An Introduction to Cellular Hydration
When many of us think about hydration, we tend to think about water consumption. For most of our lives, we’ve been told about the importance of drinking enough water, especially in hot weather or during physically straining activities. But what exactly is hydration? What happens to the water we drink once it’s inside our body?
The first place water travels through after entering your mouth is the esophagus, a small wind pipe that connects the throat to the stomach. Already, the process of water absorption to the bloodstream begins. After passing through the stomach, most of the water makes its way into the small intestine. This is the stage where water is really absorbed into the cell membrane and bloodstream. About two-thirds of the water in your body is intracellular fluid, meaning that it’s inside your body’s cells. The rest is extracellular fluid, which includes the rest of your body liquids like blood plasma and bodily secretions like sweat and urine.
Understanding intracellular hydration is key to understanding the ways that water makes it possible for every organ in the body to do its job. When cells are properly hydrated, for example, enough oxygen gets delivered throughout the body, blood pressure is maintained at healthy levels, and kidneys do their job effectively.
So, all of your bodily functions depend, in one way or another, on your cells being properly hydrated. This has as much to do with your cells’ ability to effectively absorb water as it does with actually drinking enough of it. If you attempt to improve your level of hydration by simply consuming more water, you’ll only increase the amount of urine your body produces. In order for cells to actually absorb water at an optimal rate, you’ll need to make sure that their cell membranes have a high enough electrical charge.
Cell membranes are semipermeable layers that surround the cytoplasm of a cell. They’re made of lipids and proteins, and their job is to protect the interior part of the cell by allowing certain (good) substances into the cell while keeping other (bad) substances out. Membranes have an electrical charge (or polarity) that plays a critical role in determining the amount of water that actually gets transported into the cell. When that polarity is high enough, your cells will absorb water at the most productive level.
To build up this electrical charge, you’ll need to consume water rich in electrolytes, which is an umbrella term for substances like magnesium, potassium, and phosphate that carry a positive or negative electrical charge. Electrolytes essentially increase your body’s ability to readily conduct electrical currents and decrease its resistance to water transport into the cells.
Achieving proper hydration, in the end, has everything to do with understanding your own body and the ways that a combination of drinking enough water and achieving optimal cellular health is key to keeping your body satisfied.