Hydration and the Four Phases of Water

“What is a human being? Something that water invented so that it can walk around.”
—from Job’s Body by Deane Juhan

by Carl Johns, LMT, Mountain Medicine Integrative Wellness Center

A return to an old favorite quote, and a realization that we tend to oversimplify.

Another famous quote — “Wisdom is knowing what we don’t know”— drives us to continually investigate further. Is it enough to carry around an oversized tank of water everywhere we go? Or is the concept of hydration or even the concept of water a bit more complex?

The four phases of water are three we know from elementary school science: solid (ice), liquid (water), and gas (steam).

A fourth phase was more recently put forth by Gerald Pollack, Ph.D., which for the sake of simplicity we’ll call gel water. This kind of water tends to organize molecularly in a different way around surfaces it is in contact with, and of particular importance here, inside the surfaces of cells making up virtually all living things.

So we’re not, as Alan Watts says, just “hairy bags of water,” but trillions of little bags of gel water.

Organic fruits and vegetables, as we intuitively know, are full of juicy gel water and potentially a better source of hydration than the unfiltered, contaminated stuff coming out of the plastic water bottle you might carry with you.

Think before you drink!

As a massage teacher for 20-plus years, I’ve challenged my students over the years to find some research that confirms what therapists tell clients after a session — drink plenty of water, hydrate, flush, etc.

What you’ll likely find if you go looking for that research is that the systems that balance the water metabolism in your body are extremely complex, and there is no evidence to support these statements.

So next time your massage therapist hands you a glass of water and tells you to flush or hydrate, accept it politely and consider looking into people like Pollack to better understand what kind of water you are made of, and how to best maintain that system.

As an ocean-born person now living in a dry, high-altitude climate, I’m more inspired than ever to understand the complexities of hydration and the four phases of water. I hope this might inspire you not to oversimplify, but to investigate further.