An important new reason to stay away from sugary drinks and sports beverages

Hydration “experts” have all gotten the message that your body needs both fluids (water) and electrolytes (minerals and salts) for healthy hydration. That’s because the blood and other fluids in your body match the mineral and salt levels that were present in the ancient seas when animal life first emerged onto land about 300 million years ago.

So, based on this information, these experts think if you drink beverages full of electrolytes, you’ll be fully hydrated.

But the truth is that these drinks actually end up dehydrating you, because the so-called experts have missed two key questions:

  • How do the fluids and electrolytes you drink penetrate into your cells?
  • How does your body know that you have drunk enough fluid and electrolytes so that it signals to you to stop drinking—the famous “thirst mechanism”?

We know the answer to the first question. But we didn’t know the answer to the second question until recently.

New research out of Australia reveals how the thirst mechanism apparently works. And the implications of this finding for the pushers of sugary waters and sports drinks are even worse than we thought.

I’ll tell you more about that in a moment. But first, let’s look at how the basic hydration process works in your body.

Water doesn’t go directly into your cells 

As I’ve told you before, the answer to the first question is that the water you drink does not get into your cells. Any high school chemistry student (let alone medical students) should be able to tell you that.

In order for cells to be hydrated inside their membranes, they must make their own water. They do this by burning carbohydrate fuel (glucose) to make energy and water. But this process only occurs at an optimal level when the cellular mitochondria that conduct cellular respiration are properly nourished and supported.

Nutrients like Co-Q10 and herbs like aspal, or rooibos, provide this support. But statins and some other drugs actually poison the mitochondria.

No imaginary mechanism proposed by sports drink marketers can reverse the laws of physics, chemistry, and thermodynamics for moving fluid and electrolytes across cell membranes, unless the cells are making their own water—which, fortunately, they do.

The ancient physician Avicenna had this insight 1,000 years ago, but today’s hydration “experts” still have not caught on (for a groundbreaking translation of Avicenna’s seminal work, see my book available on

How your body knows when enough is enough 

So now we move on to the second question: How do you know when to stop drinking fluids? This is a key consideration because consuming too much water actually throws off your normal mineral and electrolyte balance.

The simple answer is that you get thirsty when you’re dehydrated. And studies show that, typically, the amount of water you drink to satisfy thirst matches your deficit in body fluids. In other words, the thirst sensation works like a highly accurate water meter.

But how this thirst sensation actually regulates hydration has remained a mystery to modern medicine.

I often describe how mainstream medicine rejects the use of “complementary/alternative” approaches such as mind-body and natural medicine.  Even when there is clear evidence that a natural approach does work, the mainstream still rejects it because they can’t explain how it works. (In other words, they claim it doesn’t work, because it can’t work, even though it does work!)

This attitude would logically mean that doctors should not recommend drinking water when you are thirsty, because they don’t understand how the thirst process works. Now, that would be hard to swallow—but it’s using their same logic.

Fortunately for those misguided doctors, the Australian study I mentioned earlier finally answers the mechanism of action for thirst.1

The researchers used MRIs to discover that inhibition of the swallowing reflex is an important factor in thirst.

Researchers rated the effort required to swallow, and measured regional brain responses, in participants who drank small amounts of liquid when they were thirsty, and again after they had had enough to drink.

The researchers discovered that swallowing took three times as much muscular effort in the people who had drunk enough fluids, compared to those who were thirsty.

To put it simply, the more you drink, the harder it is to swallow.

How sugary drinks play havoc with your thirst sensation 

Here’s the really disturbing thing about this new study. Adding sugar to water had a minimal effect on the study participants’ swallowing efforts—even in those who had already drunk enough fluids.

That means that sugar water may actually interfere with the normal regulation of thirst.

What a double whammy—drinking a beverage with sugar cannot actually satisfy thirst (because sugar is dehydrating) and it can also apparently fool the mechanism that controls thirst.

Basically, you can keep on drinking more and more of these unhealthy beverages—and not only do you become dehydrated, you never know it because your thirst-regulation mechanism doesn’t kick in!

Still think so-called sports beverages, full of sugar and unhealthy oils, are a good idea for hydration?

And consuming sports beverages with artificial sweeteners isn’t the answer either. As I explained in the May issue of Insiders’ Cures, research shows that artificial sweeteners can lead to obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases. 

What’s the best way to stay hydrated as the temperatures rise? 

Hydration is important year-round, but it becomes more noticeable in the heat of the summer.

My favorite hydration option is European mineral waters, bottled at the source (for more information, see “The slimy secret water companies don’t want you to know” in the July 2015 issue of Insiders’ Cures.) 

For example, when I have a glass of San Pellegrino (also sometimes called the Italian Bromo-Seltzer), my body can actually feel its medicinal benefits. And it helps with healthy digestion of any meal.

To stay hydrated at the cellular level, consider adding powdered extracts that contain aspal to your mineral water.

And remember to drink up, until you no longer feel thirsty. After all, one swallow doesn’t make a summer.



1“Overdrinking, swallowing inhibition, and regional brain responses prior to swallowing,” Proc. Natl. Sci. USA, 2016, Oct 25; 113(43): 12274-12279.