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The best pain reliever in your home is in your bathroom – but it isn’t what you think. Water therapy is one of the most ancient forms of healing and pain relief, with a multitude of studies to back it up. We’ve all read about the natural hot springs hidden all over the US that have been touted as the “fountain of youth,” but you need look no further than your bathtub to get similar results.
But there’s more to the healing power of water than its ancient roots in hydrotherapy for pain relief. Achy, stiff joints (and a whole host of other health issues) are often rooted in the breakdown and decrease of the fluids meant to cushion them. It’s dehydration at the cell level that is a root cause of what we’re often told is “wear and tear.” And it turns out that water exists in 4 different physical states – and it isn’t the liquid form that’s most hydrating for your cells.
Sister Elizabeth Kelly became a celebrity and was more admired than Eleanor Roosevelt in the 1940s and 50s – but not for what you would normally think. It was for her treatment of polio. In a time when the excruciating pain and weakness was treated with painkillers and immobilizing braces, she was using gentle exercise and warm water therapy – and the results were nothing short of miraculous.
Dr. Bruce Becker was one of her patients when he was just 4 years old, and his successful healing at her hands made him vow when he became a doctor in 1969, to use the same warm water bath therapy with his patients. And sure enough, even people with chronic pain who couldn’t find relief any other way found fast relief through his water treatment. But just like Sister Kelly was called a charlatan for her unconventional therapy, Dr. Becker’s colleagues wanted to see scientific research that his unusual approach was indeed effective – so he did it himself.
Dr. Becker believed that a major cause of pain was overstimulation of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) -where your fight-or-flight response comes from – which comes with an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, a lower pain tolerance, and other biological responses. He was able to measure that when he submerged his chronic pain patients in warm water baths, their bodies entered a deep state of relaxation where blood pressure normalized, heart rate dropped to normal, and breathing slowed, along with decreased pain. This effect often would last for days after they left the water and was at least in part due to the temperature and hydrostatic pressure of the water.
More recent studies have confirmed his findings, especially in regard to the pain from osteoarthritis. A 2011 study published in Clinical Rehabilitation found that bathing in warm mineral water 3 times weekly significantly improved pain, function, and quality of life in these patients. And a 2016 study of warm sulfur baths 3 times weekly on patients with hip osteoarthritis found significantly less pain and stiffness with better function and mobility at the end of 12 weeks. Additionally, an Israeli study showed that Dead Sea baths for severe rheumatoid arthritis patients worked as well or better than powerful immunosuppressant drugs to relieve pain and improve function.
Since we are far from the Dead Sea, let’s look at what researchers have found is successful for painful joints that we can do right in our own homes:
For decades we’ve thought that water only existed in 3 states – steam vapor, liquid, or solid ice – but it turns out there’s one more. This new state of water that’s been discovered is the missing piece for those who battle with chronic dehydration and its cell level effects, including osteoarthritis. It turns out that liquid water may not be the best state for us to hydrate our cells with.
This new state of water is being called gel water, because it’s somewhere between a liquid and a solid. Dr. Gerald Pollack, professor of bioengineering and head of Pollack Lab at the University of Washington, is a leading expert in research of what gel water does at the cell level – and his research is astounding. It has taken a hybrid cross of biology, chemistry, physics, quantum nanoparticles and wave excitation sciences to even begin to understand how gel water is structured and what exactly it does inside the human body.
The water we carry deep inside our bodies, concentrated in the fascia, the synovial fluid, joint fluid, and all the way down into our cells is gel water. Similar to the consistency of gelatin, it keeps our cells and tissues in their proper shape and buoyancy. The discovery of gel water not only gives us a new understanding of how our cells and tissues are hydrated, but also how water is distributed throughout the body.
Have you ever made an effort to drink more water, only to find it resulting in more trips to the bathroom? It’s not all in your head, according to recent studies. Even in cases where people practically drown themselves trying to drink enough water, it turns out that using liquid water alone isn’t enough to fully hydrate at the cell level.
Gel water appears to be more hydrating because it has a unique electrical charge that helps our systems operate more efficiently, and its density and unique absorptive qualities help our bodies retain more water. While liquid water travels through the blood and lymph, gel water has the unique ability to travel through the fascia as a means of distribution into deeper tissues. And when you exercise, that movement of fascia and connective tissues so rich in collagen protein pumps water throughout even the hardest-to-reach tissues of your body.
The structure of gel water changes as it travels and interacts with the foods we eat. This means that our diet plays as much of a role in our hydration as what we drink does. Foods rich in electrolytes – the essential minerals our bodies need to conduct electricity at the cell level – signal the production of more gel water and provide the building blocks we need for better hydration, all the way into our cells.
Remember those healing mineral baths that help to soak away pain? I believe those electrolyte minerals are penetrating through the skin, traveling through collagen-rich fascia, and helping to form more gel water to cushion those sore joints. So bathing, along with a diet rich in electrolytes and fiber, is sure to go a long way toward relieving pain and hydrating you all the way to the cell level.
With something as elemental and essential to life as water, you owe it to yourself to be sure the water in your home is truly pure. My podcast interview with Dr. Roy Speiser, Level-5 Water Quality Specialist, reveals how today’s epidemics of obesity and Alzheimer’s may be connected to the harmful contaminants in your drinking water and why (and when) a whole household filter system may be essential for optimum health and immune support.
Which of these recommendations for hydration therapy do you plan to use first?