The world as we know it has changed.  We face an unknown virus and a somewhat unknown future.  This coronavirus that has gone on a parade around the entire world is new to our bodies. Because of this, our bodies have not yet developed any kind of natural immunity to it.

While many of the things that are happening in the world seem out of our control, there are things that you can do to help your body’s natural defense system be well-equipped to defend itself against this new virus

This includes not only following the guidelines of social distancing and proper handwashing techniques but also includes:

  • The power of choice about the foods you choose to eat
  • Whether or not you exercise
  • How much sleep you get every night
  • How well you manage stress
  • The level of hydration you provide your body

Many people seem surprised that how much water they drink can affect their immune function; but just as you mindfully cleanse your hands and disinfect the surfaces of your home and workplace, drinking adequate water every day to properly hydrate works to clean and disinfect the inside of your body.

Our bodies have many systems, the respiratory and circulatory systems, the immune system, the musculoskeletal system, the digestive and excretory system, the reproductive system and the endocrine and nervous system. Maintaining proper hydration levels helps to not only keep all of these body systems running smoothly; it also helps to keep your immune system running at an optimal level. Drinking adequate water supports the body systems that help to remove toxins and flush out waste products so that the immune system can run effectively.

Here are 4 ways that staying hydrated affects your immune system:

1. Hydration, Lymphatic system and Immune Function:

Think of your lymphatic system as your waste disposal and sanitation system. The primary function of the lymphatic system is to transport lymph fluid. Lymph fluid is a watery substance that contains infection fighting white blood cells and the lymphatic system is how this fluid is transported throughout the body. This system helps your body to get rid of toxins and waste materials and it provides the travel system to bring immune cells to all parts of the body to fight pathogens.  It is an organ system that belongs to both the circulatory system and the immune system. Your lymphatic system consists of lymphatic vessels that are not unlike your blood carrying veins, capillaries, and blood vessels.  These vessels all transport the lymph fluid full of pathogen killing white blood cells to fight infection in the body. The lymphatic system has a series of lymph nodes. You may have noticed that when you are fighting off an illness these nodes may hurt a bit and you see some swelling.  These lymph nodes are where the lymph fluid is filtered. There are hundreds of lymph nodes in the body and they produce and store cells that fight infections, viruses, and diseases. The tonsils, adenoids, spleen and thymus gland all play a part in this system. The lymphatic system delivers precious lymph fluid throughout your body with white blood cells and other immune fighter cells from where they are produced in your bone marrow and in the thymus gland, a small gland that sits directly behind your sternum and in between your lungs. It also takes the toxins from your blood and delivers them to your kidneys to be disposed of. It is a critical body system for cleaning out your blood and carrying the white blood cells where they need to go to fight pathogens and infections.

The word “Lympha” is a latin word that means water. If you are dehydrated your lymph fluid declines, gets thick and won’t move well and the system gets congested and cannot function to deliver the necessary infection and pathogen defeating white blood cells. It also cannot clean your blood or deliver the necessary nutrients for ‘disinfecting’.  When you don’t drink sufficient water, you shut down this important system and compromise your immune function.

2. Hydration, Blood and Immune Function

Your blood is made up of about 92% water so when you don’t drink enough water the amount of blood circulating through your body decreases substantially.  Without proper hydration, your blood gets sticky and thick and it can’t deliver the necessary nutrients and precious oxygen that every cell and body system desperately need to function.  The immune system is reliant on the circulatory system to keep all body systems running efficiently. Blood and lymph fluid carry toxins to the kidneys to dispose of it. If your blood cannot adequately circulate, toxins build up and weaken your immune system’s ability to function properly.

3. Hydration, Digestion and Immune Function

Focusing on good nutrition is important to bolster your immune function, but your immune system will be compromised if you can’t absorb the nutrients from your food.  Drinking enough water helps the digestive system function well. Digestion starts in the mouth, where enzyme-rich saliva begins to break down the food. When you are dehydrated, saliva gets thick and can’t do its job correctly.  Water helps to keep your mouth moist and it helps move food as it is digested through the system to deliver all those precious macronutrients that your body needs to keep immune function high. Constipation can also result, making it difficult to move the waste from the body and increasing toxic waste buildup in the intestines as well as the kidneys.

4. Hydration, Mucous Membranes and Immune Function:
The mucous membranes that line your mouth, your eyes and your skin and gastrointestinal tract are all part of your immune system.  These areas can be your body’s ‘first responders’ to pathogens or toxic chemicals attempting to invade your body. Mucous is over 90% water and contains immune cells that do battle with viruses and bacteria by trapping them and killing them before they enter the body.  When you are dehydrated, these mucous membranes can’t function to trap and kill off pathogens, viruses and bacteria and these pathogens can more easily invade the body.

How much water should you drink?  

Experts recommended drinking ½ your body weight in fluid ounces.  Most of us don’t drink enough water. According to a study by the CDC, 43 percent of adults drink less than four cups of water a day, with 7 percent reporting they don’t drink any glasses of water. Using the Rolling Strong app can help as it automatically calculates your appropriate water intake and helps you to keep track.

Tips to help drink more water

1.  Know how much you need!  Half your body weight in fluid ounces and add more if you exercise or if you work outside in extremely hot temperatures. The Rolling Strong App calculates your basic water needs based on your weight – and you can watch the meter as you log your water until you make your goal.

2.  Keep a refillable bottle with you, or pre-measure what you need before you start the day.  Some people use 16-ounce bottles in a small cooler and calculate how many they need each day.

3.  Piggyback the habit.  Tie drinking water with each meal you consume (drinking that 17 ounces before will rev your metabolism and make you feel fuller so you don’t eat so much- double win).  Make sure you drink a glass when you wake up and before you go to bed. Just tie it to something you are already doing.

4.   Use the clock- If you are at a desk or in a vehicle all day, drink one 16 ounce bottle every hour. That’s 128 ounces.  Back it down or up based on your weight and activity levels.

5. Replace soda, sugary teas, sports drinks, etc. with water instead

Remember to reach out to your Rolling Strong Wellness Coach to help you with staying on track with nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress and hydration to keep your immune system running smoothly.

By:  Cindy Luisi, WHE, WHC, CCP, CDL Wellness Coach

Sources:
Zimmermann, Kim Ann. “Lymphatic System: Facts, Functions & Diseases.” LiveScience, Purch, 21 Feb. 2018, www.livescience.com/26983-lymphatic-system.html.

HydrateM8, Posted, and HydrateM8. “Can Water Improve Your Immune System?” HydrateM8, 23 Feb. 2018, hydratem8.com/health/can-water-improve-immune-system/.

“5 Immune System Benefits of Drinking Water / Nutrition / Healthy Eating.” / Nutrition / Healthy Eating, www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/healthy-eating/5-immune-system-benefits-of-drinking-water.html.

Friar, Greta. “Mucus Does More Than You Think.” Medium, MIT Scope, 18 Mar. 2017, scopeweb.mit.edu/mucus-does-more-than-you-think-8b12f8f6feae.
https://www.healthline.com/health/thick-saliva

www.mylymph.com/2017/08/21/the-importance-of-keeping-hydrated-for-a-smooth-flowing-lymphatic-system/.
Vascular Institute. “The Importance of Hydration for Your Heart.” UPMC HealthBeat, 1 Oct. 2019, share.upmc.com/2014/09/importance-hydration-heart/.

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