care.

  63. gavin dickinson 8 years ago

    Studies have been done that show up to 80% of all back pain is directly related to dehydration.

    To quote the late, revered Dr. Batman (longer Indian name, sorry for not stopping to find the spelling, but he is well known for his water theories), “you are not sick, you are thirsty!”

  64. gavin dickinson 8 years ago

    ““but yeah excess is reported to kill .. caution is advisable ..”“


    that woman in sacramento drank a TON of water all at once to try to win some radio program…

    very hard to die from over consumption of water…

    one thing that happens with dehydration is your thirst mechanism turns off. 

    very important thing for your body, water… I recommend high alkaline negative ion mineral water…  works better than regular h2o, it is actually oh-, and is pretty amazing stuff.

  65. moneca 8 years ago

    yes, if you want to read up on antioxident water, neg ion alkaline water, go to http://www.ionways.com/yeswater&#8230; that is my site for researching this useful water system.  it will be the wave of the future, learning what kinds of water we are drinking. 

    i am sure that drinking water to win a contest is not how most of us are doing it.  still if water is 70% of our mass, it is important to know what is the most beneficial kind.  if the water we drink is acidic ph of 4, dasani from the cola company, is, then it is like drinking soda which has a ph of 3.  do the reading and see if it interests you. 

    i figure water is a precious resource and i can do my best to instruct my clients to chose a better way of hydration.

    moneca yardley, registered shiatsu therapist RST

  66. Dr.Hayze 7 years ago

    nice information in there, but i think that excessive amounts of water intake might ‘relief’ your back but it’ll actually ‘stress’ your kidneys through higher glomerular filtration, am i right ?

  67. Maurice J 7 years ago

    Hello David and all…

    For the past 5 days I’ve been living with horrible back pain, almost to the point of wanted to cry at times.

    Today, I found your blog through life hacker and I was very glad I did.

    A bit about me… If I did heavy drugs, I would be Keith Richards. I don’t eat well, sleep well, don’t exercise, always tense about something and I have relationship and personal issues I’m dealing with right now. Needless to say, I’m a mess in many ways.

    So when this back pain started, it couldn’t have come at a worse time. Went to the doctor and get some 800mg Advil (Which I have taken here and there) and some other stuff (Cyclobenzaprine), which I’ve been Leary of taking. Of course, if I take that heavy Cyc——whatever, I’m sure it would loosen up my back and make me feel better for a time but I wanted to see if I could do it without that…

    Last night I cut one of those pills in half and had it at the ready but I still could not pull the trigger. I slept in a way where I didn’t feel much pain but allowed me to sleep more than the 2 hours that has been the norm since dealing with the back pain.

    So I get up this morning and I have pain and have my coffee (My favorite drink, which I drink to excess) and more pain and I read this. I drank the water I had by my chair (Yes, I slept in a chair) for the cyc pill I would take in the worse case scenario. Well, after that water and another glass… The pain started to become manageable. Now mind you, I’ve been wrecking my back the last few day trying, just trying to get better or not feel pain, pulling it in all different directions and it’s still very messed up but I have to say, the water did something.

    Now, to give you the opposite side.. While feeling this wonder that water was doing for me, I got a call from a friend and while talking and standing and feeling alright, some of the pain came rushing back. Now, I have a bit of tension with this friend. Not a whole bunch, he’s a really good friend and we are working on a project together and we don’t agree on every little bit of it, which causes me tensions (some stuff I keep in and don’t say), by the end of the chat, my back was hurting once more, not as bad as before but bad enough that I had to go sit down and not move very much. So that TMS might have something to do with it as well.

    However, I would believe that in life, we have things that are… MUST and one of those is water. The same as with breathing air. If we are without air or water for too long, we die. So it stands to reason that a doctor might ask first if you are drinking enough water or is your piss coming out bright yellow to light orange, which my doctor didn’t. I guess they just take it for granted that people drink the water they need to live well, which I don’t.

    I know for a fact, an appropriate amount of water in your system is not a cure for back problems, what it might be and what I am starting to suspect is it’s an essential for not only proper daily functioning but for better healing. It’s also seemed to make the pain a lot more bearable and I feel this is because it’s making my back and spine more fluid but also beefing up (or puffing up) my somewhat atrophied muscles (Told you I take really bad care of myself).

    So, writing this has put a lot of strain on my back and I have to rest but I’m going to add water to this mix of healing and see what else happens and I’ll follow up in a few days, if I’m able to.

    Thanks again for the post David…

  68. Moneca Yardley 7 years ago

    hi d,

    i wrote long ago when was first starting as a ionways dealer with ionway.com/yeswater.  i was really into selling alkaline water for about three years.
    now i am promoting the amega global company, they offer a range of products that connect the body to zero point energy.  started jan 18 2010 and have had 250 people decide to become distributers themselves. 
    zero point is a energy field that reminds the body to heal.  i personally have unshakeable stories of all the benefits of using this tool to connect to healing.  my ganglion on my wrist has disappeared since using just a wrapper from the dna repair drink. http://moneca.ca/itemlist/dna-amfood-and-wrapper/
    the amega wand was truly life changing when i started, first as a skeptic.  by day two, i notice that i was happy.  day 3, i was electric, charged and rearing to go, what can be described as an alkalizing effect.
    since january, i have had a wonderful time carrying my wand.  i love showing the wands to my clients and my family.  of course, every friend has had to buy a unit as well. 
    give me a call if you wish more info or go to my blog http://www.moneca.ca/amega-wand.

    networking helps the body to heal!

    moneca yardley, registered shiatsu therapist.

  69. Maurice J 7 years ago

    Follow up…

    So far, so good… I might have over done it a bit in the beginning. I believe my body was just a tad in shock with all the water and didn’t know what to do with it… So try not to over do it…

    However, now I’m just keeping track and making sure my water levels don’t drop to crazy low levels like they once did.

    Back feeling better but still not right as the mail yet. Working on it and keeping hydrated has helped. Now, the next thing I want to work on is the air intake I get, I feel that breathing can help all that my back has been going through as well. Part of what I always felt, start with the basics of life, which have been in deep neglect for a long long time. Then it’s on the foods I eat and then my relationships with those in my life.

    Long road I hope and one I’m looking forward to.

A message from Dave:

I believe we all benefit when we respectfully share our perspectives on common experiences. My house rules are "please be respectful of divergent views" and "enjoy the flow of ideas!"

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