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Why Water is Your Immune System’s Secret Weapon

By Jenny Smiechowski

October 07, 2021

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Article at a Glance:

  • Your immune system needs proper hydration to work at its best.
  • Bodily fluids like blood plasma and lymph fluid are made largely of water and perform important functions for your immune system.
  • Your mucous membranes need plenty of water to protect you from invading pathogens and release antibodies.
  • Research shows your immune cells function better when you’re well hydrated.
  • Healthy adults need between 11.5 and 15.5 cups of fluids per day plus enough electrolytes to stay well-hydrated.

 

Immune health is important for all of us at every stage of life. Whether you’re cramming for tests and writing papers in college, balancing a stressful job with taking care of your kids, or trying to “carpe diem” during your retirement years, you need a strong and healthy immune system to feel good and make magic happen in your life…..even when we’re not in the middle of a global pandemic.

The good news is there are a ton of ways to keep your immune system in fighting shape (we’ve identified at least 7 secrets to an amazingly strong immune system). The bad news? Complicated advice doesn’t always stick. How many times have you read an article about boosting your immune system and not followed any of the suggestions because, honestly, making changes is hard? So here’s a super simple way to keep your immune system healthy right now: grab a drink.

No, not a drink drink (alcohol doesn’t deliver much in the way of immune support, unfortunately). A glass of water, herbal tea, or something else super hydrating. Because healthy hydration helps your immune system do its thang (and by “thang” we mean the incredibly important job of protecting you from pathogens while also healing injuries and wounds, and somehow managing not to go overboard and harm healthy tissues. You know, that thang.) Here are some of the best immune-related reasons to stay hydrated.

 

3 Reasons Water Is Good for Your Immune System

Reason 1: Your Bodily Fluids 

Your body is filled with fluids (it’s roughly 60 percent water, after all) and a few of these fluids are pretty important to your immune system. Blood plasma, for example, is 90 percent water, and it delivers fluid and nutrients to your glands, tissues, and organs, including the ones that play a critical role in your immune function, like your thymus, lymph nodes, spleen, and others. 

Another bodily fluid that’s an immune system superstar is lymph fluid. Lymph is a clear fluid in your lymphatic system that helps flush pathogens, toxins, and waste from the body. It’s 90 percent water. So, let’s just imagine for a second that you’re chronically dehydrated. Your body wouldn’t have enough water to create as much lymph fluid as it needs to flush out all that bad stuff. That bad stuff could accumulate, overburden your immune system, and things could get (in the wise words of Britney Spears) toxic.

Reason 2: Your Mucous Membranes 

Your mucous membranes need water too. You may be thinking: that’s all well and good but what the heck are mucous membranes and what do they have to do with my immune system? 

Well, you know how your skin is the lining that protects the outside of your body? Mucous membranes are the protective linings inside of your body (aka your inner skin). You have mucous membranes in a variety of places throughout your body, including your mouth and nasal passages, where they trap debris and germs to keep them from entering your body. When mucous membranes in these areas dry out due to dehydration, they can’t do their job as effectively, which means more bad stuff sneaks in.

You know where else you have mucous membranes? In your gut. And do you know what’s in your gut? Just about 70 percent of your immune cells, that’s what. No biggie. In fact, the mucous membranes in your gut actually store critical antibodies that can help keep you safe from infections. If you want your gut mucous membranes to release those antibodies with vigor when your body needs them, you need to keep them moist.

Reason 3: Your Immune Cells 

Research shows that dehydration impacts how well your immune cells do their job. In fact, one study found that dehydration negatively impacts CD4/CD8 T-lymphocyte ratio (a ratio of two critical immune cells that’s used as a marker of immune system health.) Another study found that dehydration kept neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that helps fight infections, from operating at their best. So don’t let your immune cells get thirsty.

 

How to Give Your Immune System the Water it Needs

How much water do you need to keep your immune system strong? The honest answer is: It depends. 

Your body’s hydration needs are like fingerprints— different for everyone. Your size, how much you exercise, whether you live in Pensacola, Florida or Juneau, Alaska, if you have health issues (and what type of health issues you have), plus a bunch of other factors play into how much water you need daily. 

If you want to go really deep down the “how much water do I need to drink” rabbit hole, check out this article. But generally, the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends healthy adults get between 11.5 and 15.5 cups of fluids per day. That includes the hydration you get from food, which meets about 20 percent of your daily hydration needs. Before you start pounding water, though, there’s one more critical piece in the whole hydration immune system puzzle— electrolytes! 

Research shows that the electrolyte sodium plays a role in modulating your immune system. And the electrolyte magnesium impacts the body’s inflammation response, influences the function of immune cells, and has an effect on the performance of immune-system-related organs, like the thymus. 

But immune-related benefits aside, the fact is, you always want to increase electrolyte intake as you’re increasing water intake. Like always, always. Otherwise, your electrolyte levels can become too low, which can lead to issues like hyponatremia (also known as overhydration).

If you’re looking for a simple way to stay hydrated and give your immune system a little extra love, take a peek at Re-Lyte Immunity. It’s a clean immunity mix made with our Re-Lyte Electrolyte Mix as its base, which has an ideal ratio of electrolytes developed by health and fitness experts. 

That means it will keep you perfectly hydrated (which, duh, we’ve already determined is a great way to keep your immune system strong). But it also contains immune-supporting nutrients and herbs, like vitamins C, D, B12, elderberry, ginger root, and turmeric root. So you get even more immune-system support in every scoop or stick. Give it a try!

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Sources:

The Water in You: Water and the Human Body— United States Geological Survey.

Why Is Hydration Important For Your Immune System?— Nutri Advanced. 

Allergy and the gastrointestinal system— Clinical and Experimental Immunology.

What Mucous Membranes Do in Your Body— Verywell Health.

Effects of dehydration on immune functions after a judo practice session— Luminescence. 

Possible roles of magnesium on the immune system— European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Effects of dietary salt levels on monocytic cells and immune responses in healthy human subjects: a longitudinal study— Translational Research.

Elementary immunology: Na+ as a regulator of immunity— Pediatric Nephrology.