By Gina Bria
As an anthropologist I was researching why desert dwellers survive without 8 glasses a day of water. I was spending long days in Columbia University’s Butler Library in New York City, gleaning strategies from desert regions all around the globe and compiling records of how each region used the water locked in plants to remain hydrated.
Chronic Dehydration in Our Elderly
Imagine the surprise and dismay I felt getting the call that my mother was suffering from chronic dehydration in her care home in Michigan. “You’ve got to be kidding!” I remembered thinking, “What irony is at work here?” I knew I could help my mom if I could just figure out how to deliver the same strategies to my mom that desert peoples had already exploited.
Salvia Hispanica to the Rescue
The answer came for me when I read about chia seeds, used by Tarahumara of the highland Sierra Madres to hydrate. How can a seed hydrate? Well chia seeds, from the desert sage plant, salvia hispanica, release a gel when touched by dew. This clear tasteless gel is actually a denser form of water, perfect for germinating seeds safely in a dry environment. It’s smart ecological adaptation by a desert plant. Chia seed hydrates so well, in fact that the Tarahumara mix it in corn beer before running marathons. 50 mile marathons. Up and down steep and desert canyons. “Well,” I thought, “that could work for my mom, but how do I get it in her, minus the corn beer?”
My solution was to buy whole chia seeds, grind it in my coffee grinder to reduce it to a powder, making it easy to mix into drinks, and send that package off to her senior residence. I instructed the staff to stir a teaspoon or so into her morning orange juice. Did the trick! She never had another recurring hydration issue.
Hydrating Through Plants is Better
Why would that work so well? Hydration through plants is a different form of hydration, one that is longer lasting, absorbs more thoroughly and brings nutrition and electrolytes right into the hydration package, just as nature intended. New science shows how hydration locked inside plants is a different kind of water than tap or bottle. This gel form of water brings additional absorption and energy into our systems. We all know water conducts electricity, but gel water conducts it more efficiently, so our own electrical function inside our cells is carried by the quality of our hydration. Not only chia seed, but all plants carry this gel water inside their cells. That’s big news since it means a diet high in fresh fruits and veggies, leafy greens and herbs is a powerful source of better hydration than water alone. This simple approach must be spread and that’s why I wrote Quench, offering the science, and over 50 recipes using juicy foods to better hydrate. It was all for my mom!
Co-author and Integrative Physician Dr Dana Cohen, MD
I was fortunate to partner with medical doctor, Dana Cohen, an integrative physician, who was already using hydration as a healing priority in her New York City practice. We wrote the book together, coming up with a five day plan to move us all towards optimal hydration. It’s been a great privilege to see it spread so quickly.
Chia Seeds Increase Hydration 3 Times
Do let me share my mom’s recipe: Start with 1 or 2 teaspoons of ground chia seeds, depending on taste and tolerance. You can increase gradually to find your preference. Mix the powder in with whatever drink you or your elder prefer, either orange juice, cranberry, pomegranate juice, or any smoothie. So very simple. While everyone has a different biology, this strategy can increase hydration by at least a third. So every cup of drink with chia seed is worth about 3 cups of plain drink! That’s remarkable, and that’s what the Hydration Foundation is all about. Help us spread our new/old ways to hydrate!
PS – you can order your copy of Quench here.