Report by Anne Macaulay
The authors of Quench, Dr. Dana Cohen and Gina Bria, come from completely different backgrounds, but they both found themselves interested in hydration. Anthropologist Gina Bria was researching indigenous tribes from desert regions and trying to understand how they survive drought. At the same time, she was struggling to care for her elderly mother in a nursing home who was suffering from chronic dehydration (which is common to many nursing home residents). Dr. Dana Cohen is an integrative physician in New York City. Many of her patients had problems with fatigue and low energy and she wondered if dehydration could be behind all these common complaints.
The authors came together to develop the Quench Plan, which proved effective for Gina’s mother in the nursing home as well as for Dr. Cohen’s patients. The Quench Plan is not simply drinking a gallon of water every day. Instead, the authors focus on absorption and getting the water where it needs to be through movement. The first half of the book covers many topics relating to hydration, including why we are dehydrated, symptoms of hydration, and how water moves through your body. The second half of the book outlines the Quench Plan.
Causes of Dehydration:
- Diets that include salt-heavy, moisture-lacking processed foods
- A lack of hydrating greens and fruits
- Dry heat and air conditioning
- Prescription medications to reduce pain, stiffness, allergies or other chronic conditions
- Diets that are heavy on alcohol, sugar, starches, meat and cheeses, coffees and teas
- Type II diabetes is dehydrating since your kidneys are trying to excrete more water due to excess sugar in the blood
- Sitting is dehydrating: Immobility slows down water delivery into your cells as well as the outflow of waste particles
Signs that you may be suffering from dehydration: It can manifest as fatigue, lack of focus, lowered mood, poor sleep and excess weight. Afternoon fatigue is often dehydration. As are headaches, weakness, UTIs and constipation. Sleeplessness, decreased immunity, and joint pain, as well as chronic diseases like fibromyalgia, type II diabetes, acid reflux, heart disease and Alzheimer's all may be related to dehydration.
How Do You Know If You Are Dehydrated?
- The color of your urine should be clear to light yellow.
- If you pinch your skin, it should bounce right back.
- If you put pressure on a fingernail, color should return to normal within three seconds.
How Dehydration Affects Your Body
Cognition: Mild dehydration causes poor performance on tests that measure cognition and focus. It also lowers mood. Dehydration increases the risk of concussion or traumatic brain injury. You want your brain to be adequately cushioned by cerebrospinal fluid if you take a hit to the head.
Pain: Dehydration makes both major and minor pain worse -- joint pain, migraines, postsurgical pain, etc. Research shows that dehydration makes the pain you're experiencing feel worse. Dehydration can be the root cause of some pain such as migraines and muscle cramps. Even for more complex pain cases, hydration can help. Fibromyalgia is sometimes treated with IV fluids, demonstrating how hydration can help with pain and fatigue.
Heart disease, hypertension and stroke: Mild dehydration affects your blood vessels the same way smoking a cigarette does. It impacts your blood vessels ability to constrict and dilate so that even low levels of dehydration up your odds of suffering a heart attack. Dehydration makes your blood thicker and stickier. This makes your heart works harder to pump which can damage your heart muscle while also contributing to high blood pressure. Adequate hydration helps prevent deep vein thrombosis or blood clots from forming in your veins when traveling or if you've had surgery. That's why it's important to stay hydrated in those situations.
Weight loss: Drinking three 16 oz. glasses of water a day increases your calorie burning enough for you to drop five pounds in a year without making any other changes. Another study found drinking one 16 oz. glass of water a day boosted metabolic rate by 30%, which works out to an average of 200 extra calories a day. By switching to drinking water and vegetable based smoothies, you’re also cutting back on calorie loaded coffee drinks, sodas, alcohol, etc. We often confuse thirst and hunger. Often when you feel fatigued or like you have a headache coming on, you’ll think you need to eat but you really need to drink. Learning to drink when you are thirsty instead of eating will help with weight loss.
How Do Desert Dwellers Stay Hydrated?
Gina Bria started researching hydration when she was studying desert dwellers. Desert dwellers are experts in hydration. Instead of searching for more water in their environment, they stay hydrated by using the water locked in plants. They drink less volume of water but do a better job at absorption and retention by drinking water that’s in plants and by blending water with things like chia seeds to form gel water.
The Hazda tribes in Tanzania start their days with a smoothie made out of baobab fruit and water.
Mountainous environments can also be very dry. Anthropologists studying ancient high-altitude tribes in the Himalayas and Peru believe that stews were a large part of their diet. Heating starch grains in the presence of water forms a gelatinous complex and therefore increases the hydrating power of cooking water and stews. These practices of changing the hydrating power of water by using plants such as grains, herbs, seeds or roots were deployed throughout the ages and on all continents, showing that plants were used for hydration and in the purification of water.
What Should We Be Drinking?
The authors emphasize getting much of your water from plants. The water in plants is already purified, the right pH, mineralized, full of nutrients, and structured to absorb more easily into our cells.
They quote emerging science and water research which reveals that the water in our cells is a different kind of water -- the same kind of water we can find in plants. This is a fourth state of water: not liquid, gas, or solid, but a gel-like state that's 10% more viscous than the liquid state.
This fourth phase of water is new and hasn't been named yet by the scientific community and there's much research yet to be done to confirm that it exists. In the book they refer to this as gel water or structured water. It’s the water that's found in our cells and in plants that differs from the purified water that we often drink.
Moving Keeps Your Cells Hydrated
We all know that exercise is important for health, but Quench differentiates between exercise and movement. Movement is important to get waste out of our cells via the lymphatic drainage system. Exercise usually focuses on just a few muscle groups that get used all the time. The micro-movements in Quench are designed to make sure every part of your body moves and is hydrated and cleansed. Quench outlines a simple routine of micro-movements that takes a couple of minutes twice a day. These are similar to yoga or Tai Chi and are based on research that shows that fidgeting is associated with better health.
For desk workers who sit for seven hours a day, lack of fidgeting was associated with a 43% increased risk for all causes of mortality. However, women who fell in the middle or high fidgeting groups had no greater risk of dying even when they sat for more than seven hours a day. This shows that motion leads to health even when it's small motions such as fidgeting.
The Quench Plan
The Quench Plan is a five-day program with recipes and movements for each day. The program includes a variety of different smoothies, afternoon quenchers with chia seeds and fruit water, and different teas to allow you to experiment with different ways of hydrating. It reminds you of all the times you should be drinking as well as incorporating micro-movements into your day.
A key part of the Quench Plan is smoothies. Smoothies are preferable to juicing since you get the full food matter of the plant. Smoothies provide fiber which results in a longer transit time through the gut and therefore allows for more complete absorption of nutrients and liquids.
The basic smoothie recipes all include either coconut water or coconut milk, ground chia seeds, and a pinch of salt. The recipes can also include minced ginger, lime juice, apple cider vinegar, a green vegetable such as cucumber, spinach, or kale or a fruit such as watermelon, apple or berries.
When it’s not practical to make a smoothie, just adding ground chia seeds has some of the same benefits. Gina solved her mother's chronic dehydration in the nursing home by adding ground chia seeds to her morning orange juice.
The Quench Plan principles can be summed up as:
- When you first wake up, drink eight to 16 oz. of water with a pinch of salt and a squeeze a lemon.
- Drink at least one green smoothie every day.
- Drink six to eight ounces of water before every meal.
- Get more of your water from food by eating foods high in water content.
- Make sure to move.