Show 190 A Q&A on Hydration: The Myth of 8 Glasses a Day with Dr. Dana Cohen and Gia Bria

Dr. Dana Cohen served on the Board of Directors of the American College for the Advancement of Medicine—the leading voice of Integrative Medicine, and is currently an advisor to their Board of Directors, on the education committee and served as program director for their conferences, which has trained 1,500+ master-level, health-care providers. She received her MD from St. George’s University School of Medicine and completed her internal medicine residency at Albany Medical Center. Learn more at

Gina Bria is a cultural anthropologist researching ritual, ritual foods, and food strategies. She is Founder and Executive Director of the Hydration Foundation. Named a Real World Scholar, trained at Columbia University, and a Berlin Fellow with the Social Science Research Council. An innovator and inspiring speaker, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Grand Central Station, Harvard University and the Wissenschaftskollege, Berlin. Listen to her TEDx talk–How to Grow Water; It’s Not Only Blue, join in at Listen to the podcast now:

SHARON:   It was so timely when your topic came across my desk. I jumped on it because I think this is like breathing. We all do it. We drink water, but we don’t think about it or we don’t pay the proper attention to how important hydration is just like, we don’t pay proper attention to taking nice deep breaths and we take these short panic breaths all the time.

How come you say that eight glasses is not the way? That’s been pounded into my head for as long as I can think.

DANA: Nobody knows a hundred percent where it comes from but the truth is, we’re all different shapes and we’re all different sizes. We all do different exercises. We all sweat differently. We move differently. We eat differently. We take different medications. We live in different environments. So to put a number on what everybody needs ─ eight a glasses a day ─ is ridiculous and it’s not the way. And what we lay out in the book is that there’s a better and much more efficient way of hydrating.

SHARON:  Gina, what are your thoughts about hydration? I’ve also heard that you’re supposed to, somehow, take your weight and divide it or multiply it or whatever. What is the way to know?

GINA:  If I can open the conversation by saying, “What would it be like if we actually felt completely hydrated? What would our lives be like? How would we move? What would our moods be like? What would be our capacities for thinking?”

That’s the part that’s driving me to find out what optimal hydration is. And I feel that the conversations are almost always around dehydration. Having all these conversations on “Don’t get dehydrated,” we have the research that says that a two-percent loss of hydration leads to measurable cognitive interferences. The percentage is very small and I kept thinking, well, what would our lives begin to look like if we were truly getting the level of hydration when we’re 99% water by molecular count?

That’s more water than we realize; and when that water table goes down, we lose so many functions we’re not even aware of. 

Let’s get into, wow, what would it be like to feel smooth and fluid and full of life and full of buoyancy and creativity and see well and hear well and not have so many dental problems?

The whole of our physiology is based on having enough water in there.

SHARON: What’s so surprising to me ─ we’ve had nutritionists on and I know from my own healing experience how doctors never talk to me about nutrition in any useful way. They try but not useful. Throughout my recovery from the autoimmune, I don’t think one of them has ever asked, “How much water do you drink?”

Thank you, I’m onboard. Let’s change the paradigm here, Dr. Dana.

DANA:  Functional medicine and integrative medicine docs are working to do that. That is what we’re doing. One of the first questions I ask patients is “Do you think you drink enough water and how much water are you drinking?”

And most patients, even my elite athletes, admit that they don’t think they drink enough water. And what that relates to is that, at some point, this low-grade, subclinical dehydration sets in and it’s an issue.

SHARON:  First, let’s talk about water. I’m confused about the topic of water, let alone hydration. You’ve got tap water and people tell you all the things in there. And then, you’ve got these tabletop water filters and you’ve got bottled water.

I’m confused about what water I should drink, let alone if am I drinking enough.

DANA:  It’s a very good question. In the book, we don’t discuss filters. We don’t discuss alkaline water. We don’t discuss hydrogen water. It’s funny because that’s how Gina and I met. She called me and I thought she wanted to talk about some kind of alkaline water Ponzi business. But it wasn’t. She wanted to talk about true hydration.

Depending on where you live ─ tap water, filtered water ─ we need to drink some water and we’ll give you some rules on how to go about doing that. But if you’re asking about what kind, I know Gina has been doing a little bit of research on filters. The kind of water that we need to drink is good clean water ─ ideally, spring water.

The book is not necessarily about drinking more water. The book is about eating your water.

SHARON:  Eating water! So how do we eat our water? That actually sounds more fun than drinking plain old water.

DANA: I’ll start to talk about the discovery of this other phase of water, the fourth phase of water.

We all know that water exists as a liquid, ice, and vapor. Now, we know scientists believe that there is a new and very different phase of water. In the book, we specifically talk about Dr. Gerald Pollack’s work on gel water or structured water.

Gel water is what we’re going to be talking about. This other phase of water literally is like a gel. It’s a little thicker, a little slicker. And that’s the kind of water that exists in our cells; it also exists in plants.

What’s different about this water is that it holds an electrical charge. It actually creates fuel for our bodies.

So water is not hydration. It actually acts as fuel; much like sugar acts as fuel to make ATP, water makes fuel in the body. The way that water is structured, it holds on to extra electrons and gives us fuel.

That’s the basis of the book, this new science behind this water.

And, from that, because it exists in nature, think about how desert plants hydrate; they hydrate via gels. Think also about chia seeds. We’ll talk about chia seeds because that’s one of our favorite things in the world. Think about cucumbers, the gel-coated seeds in them. Those are very hydrating foods.

The idea of the book is for you to find out for yourself what your optimal hydration is. There’s a very simple five-day plan in there that everybody can do. It’s easy. I will tell you that. 

It’s about getting more hydrating foods into your diet and, from that, we’re becoming much more efficiently hydrated.

GINA:  There are a couple of things I would like to frame around having more water from your food intake because the water inside those plant foods like apples, pears, and even cauliflower is already this specialized water ─ this gel water, this structured water.

Unlike liquids, specialized water is a state of water that’s able to conduct electricity and transfer electricity to our cells. Liquid bulk water, liquid water, tap water ─ if you think about it, all those plastic bottles we’re drinking out of have been sitting in the back of the truck or they’re on a grocery shelf and they’re not in any kind of motion. They have become de-energized. 

So when you bring water in from foods, that’s already energized water; and that water is important because it actually brings energy into our body in a way that guzzling wetness doesn’t.

So hydration has to do with not getting wet; it has to do with an electrical charge. We all know that water conducts electricity. We don’t think it applies to us. 

These plants already carry that electricity within the water. That’s the difference between the water from plants and bottled water ─ a big, big difference there!

And then, very briefly, we all encounter the water bottle somewhere in our day; or, somewhere, we have a glass of liquid water may be in the restaurant. There are ways to help that water become more molecularly structured. You can pop in a pinch of real salt like sea salt or table salt. It starts an electrical reaction in the water and you’re actually energizing your water.

In Quench, we’re talking about extremely simple techniques to revitalize the water around us that’s been devitalized or de-energized so that the kind of hydration now brings that electrical charge and that energy into our body.

And we also find that you can hydrate with less liquid. You don’t have to drink as much. 

So the more you’re eating beautiful foods, the less you’re going to find the need to be guzzling an additional glass of water.

You’re going to have to find how that works for you because you’re on a spectrum. Everybody is. In Quench, we’ve created a five-day plan. We recommended the most hydrating foods and how to make smoothies so that you’re getting that in your system.

The goal is that you’re going to start noticing a difference between your fatigue and your cognitive decline especially around three o’clock and how you start to feel like when you notice that your body is optimally hydrated. You’re going to find that out through this five-day plan.

SHARON:  Am I the only one shocked here that I’ve been guzzling water thinking I’m hydrating?

I keep talking to my doctors as to why I feel so dehydrated. Now, I know. Thanks to Dr. Dana Cohen and Gina Bria and their amazing new book called “Quench.”

This is absolutely so fascinating to me because I haven’t heard it anywhere else but what they’re saying makes so much sense. I know your book has marvelous recipes. Let’s share one of your favorite ones for what people can do to maintain that state of hydration. 

GINA:  There are a couple of different popsicle recipes and they’re sort of a little different and fun. But the simple ones are basically frozen raspberries, some soaked chia seeds, a little coconut milk or coconut water or even plain water, a little bit of honey; and blend it up and freeze it. You can also throw in a little bit of squeezed lime in there if you want to.

You can make some healthy treats ─ popsicles ─ and they’re very hydrating. They’re great for kids even before and after sports kind of things.

SHARON:  I’m thinking that my grandkids would love them because they’re fans of chia seed puddings.

GINA:  ─ which are fantastic and so hydrating. There are a thousand of those recipes online. That’s a great snack, too, or a great dessert.

SHARON:  This is fascinating to me. I’m curious, though. You hear so much about the term “electrolytes” and we’ve been talking about the electrical charge in water and everything. Help me get clear on electrolytes. Do we need them? What are they? 

DANA:  That’s everything that we’re talking about right now. Electrolytes are the minerals that we need from food to create that structured water. Specifically, it’s sodium, potassium, magnesium ─ these ions that are important to the function and structure of our cells and how that water goes in and out.

GINA:  The problem with eight glasses of water a day is that it often flushes out those electrolytes. A bottle of water doesn’t carry any of that charge. You put it in your body and those electrolytes are going into that water and being pulled out by the flash flood of all that drinking.

That’s another reason why we recommend getting water through food because it’s all packaged to be sustaining in your system. The fibers in the food help absorb the electrolytes with the wetness but they also carry their own electrical charge. All those fruits and vegetables have mineral sources within them which then become charged by the water.

You’re getting that as a package in nature and that is why food is such an important part of the whole hydration story.

We were very dismayed when we saw that it’s not even on the table to talk to people about why watermelon is going to work for you or even baked cauliflower or roasted cauliflower. Cauliflower is 98% water.

SHARON: Is it? It always feels so dry.

GINA:  I know. Watermelon makes sense but what we’re trying to do is move that whole story into what science shows which is that those fibrous features of cauliflower are full of water.

We think of water as mushy. We don’t think of it as kind of gel-like. Even bone broth is a tremendous source of hydration.

We want that chain to start coming in because not only does your hydration go up in a stabilized way that’s sustainable and stays in your body and it doesn’t flash flood out your electrolytes and your nutrients but you’re now getting water through nutrition through this kind of hydration. That sounds like the nature plan that I like to be on.

SHARON:  Absolutely! 

DANA:  I want to reiterate what she said because I think it’s important and it pertains to you as well. One of the reasons why you’re not feeling hydrated after drinking all that water is because you’re flushing out your electrolytes. It’s a powerful statement that she said.

Regular water doesn’t contain any electrolytes but when you add a pinch of natural or Celtic or real salt, those are the electrolytes that we need, that sodium, that potassium, and those minerals that help structure that water; and it helps get it into the cell better.

I once did an experiment. When Gina first came to me and we started researching this, I went to a symposium in Las Vegas ─ literally in the desert.

In these lectures, I was sitting all day long eight hours a day and there was a pitcher of water in front of everybody and I was like, I’m going to hydrate myself so good.

And I kept drinking water all day. By the end of the day, I was even more exhausted than usual. I was getting to pee after every lecture and by the end of the day, my pee was crystal clear. It had no color to it and I felt horrible.

You can try that little experiment on yourself. It’s not the best way to hydrate. When you start to hydrate properly by adding electrolytes, by adding vegetables and fruits, you’ll start to notice that you feel better.

The best way to check if you’re at a good optimal hydration is to look at the color of your urine. It should be a very pale yellow. That’s a little tip. That’s a great at-home easy thing that you can do.

One caveat:  If you’re taking B vitamins, the color of your urine doesn’t count so you can’t use that test.

Thank you very much Dr. Dana and Gina.  Get their great book, “Quench” now, you will find it as helpful as I have.

Listen to the complete interview here:   and join me here next Friday for another fantastic episode of The Autoimmune Hour. As always, enjoy!

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