When we think of water, we tend to recall its three natural states: solid, liquid and gas.
Nonetheless, some scientists have theorized that a fourth state could exist. This form of H2O might be the answer to staying properly hydrated, and it could challenge the traditional thinking around “eight glasses a day.”
Dr. Gerald Pollack of the University of Washington first discovered the concept of gel water. This type of water exists because of a molecular change that adds one hydrogen atom and one oxygen atom, modifying the molecule from the classic H2O to H3O2. This addition allows for crystallization in the fluid without any temperature change, causing water to become slightly more solid but not any harder. Gel water can exist in almost any shape — as thin, silky fluid or as dense as Jello. You’ve most likely encountered gel water around the seeds of a cucumber or in chia pudding.
The extra hydrogen atom in gel water is constantly moving between molecules, generating electricity (not the kind that would shock you). Liquid water can transition into the gel state when it is exposed to an electrical charge. Foods that are high in electrolytes release an electrical charge when they dissolve in our bodies. This reaction triggers the formation of hydrogen bonds that will create more gel water and lead to better hydration.
The molecular shift, triggered by electrolytes, is why products such as Gatorade and Pedialyte work so well to keep us hydrated. A higher electrical charge allows our systems to operate more efficiently, and the absorptive properties of gel water may allow for a deeper hydration.
Gina Bria, former anthropologist turned health coach, has realized the possible benefits of gel water hydration when studying survival techniques of desert-society people.
“The Incas and the Aztecs would go for weeks without water, subsisting only on chia and cacti — which, it turns out, are full of gel water,” Bria said.
Dr. Pollack has suggested that gel water makes up about 90% of the water in our bodies. It is found in cells, joint fluid and connective tissues such as collagen.
These insights mean we should not only be considering liquid intake when we are assessing our hydration. We should also be looking at the foods we eat. Consuming foods that are high in gel water will reduce the amount of liquid water you need to drink to keep your body hydrated. Hydration is different for everyone, but its benefits are certain: individuals who are properly hydrated have higher cell function, energy and mental function.
Here are some changes you can make to start benefiting from gel water hydration:
- Consume foods that are high in gel water content. Fruits and vegetables contain gel water, and the electrolytes present in these foods can help to create more during digestion.
- Add citrus fruits to your water. The electrolytes from the fruit will help to create gel water.
- Combine hydration with a bit of salt. Try a midday salty snack like pretzels or dark chocolate with sea salt to boost your electrolyte intake and help encourage the production of gel water during digestion.
- If you don’t have chia seeds in your diet, add them in. They’re great as a snack or in your juices and water. If you are already eating chia, consider crushing the seeds. The larger surface area will produce more gel water.
- Cook with coconut, ghee and bone broth. All of these are high in gel water.
Next time you reach for a glass of water, remember that H2O exists in other forms you can consume. Staying properly hydrated is essential to our bodies’ everyday functions, so give yourself an extra edge by trying gel water.
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