13 Aug

Ask the Expert: How Does Hydration Impact Our Risk of Getting Sick or Fighting Off Illness?

Adequate hydration is a critical component of overall health. It helps the bodily fluids that carry immune cells throughout your body get to where they need to go to fight off infections.

"Staying well hydrated keeps blood flowing to our organs. The white cells in blood help fight infections, as do proteins in the blood, such as antibodies," says Joshua Thurman, M.D. "The body's ability to fight off infections is helped by rest, fitness, nutrition, and hydration. Hydration helps us stay healthy and recover more quickly if we do become ill."

Additional Benefits of Hydration on Illness

According to Abbott, other benefits of proper hydration include lowering fevers, lessening headaches, moisturizing membranes, and better use of nutrients.

Water regulates your body's core temperature. Mild fevers can help eliminate infection, but dehydration can make a high or long-lasting fever worse.

Because the brain is about 80 percent water, proper hydration can help lessen headache pain. Dehydration affects blood volume. If your brain isn't getting the oxygen and nutrients it needs, the result can be dizziness and headaches.

Hydration keeps the mucous membranes in your nose and mouth moist so they can effectively expel bacteria and viruses when you're coughing, sneezing, and breathing. Moisture also helps heal broken membranes so additional bacteria don't get into your body.

Your gastrointestinal tract can better absorb and use nutrients from food when there's enough water in your system. When essential nutrients are available to the cells in your body, it can do a better job recovering from illness.

Staying hydrated also keeps the urine flowing, which reduces the number of bacteria in the urinary tract and lessens your chances of a urinary tract infection.

"Although staying well hydrated may not keep you from getting sick, being dehydrated may make it harder for your body to fight infections β€” it can make you more likely to get sick," says Dr. Thurman.

ABOUT OUR EXPERT

Dr. Joshua Thurman, MD is a board-certified nephrologist and Professor of Medicine specializing in renal medical diseases and hypertension at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. He received his medical degree from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine and his undergraduate degree from Harvard University. He has been in practice for more than 22 years.

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