Drinking More Water Is Not the Answer

There seems to not be a single case of death resulting from sports-related dehydration in the medical literature
— Robb Wolf

How many times have you heard the common phrase, "you need to drink more water" being flung around. It seems drinking more water can solve everything. Finances in the bin? Drink more water. President Trump made some nasty remarks? Drink more water.

But, what if I told you drinking more water is not the answer to all your problems...

In general, if you ask anyone whats the problem with their diet, it's almost always something along the lines of "I'm not drinking enough water."

The article below was written by Robb Wolf and it sheds light on water and the role it plays in our health. You might be shocked. In fact, often times, drinking too much water is the cause of a lot of health concerns.

You can find the full article at Robb's website https://robbwolf.com/2017/12/13/no-drinking-more-water-is-not-going-to-improve-your-health/

Below is the snippet where he discusses water consumption -- I still highly recommend reading the entire article anyway as he explains some important factors your typical dieticien is missing when it comes to advising chronically ill people.

Enter Robb...

To point #2 I will simply say “no, drinking more water does not cause people to spontaneously reduce caloric intake.” I’ll let you practice your Google-fu in digging up the citations on that. On point #1 I’ll refer you to this article and pull out a few highlights on heat related deaths/illness, particularly in athletic populations. Why am I using this information? People who are active tend to require more water. People in warm settings require more water. So, exercising in the heat….man, we should really see the dangerous effects of dehydration, right? Well, from the article:

The Myths of Dehydration and Heat Illnesses

-The primary cause of hyponatremia in athletes is drinking too much water.
-The incidence of hyponatremia appears to be between 13% and 15% among endurance athletes.
-Sodium supplementation has no effect on the occurrence of hyponatremia.
–There seems to not be a single case of death resulting from sports-related dehydration in the medical literature.

I bolded that last line and I should mention that hyponatremia is low blood salt…which is usually accomplished by consuming too much water, not too little salt.

Now, each year there are a not insignificant number of deaths/hospitalizations in the military, sporting events, hiking etc, and it is absolutely related to water…but it is generally due to TOO MUCH. I looked and looked, and what I consistently come back with is that last bolded line: One is hard pressed to find ANY examples of people dying from dehydration, even in remarkably challenging settings. People do not die and in fact do not become ill due to dehydration in the most extreme of physical activities, even in the heat…so how can one make “drink more water” the go-to recommendation for a sedentary population that spends an inordinate amount of time indoors, under near perfect temperature control?

About 700 people die each year in the US due to heat stroke. These tend to be infants, the elderly and the obese. These are populations with impaired ability to sweat and regulate body temperature. I’m not making light of that, nor am I saying that is not an important issue, but what I am saying is the focus on “drink more water” does not really address the challenges in these heat stroke examples, and appear to be not only be unhelpful, but injurious to the general athletic population.

How did this meeting wrap up? I cannot say it was a “high note.” We agreed to flesh out some common goals of educating folks about “eat whole foods” but even this seemingly benign angle on my part was met with near panic on the part of the dietetics staff.

There is a remarkable amount of energy being put into various healthcare debates, particularly in the US. These debates focus mainly on “who is going to pay” with some advocating for a system like auto insurance in which one largely pays as one goes and has a catastrophic plan for accidents, vs something folks familiar with the NHS, Canadian or Northern European models would be familiar with. I do think it’s important how we set up incentives in situations like this, but debating about who will pay for a system in which the costs of dealing with diabesity related problems are increasing exponentially and are on track to bankrupt the developed world is at best rearranging deck-chairs on the Titanic.

I will release an article on exponential costs in a  week or two to provide some context here.

We face an incredibly complex problem of having a set of genetics wired for a different time, and a modern industrial food system that is a master at producing what is effectively addictive, hyper-palatable food.

If I could wave a magic wand and have every healthcare provider on the planet fully bought-in on the ancestral health model, if all these folks recognized a low carb diet can work miracles for diabesity…we’d STILL have a monumental challenge ahead of us.

We have none of that.

We have gate-keepers that are afraid to tell people “food quality matters” and the best our healthcare providers have to offer (drink more water) appears to be at best a waste of time, at worst, it may be making the problem worse.

What to do?

When I think about this two terms keep coming up: Grassroots, Trench Warfare. Grassroots means we are unlikely to see effective solutions offered up from on-high. There is too much money, inertia, ego and confusion in the dominant paradigm to just do an about-face. Grassroots means starting locally and this is where we transition to Trench Warfare: We gain ground anywhere the opportunity arises.

Although information is not generally THE thing that makes people enact significant change, if we do not have at least decent information, it’s tough to get things oriented in a way that we have any hope of success. “Drink more water” is not going to cut it. Where Grassroots meets Trench Warfare is the growing number of  health practitioners who are steeped in this Ancestral Health/functional medicine model. If you’d like to learn more about this movement check out my podcast with Chris Kresser as we talk about his recently released book, Unconventional Medicine. 

I hope you enjoyed reading this and maybe even learnt something new -- I certainly did. 

It's actually profoundly scary the health crises we are facing as a society today. We need people and influencers like Robb to play a domino role in getting information out there.

My purpose in life is to disrupt the norms of the system. Doctors and typical dieticians are failing us in a big way. They are not attacking the root cause of chronic illness, but rather treating symptoms as a short term approach which fills their pockets and the pharmaceutical industry.