Your Immune System Needs Hydration

by Scientific Editorial Board on December 04, 2020

Hydration and body

Our immune system is highly dependent on the nutrients in our blood stream, and our blood stream is made mostly of water! If we don’t have enough water, we cannot properly transport nutrients to each organ system. Staying well hydrated is also very important for detoxification pathways, increasing lymphatic draining and making sure we are clearing out any foreign invaders and other waste materials. Dehydration can contribute to muscle tension, headaches, low serotonin production and digestive issues. (1) 

Your immune system relies on water to keep operating at full force. Hydration assists with many of your body’s functions, including temperature regulation. If you’re sick, your body will require more water to cope with a fever.(3)

What to drink

You can hydrate by drinking simple H2O, but if you want some variety you can also try herbal tea and fruit-infused water. Caffeinated drinks aren’t optimal for boosting hydration since they have a diuretic effect. (3)

A lack of water is a choice for many as they often choose more flavorful alternatives. Unknowingly, people become further dehydrated via alcohol, caffeinated drinks and sugar-laced water replacements.(4)



Be careful not to over hydrate though. Drinking too much water can actually be harmful to your health as it disrupts your electrolyte balance. It’s also worth noting that drinking water will not flush the coronavirus out of your system. That rumour has been circulating, but you can’t flush a virus out of your airways by consuming fluids. Still, drinking water is a great idea to keep your immune system in top form.(3)


Hydration and immunity

Drinking enough water is important to keep hydrated on a regular basis, especially when it’s cold and flu season. Keep your immunity up by drinking plenty of water to stave off infection. Staying hydrated helps your body naturally eliminate toxins and other bacteria that may cause illness. Drink the recommended eight ounces per day, and four to eight ounces per every 15 minutes of activity if you’re exercising.(2) 

Water makes up a large percentage of blood, the life giving red liquid that brings oxygen, nutrients and vital processes, such as one’s immune system throughout the body. 

Lymphatic fluids, part of one’s immune system, make up four times the volume of blood and are designed to remove waste products from one’s body.  

Essential systems throughout the body can become impaired if the body does not receive a continuous, safe and reliable supply of water. The vast majority of people are chronically dehydrated, and over time, long-term health conditions can develop. 

The dehydration process is essentially compounding itself and producing inflammation throughout the body. Cancer cells are flagged rejects by one’s immune system and they are marked for destruction. Dehydration reduces the overall volume of blood and lymphatic fluids that are integral in a healthy immune system response. 

Dehydration and inflammation causes further impairment of one’s immune system and can contribute to what’s called autoimmune diseases. If you have an autoimmune disease, a person’s own immune system attacks healthy cells by mistake.(4)


Hydration and diseases

Daily adequate water intake to maintain euhydration is arguably the most important nutrient requirement for humans. Within a margin of error, the body regulates the maintenance of body fluid balance and especially that of the plasma volume, through mechanisms that stimulate thirst and/or modify the rate of urine production. However, there are circumstances such as with excessive sweating during exercise in the heat, osmotic diarrhea, or excessive fluid consumption, or water intoxication where normal mechanisms of regulation may be inadequate to compensate for acute changes in hydration status and result in life threatening consequences. Health and onset of disease may be affected by the chronic hydration state of individuals. 

The risks of colorectal cancer, nephrolithiasis in those with a history of kidney stones, and bladder cancer may be reduced by more frequent water consumption. Recent research suggests that appropriate timing of water intake around meal occasions may help reduce energy intake and contribute to maintenance of body weight in overweight individuals. (5)


Hydration and environment

The fluid and environmental manipulations produced the expected differences between conditions in the body fluid balance, temperature, and cardiovascular responses; however, the environment as an independent factor produced more pronounced differences in these variables than fluid manipulations. Further, there were metabolic and hormonal differences elicited by the experimental manipulations that were in proportion to the relative degree of stress imposed primarily by the differences in environment. The elevations in cell number after exercise were greatest in the hot environment for both levels of hydration; thus, hydration status did not influence the distribution of leukocytes, lymphocytes, or lymphocyte subsets. 

Elevations in cell function following exercise were also influenced primarily by the exposure to a hot environment with the only dehydration-induced effect being a postexercise elevation in superoxide production by neutrophils in the dehydration condition. The addition of a resting control condition in the hot environment would have helped in making more definitive conclusions regarding the separate effects of exercise and the hot environment.(6)


Hydration and immunity during exercise

No firm evidence exists to support or refute the role of hydration in the development or treatment of upper respiratory tract infections (the common cold), but current expert opinion highly recommends keeping properly hydrated to prevent and treat the common cold. Currently, no firm evidence exists showing the role of hydration on the immunosuppressive response during exercise and whether maintaining a euhydrated state enhances or further suppresses immune function while exercising. Moderate  exercise has been shown to enhance immune function whereas prolonged or intense exercise has shown immunosuppressive results.

One  mechanism for immunosuppression during prolonged or intense exercise is the release of hormones, such as cortisol, into the bloodstream through increase in muscle IL-6. Previous studies found that dehydration leads to an increase in cortisol levels in the blood. 

Although there is limited evidence showing the direct effects of dehydration on immune function, dehydration has been   postulated as one of the possible mechanisms leading to immune dysfunction in marathon runners. Dehydration has been found to decrease salivary rate and       decrease the concentration of salivary immunoglobulin A (s-IgA), which is one of the first lines of defense of the immune function on foreign bacteria.

Maintaining         appropriate hydration during        exercise will assist in attenuating the rise of cortisol and         epinephrine in the bloodstream, which has been found    to suppress the immune system. Any athlete training at high volumes and intensities are more likely to suffer an immunosuppressive response after exercise. Therefore, adequate hydration      in these athletes could possibly decrease the magnitude of the immunosuppressive response.  Endurance athletes such as marathon runners, triathletes, and ultra-marathon    runners training have been noted to be at a particularly high risk of upper respiratory tract infections due to their high volumes of training.         These        endurance athletes should make an effort to keep properly hydrated while training. (7)






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