Demographic, Environmental,
Security Issues Project

October 2015

Am I drinking enough water? Sneezingís A Clue

by Ronald Bleier



When I told my nephew, Mike, that I found that sneezing shows me that I need to drink water, he asked me how I arrived at this theory. Before he challenged me, I hadnít really given the question much thought. Iíve simply understood for years that thereís a connection. In the end, most of my 3-page, 1260 word article, turned out to be context and  commentary. Iíve also squeezed in two additional tips which have also helped me understand when I need to drink more water.


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How do I know if Iím drinking enough water? From time to time media reports feature ďexpertsĒ asserting that we need to drink only when weíre thirsty, and also, not to worry, we get plenty of water from the foods we eat. A similar view seemed to be the point of a couple of New York Times articles in the summer of 2015. In the firstthe Times pushed back against the familiar 8 glasses of water a day prescription. (ďNo, You should not have to drink 8 glasses of water a day,Ē 8.24.15) In the second the Times went so far as to dig out reports of two college football players who died after drinking 4 GALLONS of water, presumably in the course of a practice session. (ďFor Athletes, the risk of too much water,Ē 8.26.15)


In my experience Iíve found that the counsel to ďdrink when youíre thirstyĒ is far from satisfactory. Eventually I came to the conclusion that much of the time I was probably walking around inadequately hydrated. Iíve learned that drinking enough water takes focus and continual diligence.


Nature makes a compromise

It seems reasonable to reflect that humans have evolved, along with other mammals, so as to be able to survive for long periods while moderately (or even mostly) dehydrated. I suspect that the compromise that nature makes with survival lands us with a thirst function that is not optimal for modern life. If this is true, then even though we can operate ďnormally,Ē without sufficient water for long periods, the resulting lack of sufficient hydration can have cumulative ill effects


In my case, I suspect, insufficient water intake has, from time to time, lowered my resistance and helped bring on colds or even the flu when illness might have been prevented by timely water intake. I also suspect that for some people, lack of adequate hydration could result in even more severe symptoms like gout or kidney stones and who knows what else.A recent NYT article (ďFor Older Adults, Questioning a Diagnosis of Chronic Kidney Disease, 9.15.15)

reported research findings that half the population over 70 may suffer from chronic kidney disease. I wondered if persistent under-hydration could be a factor. (Later I found in a NYT article from 2011 that supported this guess. See below.)


The good news?

Fortunately, over the years, Iíve discovered some tips which help indicate when I need to drink more. The first, the cue the body receives from sneezing, seems the least well known. I once took the opportunity to mention my theory to a doctor, an experienced internist. He said he had never heard of it, but he seemed interested and he didnít immediately reject it.


Drinking Water prevents sneezing!?

Iíve found that sneezing is an indicator that I need to drink water. Trying to reconstruct how I figured this out, I suppose that by trial and error I found that when I felt a sneeze coming on, I could prevent it by a timely drink of water. Perhaps what prompted these initial trials, was that after a sneeze, when I drank some water I felt a sense of relief which suggested there might be a connection.


The theory

My working theory is that when sensors in the bodyís nasal and sinus passages detect inadequate hydration, a sneeze is provoked. In my case, Iíve found even subtle changes of temperature, like moving from one room to another where the temperature might be lower or higher, are sometimes enough to stimulate these sensors. Unsurprisingly my sneeze sensors are more dramatically stimulated by the changes of temperature and humidity when I enter a steam room or sauna.


Sensors may provide limited warning

Nor is keeping up with my bodyís water requirement always a routine matter. All too often Iíll be caught up in whatever I happen to be doing, and the sneeze will catch me before I can get to water. After a sneeze I try to make a point of drinking water. Iíve found that the sneeze - sensor function does not continue indefinitely. If I donít promptly rehydrate, typically I wonít be warned in the same way again. I suppose weíve all noticed instances where someone sneezes half a dozen times or more in a row. Multiple sneeze episodes may very well be the bodyís last dramatic notice that water is required. Afterwards, without prompt rehydration, the body presumably retreats into water deficit mode. Long periods in this mode may lead to both short and long term health consequences.


As for the 8 glasses of water a day rule, Iíve never found it useful. I donít count the number of glasses I drink. What I try to do is pay more attention to my bodyís hydrological needs. Itís not so easy, but Iíve got my sneeze function and two other tips (see below) to help me out.



Winter sniffles.

I usually make use of a handkerchief or two when I go abroad in cold weather. I finally figured out that I wouldnít need to clear my nose so often Ė or at all Ė if I were adequately hydrated. Not so easy to do in cold weather as in warm.Thinking along these lines also made me wonder about what happens when weíre sick in bed with a cold. To what should we put down our sneezes in these circumstances? By this time readers can imagine my conclusions.


Drinking water with Meals

Years ago I happened to read that WWII concentration camp inmates learned from experience that digestion was facilitated by drinking water before eating. This prescription has worked very well for me whenever I can so remind myself. Iíve also learned to drink water during and after eating as well.


Iíve also found that after overeating, the best medicine is water. A sign that Iíve overindulged is the discomfort I feel when I try drinking water after a bout of gluttony. I soon find that it actually gets too uncomfortable to drink more than a relatively small amount. Then I need to wait awhile before I drink more to allow my system to go through its processes.Such thoughts reminded me of those football players forcing down gallon after gallon until they dropped. They might have been taught that they merely had to wait till the discomfort passed before continuing their water intake. Perhaps it was their sports mindset that encouraged them to persevere despite their pain. It would seem a good idea, with drinking water, as with all things, to keep in mind the golden rule of moderation.


And what about the New York Times?Does the Times contradict itself?An internet search yielded a NYT article from 2011 that seems to support my experience (ďReally? The Claim: Drink Eight Glasses of Water a Day to Protect the Kidneys,Ē 11.7.2011). Researchers found that a moderate intake of extra water, above two liters a day, helps the kidneys clear the body of toxins and reduces long term kidney problems. The brief article concludes: ďA moderately increased intake of fluids may protect the kidneys.Ē


Two more tips

More people seem to know about the next two tips, about which I have little to say other than theyíve been useful.


The color of urine

Over time I came to realize that if I were adequately hydrated the color of my urine would NOT be yellow. If Iím drinking enough water my urine will be clear.


Chapped lips

Iíve found that chapped lips are one of the bodyís indicators of dehydration. It took me years to make this connection which became obvious once I recognized it.I canít recall the last time I used lip balm.

The End


Demographic, Environmental,
Security Issues Project