Can Staying Hydrated Help Fight COVID?

At this point we all know the importance of proper hydration. Water aids in every biological process and therefore hydration affects everything from digestion and skin health to brain function and physical capability. But is it possible that water could actually help stave off COVID-19 and even reduce its severity? Research points to just that!

Scientists from across the United States, including the Diabetes Center of Harvard Medical School, have developed a hypothesis that hydration plays a key role in the pathology of the COVID-19 infection. As we’ve discussed previously, the severity of this disease is often caused by a “cytokine storm.”

Simply put this “storm” is an aggravated immune response that can wreak havoc on the patient’s own body. In the case of COVID-19 this storm results in acute respiratory distress syndrome in which cytokines, also known as antibodies, attack the cells of lung trying to rid the body of COVID-19. This can cause inflammation in the lungs and in dire cases, can cause the lungs to fill with liquid. 

So where does hydration come in to this process? A number of places actually. Just like in the body, water has a hand in a lot of functions of the COVID-19 pathology and cytokine storm response. 

First of all, it is theorized that hydration status can make it more or less likely for someone to become infected when exposed. How? Water affects the activations of certain cell receptors through complex mechanisms, in this case the angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor in the lungs.

Chronic and acute dehydration leads to the body retaining water, which through activation of other pathways, leads to increased presence of the ACE2 receptors. Unfortunately in the case of COVID-19 this extra presence of the ACE2 receptor can lead to a higher chance of becoming infected, as the virus uses this pathway to enter cells.

Hydration levels are not only hypothesized to affect how likely one is to become infected, but can also affect the severity of the case. Scientists for this study also reported that hydration affects immune response. As mentioned, dehydration leads to body water retention and this increase in total body water can start a waterfall of effects throughout the body – one of which being a higher alert immune system.

Under optimal hydration levels our body’s immune system is set to only respond when invaders are detected. During dehydration however, excess cytokines like IL1 and IL6 are created. These cytokines can cause inflammation throughout the body even when not infected by a virus and during COVID-19 their response can be even more damaging, especially when in excess.

Dehydration also affects our lung cells themselves. The research shows that chronic dehydration can increase the risk of cellular fluid leakage in to the lungs, as well as difficulty in transporting that liquid out of the lungs. In the case of COVID-19 this can lead to an increased risk of acute respiratory distress and potentially death.

As we all know, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Thankfully COVID-19 research and theoretical modeling have provided us many ways to prevent infection and severe cases: masks, distancing, supplementation, and now HYDRATION!

We recommend drinking half your weight in fluid ounces daily. If you weigh 140 pounds, we suggest drinking at least 70 ounces of fluids each day. You can also check out our article on winter hydration for other tips on how to stay hydrated this season.