First published in the Active Retirement Ireland annual.
See for other interesting articles relating to health and ageing.
Written by Sharon Ní Chuilibín

Following twenty two years of research, Dr. Batmanghalij discovered this very important and very simple insight. Water is the key to life and dehydration is a fundamental factor in the cause of disease and unhealth. So simple. So important. So vital. Are you drinking enough water?

In his book “the body’s many cries for water” Dr. Fereeydon Batmanghelidj, M.D. shares a very important reminder of the vital role that proper water intake has for our health. Dehydration is the underlying cause for many chronic “diseases”, he says. Proper intake of water, salt and minerals can prevent these illnesses and even reverse the damage already done. He notes that while so-called “modern” medicine still blames viruses and genetics for most of these degenerative conditions, the pharmaceutical industry would indeed lose billions of euros if people simply relied on the healing properties of water in lieu of toxic and expensive drugs.  More than two thirds of our physical body is made up of water.

In a lecture to the Governmental Health Forum in Washington DC, in 2003, Batmanghelidj warned that modern medical science is based on a number of flawed assumptions. The basis of his approach is recognition that everything in the human body or any living organism is regulated by the presence of water. This leads to a shift in perception- from perception of the body in terms of solids to an understanding of solvency – all is movement, all is fluid, all is subject to change and influence through the presence of water. And the body suffers when this vital nutrient is lacking..

“Free Water”

Histamine is a neurotransmitter in charge of water regulation of the body. While the body may already contain a lot of water, this water is called ‘bound water’, he says, as it is involved in chemical reactions in the body. Therefore, what the body needs is ‘free water’. The lack of free water causes dehydration. Filling the body with a fresh intake of water allows the body to undertake new and essential functions. The body suffering dehydration may be compared to a major business with a lot of assets but without the cash flow to pay its staff ! Water therefore is the “cash-flow” of the human body. That’s how a business gets into trouble and how a body gets into trouble, when it doesn’t have enough “free-water”.

Stress can lead to dehydration

Every time you feel stressed that translates to dehydration. The reason for this is that a stressed body will release a lot of hormones that in turn break up material in the body and mop up the “free water” in the circulation. And so, you are all of a sudden short of ‘free water’ and short of cash-flow.

How Dehydration influences arthritis

The articular cartilage in a well hydrated joint gets its nutrients from the blood supply to its base attachment to the bone. In a dehydrated joint, needing fluid circulation this is taken from the capsule of the joint – which can lead to swelling and tenderness. While this inflammatory process may appear that there is an infection, there is only dehydration.

Blood is 94 % water

In dehydration you can also get associated mineral deficiencies. We can become achlorhydric, which means that the stomach doesn’t produce enough acid. We need acid to absorb zinc, magnesium, manganese, selenium and other essential minerals. Deficiency in these above mentioned minerals has been connected with neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinsons’ disease, Alzheimer’s disease and so on. Once dehydrated you can become amino-acid deficient and mineral deficient.

Early symptoms and signs of dehydration

Contrary to opinion, Dr. Batman warns that dry mouth is not a sign of dehydration. “Anyone who is waiting for dry mouth to drink water or waiting to feel thirsty for that matter is inviting trouble”, he says. Basic science teaches us that it is water that regulates all functions of the body, including the functions of everything it dissolves.

Warning signs

So, what are some of the warning signs? Feeling tired when you haven’t done a good days work. When you wake up in the morning and don’t want to get out of bed, your dehydrated. You better drink some water straight away. In eight hours, you have deprived your brain of energy, hydro-electricity, and that is why you feel tired because of the dehydration. Water is a “pick me up” within three to four minutes you will get up out of bed. Feeling flushed and irritable, anxious, dejected, depressed, inadequate, heavy head, cravings, agoraphobia, they’re all complications of dehydration. Depression is definitely a symptom of dehydration.

Drink more water

You need your water before your food. First thing in the morning, two glasses of water to offset the dehydration of the previous night. Then you’ll need a glass of water half an hour before food. If you expect to digest the food you best give the water beforehand. Also take another glass of water two and a half hours after food to wrap up the process of digestion and rehydrate those areas that lost water. For every litre of water you need to ingest a quarter tea spoon of salt. Sea salt contains more minerals than table salt but table salt includes iodine. If you only take sea salt, you can supplement iodine through eating kelp or other sea weeds. You also need these other minerals to regulate the amount of water that is held inside the cells. “You need a balanced protein” says Dr. Batmanghalij, “eggs are very good. Cottage cheese is excellent” to provide all the amino acids and balanced structure.


You need daily exercise because your brain chemistry depends on how you move your muscles. When you exercise you burn branched-chain amino acids and when you burn those your body chemistry will begin to function properly. The calf muscles are like second hearts for circulation of blood through the veins.

Older people do not recognise their thirst

Scientifically it has been shown that elderly who have been deprived of their water for 24 hours and a glass of water is placed beside them, they don’t realise they are thirsty. The young people who participated in this study however, immediately drank the water.

Warning : Only water can replace water !

A very common mistake that we make is to assume that all fluids can replace the water needs of the body. Caffeine in substances is a dehydrating substance. It affects the brain and the kidneys and flushes more water out of the body than there is water in the cup. According to Dr. Batmanghelidj, caffeine also inhibits enzymes in the brain that are memory making.

Water as a pick me up

Water is a natural source of energy for the body. All neurotransmission in the body depends on the hydroelectricity from water. Thus, we can say that water has life giving properties. It manufactures hydroelectricity. The word hydrolysis means ‘the metabolism of water’ and yet for many even among the established medical profession, water is considered as simply an inert substance. Water is a nutrient, and the body depends on it for essential functions and performance.

Dehydration as a cause of cholesterol

Dr. Batmanghelidj also concluded through his research that it is the absence of water that leads to cholesterol build up in the body. In the body, water also binds and holds cell membranes together. Cholesterol is formed as an emergency binding material in the absence of water. So that the cell doesn’t disintegrate completely.

Water allows us to get energy from the food we eat.

“The pound of meat that you eat has no energy value whatsoever unless water is there to hydrolyse it and break it down” he says. Thus, is in fact the water that energizes the food that we eat. The potato, the sugar, none of these has an ability to pass energy to the body unless water is present. So, good diet and hydration are essential for a long life. If, instead of water we take tea, coffee, alcohol and fizzy drinks we are dehydrating the body.

Tap water vs bottled water

Bottled water companies offer a vast array of products. Water from the tap of course does not cost as much as this bottled water. Chlorine is a gas. If the taste or smell of chlorine gets to you, allow the water to sit in an open pan for half an hour and the chlorine will be released. In Ireland we have a wonderful resource in our many local “holy wells” where our blessed and pristine water is often freely available, as it has been for centuries.

We lose a litre of water every 24 hours just through breathing!