Optimum Hydration with Dr. Dana Cohen: Rational Wellness Podcast 68

Dr. Dana Cohen explains how to optimize hydration by eating foods with water in the gel state with Dr. Ben Weitz. 

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Podcast Highlights

2:48  Dr. Cohen explains that being in a state of sub-clinical, low grade dehydration can lead to fatigue, brain fog, dry skin, constipation, but them, even more important things, it puts you at risk for certain cancers like bladder cancer and colon cancer. It also can put you at risk for Type II diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

5:25  Dr. Cohen explains that we know that water exists as liquid, ice, and vapor. We now know that there’s another phase of water called gel water or structured water, which is the type of water that’s in our cells and this exists in plants, in fruits and vegetables.  So by eating more fruits and vegetables we can get better hydrated than by just drinking water, which she talks about in her new book, Quench: Beat Fatigue, Drop Weight, and Heal Your Body Through the New Science of Optimum Hydration. Now we have science to back up why we should have a green smoothie and eat more hydrated foods.

7:15  Dr. Cohen recommends drinking 16 oz of water with some sea salt and a squeeze of lemon to start your day and then drink 8 oz of water before every meal. They’ll feel better and they’ll also lose a few pounds.

9:35  Dr. Cohen said that common table salt is just sodium and is dehydrating, while natural sea salt or Himalyan pink salt have other minerals besides sodium, so they are hydrating for the body. 

11:48  Dr. Cohen wrote that we should eat fruits and vegetables that are in season because research shows that the microbiome changes seasonally.

13:53  Dana noted that chia seeds are one of the more hydrating foods and she highlighted the gel that forms when you wet them.

16:19  Lychee fruit is great for skin, has antioxidants, helps with blood sugar and protects against sun damage and is a very hydrating food. Since it has a short growing season, she will often use a nutritional supplement, Oligonol, and she will open two capsules into a smoothie. 

18:35  Prickly pear from cactus is another very hydrating plant food.

19:33  Aloe vera has water in the gel state, so it is also very hydrating.



Dr. Dana Cohen is a nationally renowned internal and integrative medicine specialist, based in New York City. Her new book is Quench: Beat Fatigue, Drop Weight, and Heal Your Body Through the New Science of Optimum Hydration. Her website is www.drdanacohen.com and her coathor’s website if HydrationFoundation.org.

Dr. Ben Weitz is available for nutrition consultations specializing in Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders like IBS/SIBO and Reflux and also specializing in Cardiometabolic Risk Factors like elevated lipids, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure and also weight loss, as well as sports chiropractic work by calling his Santa Monica office 310-395-3111.


Podcast Transcripts

Dr. Weitz:            This is Dr. Ben Weitz with, The Rational Wellness Podcast, bringing you the cutting edge information on health and nutrition from the latest scientific research and by interviewing the top experts in the field.  Please subscribe to The Rational Wellness Podcast on iTunes and YouTube and sign up for my free eBook on my website by going to drweitz.com. Let’s get started on your road to better health.  Hello Rational Wellness Podcasters. Thank you so much for joining me again today and, for those of you who enjoy The Rational Wellness Podcast, please go to iTunes and give us a ratings and review.

So our topic for today is water and what is the best way to get hydrated. It’s often stated that Americans do not drink enough water, and many doctors believe that as many as 75% of Americans are under-hydrated. I personally test all of my patients with bioimpedance analysis for their body composition, and we find very few who are optimally hydrated.  I often encourage my patients to drink more water and so do many functional medicine doctors, nutritionists and health coaches. Its typically recommended that patients drink eight to 12 glasses of water per day or at least half of their body weight in ounces of water. However, new research has discovered that water, which has been thought to exist in one of three states, liquid, gas or, solid actually exists in a fourth gel like state that has the potential to hydrate the body more effectively and efficiently than just plain water.

This new state of structured water is also more organized, making it more effective for healing at the cellular level. Dr. Dana Cohen is our special guest today and, she’s a nationally renowned internal and integrative medicine specialist based in New York City. She trained under the late Dr. Robert Atkins and also under Donald Ronald Hoffman, two of the pioneers of functional medicine.

Dr. Cohen says that new research shows that hydration may not be as simple as drinking more water, it’s a premise of her new book, Quench: Beat Fatigue, Drop Weight, and Heal Your Body Through the New Science of Optimum Hydration. And in fact, she says, drinking too much water can actually cause harm to your body by flushing out vital nutrients and electrolytes from your cells.  Dr. Cohen, thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule to join us today.

Dr. Cohen:          Thank you for having me.

Dr. Weitz:            So, how dangerous is it to be under-hydrated and what concerns can arise from not being properly hydrated?

Dr. Cohen:          Okay so, I want to clarify first that we’re not talking about overt dehydration where you’re in the hospital needing IV fluids and you have heatstroke, and those are, can be life threatening. We’re talking about this sort of sub-clinical, low grade dehydration which we give evidence that shows basic things, fatigue, brain fog, dry skin, constipation, but then, even more important things, it puts you at risk for certain cancers like bladder cancer or colon cancer. It also can put you at risk for Type II diabetes and even Alzheimer’s disease. So it is, I think, a very real problem.

Dr. Weitz:            How do you know if you’re under-hydrated?

Dr. Cohen:          So, okay, good question. Everybody, the first thing people think about is thirst. The truth is, thirst is not a great measure because we’ve learned to override our thirst or ignore our thirst so, some ways that you can know, once again, fatigue. We actually, I really believe that fatigue is your first sign of dehydration and instead of maybe going for some coffee or sugar in the afternoon, think about hydrating better when you get that slump.  So fatigue, brain fog. Other things that we can think about. So, we’re meant to urinate every two or three hours and, if you’re not doing that, you may be dehydrated. A good rule of thumb and at home test that we can do is, look at the color of your urine, we want it to be pale yellow. If it’s dark orange or darker, you’re dehydrated, with one caveat that us as integrative practitioners know, if you’re taking B vitamins, that rule doesn’t hold because it turns your urine bright yellow.

Dr. Weitz:            Yeah, my urine is very dark, I take so many supplements.

Dr. Cohen:          Yeah so, that’s not the best thing for you to do.  Another good at home thing is, you could pinch the top of your hand, the skin on the top of your hand, if it stays up there, if it tents up for longer than a millisecond, you’re dehydrated or, can be dehydrated.  So, that’s a little at home test you can do as well.

Dr. Weitz:            So, what’s the best way to get properly hydrated?

Dr. Cohen:          Great question.

Dr. Weitz:           We kind of teased that in the intro.

Dr. Cohen:          So, what we talk about well, lets just get right into it. Let’s talk about the new, the new discovery that we’re all, that you sort of alluded to earlier.  We know that water exists as liquid, ice and vapor. Now we know that there’s another phase of water and, this phase of water we call gel water or structured water in the book is, it’s different, it has different properties than regular bulk water.  What we’ve discovered is that this is the type of water that’s in our cells and also happens to be the type of water that’s in plants.  And so, by eating your water, by having more plants and vegetables and that can kind of thing, it’s a much more effective way of getting better hydrated.  So, that’s what we tell you.  A lot of it is instinctual but now we have real science to back up why we should have a smoothie every day and why we should eat our greens in concentrated forms and eat more hydrating foods.

Dr. Weitz:            Are there products on the market now, structured water? And, if they’re not, I’m sure there will be.

Dr. Cohen:          They do exist. There are machines that can structure your water. We don’t talk, I don’t know any of them, I don’t, what’s the word? Recommend any of them because I haven’t done the research on them, I don’t know about them. The book is for the masses, this is for every person how you can get this water by eating better, eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, eating your water and following some simple rules.  We lay out a very easy five day plan in the book where you just follow them. So, I’ll give you a couple of them right now. A first rule is, we want to wake up and front load your water so, 16 ounces of a big glass of water with a little bit of sea salt to get some good electrolytes in there and a squeeze of lemon, start your day that way, that’s one rule.

Another rule I can give you is, you want to drink eight ounces before every meal. So that’s a way of getting water in right before your meal and there’s some research behind that that it also can help lose a few pounds if you just do that and do nothing else.

Dr. Weitz:            Now, now, you know, I like to have some of my clients do that but I know a number of people in the nutritional world who feel that drinking water prior to your meal is going to dilute your enzymes.

Dr. Cohen:          Yeah, I’ve had no problems with it and I’ve been researching this book for three and a half years, I’ve been giving the program to patients and, in fact, their digestion is improving, they do lose a little bit of weight, their brain fog goes away, their fatigue, if you’re hydrating better.

Dr. Weitz:            It doesn’t matter if the water is cold or room water, does it matter if it’s carbonated?

Dr. Cohen:          It’s a good question, I don’t know, I really don’t know. I know in Chinese medicine there’s something to, depending on what type of whether you’re damp or a hot person, I don’t know, and there’s something to that. I’m not a Chinese medicine practitioner so I don’t know. I definitely think there’s something to it but, I honestly don’t know. As far as carbonation, I don’t have a problem with carbonation, I actually drink a lot of Pellegrino, a natural carbonated spring water but I think the jury is out on that one, I don’t think there’s evidence either way.

Dr. Weitz:            Yeah, even acupuncturists in my office, we kind of still having a battle. I’ll put ice on a patient and she’ll say, “No, don’t put ice, we have to use heat.”

Dr. Cohen:          I know and I think the truth is, whatever gets you to drink better, I think is important.

Dr. Weitz:            So I was reading your book, Quench, this morning while walking on the treadmill and drinking some water.

Dr. Cohen:          Love it. Excellent.

Dr. Weitz:            I want to ask a couple of questions that are a little bit off track and then we’ll get back to the foods is, you talked about how some foods like pizza have the wrong kind of salt that’s dehydrating while natural salt is hydrating. Can you explain that?

Dr. Cohen:          Yeah so, like the store bought table salt, I don’t think I should mention any names but, the one with the girl with the umbrella on it and the galoshes, I mean its sodium, it’s just sodium, there’s no minerals, there’s no other minerals in there.

Dr. Weitz:            Yeah, there is iodine in it. Sodium iodine.

Dr. Cohen:          Sodium is iodized salt, yes, yeah, if it’s iodized but, you can get sea salt iodized as well and that’s a whole conversation on its own and I do think almost everybody is deficient in iodine as well. Unfortunately, we don’t have great ways of measuring that but yes, the iodine is a separate issue.  But, the table salt is just sodium, real salt has an abundance of other minerals and electrolytes that we need that is and, there’s a lot of research behind it too that’s been shown, it’s not going to affect your blood pressure in a way that we at least thought salt was such a bad thing for us.  So that’s the difference.

Dr. Weitz:            Yeah so, in fact, you say that having sea salt and natural forms of salt like Himalayan Pink Salt actually helps with blood pressure.

Dr. Cohen:          Well, I think there’s something to that, I’m not sure if it actually helps with blood pressure but, I don’t think it harms.

Dr. Weitz:            Yeah.

Dr. Cohen:          You know so, I think and, there may be a select few that have very salt sensitive hypertension that they do need to worry about it so, its hard for me to say, I still want people to be careful, who have high blood pressure and even using real salt, you just need to monitor and look at it but, I don’t think it’s the foe that we’ve made it to be at all.

Dr. Weitz:            Yeah, no, I read that book by James DiNicolantonio about salt (The Salt Fix) and it was really sort of a shock that, everything we thought about salt, kind of like, everything we thought about saturated fat isn’t quite true.

Dr. Cohen:          Right. Exactly.

Dr. Weitz:            One more thing that I was reading about in your book was, you talk about eating seasonally, eating fruits and vegetables that are in season and you also mention that our microbiome, which is the bacteria in our colon, actually changes according to the season and I thought that was really fascinating and I don’t think that’s information that people commonly talk about.

Dr. Cohen:          Yeah, we touch upon it lightly in the book and, we’ve looked at the research, I think his name is Julliard, John Julliard, I think his name is. There’s some very interesting research that how the microbiome does change seasonally and that’s one of the reasons that we should eat what’s available to us. I have a feeling that that’s probably the key of why eating seasonally is really good and important for us. And there’s some research to back that up as well.

Dr. Weitz:            Yeah, interesting.  So, can you tell us about why it’s so important to eat certain fruits and vegetables and seeds that can help to hydrate us?

Dr. Cohen:          Suer so, I would love to, I picked out four things today to specifically talk about so, they’re a little bit unusual but they’re sort of fun to talk about.

Dr. Weitz:            By the way, these are examples, right? And, most, my understanding from reading your book is, most fruits and vegetables and also nuts and seeds in general are very hydrating?

Dr. Cohen:          Exactly, exactly and we lay out many, many examples in the book. We have over 50 recipes. I love to just bring up the example of even iceberg lettuce. Iceberg lettuce, you know, we always thought has no nutritional value. As it turns out, it’s probably one of the most hydrating vegetables you can eat because it’s just loaded with that structured water and that alone makes it worth it’s weight in gold.  So iceberg lettuce, there’s a reason for. So, let’s talk about chia seeds first.

Dr. Weitz:            Okay.

Dr. Cohen:          Chia seeds …

Dr. Weitz:            And by the way, I wouldn’t normally think of dried seeds as being moisturizing.

Dr. Cohen:          Yes. So, if you’ve ever seen or made a recipe for chia pudding, you know that when you add liquid to chia it forms that gel, it makes a very gelatinous, a mucilaginous surrounding the seed so that is that gel water, it’s going to hold onto and absorb water better than regular water.   And, there’s actually this Mexican tribe of people, the Tarahumara tribe who, anthropologically would run 50 mile marathons on water and chia seeds. So chia has, they are really the star of the show, they are a super food, they’re loaded with Omega 3 fatty acids, they’re really good for endurance, they’re great for blood sugar and, I just think, I love to throw them in my smoothies, make chia pudding, throw them on your salads. They’re a very hydrating food.

Dr. Weitz:            Okay.

Dr. Cohen:          Second one I want to talk about, another sort of fun and unusual one …

Dr. Weitz:            Now, do you just eat the chia seeds raw or do you grind them up first?

Dr. Cohen:          I love to grind them because you’re creating more surface area when you grind them. I’ll do both but, I think grinding them, you’re probably getting more gel water because you’re creating more surface area. So I think ground chia seeds are a better way to do it.  In fact we tell a story in the book from my co-author. She is an anthropologist, her mother was in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s and she was suffering from dehydration, like literally overt dehydration and, her mother would never ask for more water or, you know, she was very proper and she decided to tell the nurses to put some chia in her water every morning and that cured the problem, she never had another UTI after that, urinary tract infection. So, yeah, chia seeds are really important and great for us and inexpensive. Anybody can find them everywhere, it’s a great thing to do and to start putting in your water.

So let’s talk about the second one, speaking of seasonal fruits and vegetables, I want to talk about Lychee (aka, litchi) fruit. Lychee, have you ever had a litchi? Do you know what it is?

Dr. Weitz:            Not really. I was at some wedding that had like every exotic fruit known to mankind and I’m sure I ate it but I don’t remember which one it was.

Dr. Cohen:          I think lychee, you’re going to start to hear about lychee’s like, I think it’s going to be the next super food.

Dr. Weitz:            Next super food?

Dr. Cohen:          Yeah.  They are delicious, they’re from South-East Asia in fact, you know, I love anthropological information, these ancient Chinese princesses used to have their servants get them litchi fruit to keep their skin youthful so, lychee is great for skin, youthful skin, it’s a very powerful antioxidant, it helps with blood sugar, it helps protect against UV radiation, ultraviolet radiation from sun damage, that kind of thing.  Couple of problems with litchi is, they, and by the way, they taste incredible, they’re delicious. I’ll often just sort of throw them in water and it’s a tiny little fruit, I actually have some here, I’m going to show you. Can you see that?

Dr. Weitz:            Okay.

Dr. Cohen:          So they look like little eyeballs, these are seeded, there’s a pit in the middle and, so when you pop open a litchi you can see the gel just sort of coming out very, very gel like. The one problem is, they’re seasonal so they’re hard to get, only short period of season we can get them and, they’re high in sugar.  So, what I’ll often do is recommend a supplement because I do recommend a lot of supplements. There’s a supplement called Oligonol, there’s over 30 human clinical trials, it’s made from lychee fruit. I’ll pop open the capsules in the winter and throw it in my smoothie, two capsules a day and that supplement has been shown to help with decreased belly fat, decreased brown spots from skin aging, really great supplement made from lychee.  And, other than that, a couple one or two lychee in a glass of water will help structure that water a little bit better than without it.

The third thing I want to talk about is, and you may have played a little bit more with this is, prickly pear which is a cactus fruit. I do have one here. I love prickly pear. Basically what I’ll do is I’ll cut off both ends, peel it off, it’s bright red. This is water infused with prickly pear. Can you see how red it is?

Dr. Weitz:            Okay, yeah.

Dr. Cohen:          Also, really delicious but, it does have seeds in it so you have to put it through a strainer before you do anything with it.  Prickly pear is great for blood sugar also, helps with cholesterol, what else is it good for? Known as a hangover remedy. So, if you’ve imbibed too much, have some prickly pear. Prickly pear and lime is a really wonderful water infuser. There’s jam’s and jellies you can make with that but, maybe a little too much sugar also.

And then last I want to talk about is, aloe. All these cactus fruits. Aloe, I grew up in South Florida, originally from Long Island but, we moved to South Florida when I was little and, we always had aloe plants outside. So, everybody knows if you get a burn, you go outside, cut an aloe leaf and put it on top of your burn, it really helps your skin. But taken internally, aloe can help with digestion, it can help with constipation, also maybe help with blood sugar so, basically just open an aloe leaf, take that gel inside of it, throw it in your smoothie, or just eat it. There’s aloe juice you can buy now, great for all of those things, for digestion, heart burn, constipation.  So a couple of fruits, sort of fun and unusual, easy, play around with them and, they’re ally delicious.

Dr. Weitz:            Sounds good, yeah. We use aloe a lot for all sorts of issues, it seems to be really good for the skin and it’s good for the gut as well so, we use some supplements that have aloe in it as one of the ingredients.

Dr. Cohen:          Yeah, the one thing I’d be a little careful about is too much, even natural aloe can lead to diarrhea so you just got to find your perfect sort of dose.

Dr. Weitz:            Yep, yep.  Great. So, how can listeners or viewers get hold of you and get a hold of your book? I’m assuming its available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble.

Dr. Cohen:          Everywhere books are sold. My website is, www. drdanacohen.com and my coauthors website, there’s a lot of information, it’s the hydrationfoundation.org. Tons of information up there about water and all the new research that’s coming out with new water.  And by the way, water is way more complicated than I ever thought before I embarked on this journey and every day there’s something new coming out about it so, yeah.

Dr. Weitz:            Yeah. Good, good, good and, I’m assuming you still see patients in your office and remote. Do you do consultations?

Dr. Cohen:          I don’t see people remotely unless, you have to see me one time in person because I still am an old timely doctor, I like to put my hands on patients but I do see people in New York City, my office is called completewellnessnyc.com.

Dr. Weitz:            Great. Thank you so much for joining us.

Dr. Cohen:          Thank you Ben.


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