Does Drinking Water Help Arthritis?

Filling a plastic free reusable water bottle in kitchen sink.

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Water provides a wide range of health benefits, but can it also help patients with joint pain from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or gout? The research supporting the importance of maintaining hydration is without question, but there is limited information related to how hydration status specifically affects arthritis symptoms. So how does hydration impact arthritis?

Benefits of Drinking Water for Arthritis

Water makes up about 60% of the total body weight for adults. It helps maintain:

  • Fluid balance
  • Energy level
  • Digestive health
  • Waste removal
  • Regulation of body temperature
  • Movement

These all tie into how it can benefit you if you have arthritis.

How Much Water Should You Drink for Arthritis?

The general recommendation is to drink around six to eight glasses of water a day. The amount you need is influenced by the weather, activity level, medications, and diet.

Aim for at least eight 8-ounces glasses (total 64 ounces or 2 liters) of water per day and adjust as needed to compensate for fluid losses.

Production of Synovial Fluid

Synovial fluid is what lubricates the joints, keeping them cushioned and prevent grinding. Research has shown that adequate water intake stimulates synovial fluid production which can help your joints move more smoothly.

Encourages the Growth of Cartilage Tissue

About 80% of cartilage tissues weight is made of water, making your hydration very important to your health. The movement of water through the tissue transports nutrients between cells. This helps them stay and allows for optimal cell growth.

Flushes Toxins and Waste From the Body

When there is extra waste or toxins in our body we need water to help move these out of the body. If you are dehydrated it limits how your body can remove waste through stool and urine. Most waste is processed through the liver and the kidneys to be removed from your body in the form of urine.  

When you’re dehydrated, substances such as uric acid increase in concentration, and when uric acid levels are high you are more likely to experience gout flares.

Reduces Inflammation

Water helps to reduce inflammation by helping maintain your fluid balance. When there isn’t enough water in your blood stream there is an imbalance in the ratio of molecules to total volume. Research shows that when cells are exposed to higher concentrations than normal—like when you are dehydrated—it triggers inflammation.

Staying hydrated also helps to reduce inflammation by its effect on cartilage and synovial fluid. When your joints move smoothly it reduces friction. Friction increases inflammation, so it is important to keep your joints moving smoothly.

Supports the Immune System

Because water makes up such a large percentage of the body, it affects everything, including the immune system. When adequately hydrated nutrients are moved easily throughout the body, keeping your cells functioning at their best. It also helps to make sure all excess wastes and toxins are removed from the body to keep you help reduce the risk of infection.

Aids in Weight Loss

Research shows that drinking adequate water helps maintain a healthy weight by helping to maintain good digestive health, removing wastes, and reducing calorie intake. This is especially true if you are replacing a sugar-sweetened beverage with water.

Decreases Stress

Dehydration is associated with an increase in cortisol levels, your stress hormone. Cortisol produces the “flight-or-fight” response, naturally increasing your heart rate and blood pressure, leaving you feeling more stressed.

While drinking more water won’t affect any of the stressors in your life, if you have been mildly dehydrated, drinking more water will help reduce any unnecessary production of stress hormones.

Can Dehydration Make Arthritis Worse?

Because of the many benefits that water intake has on inflammation and increased cortisol levels, dehydration could indeed make arthritis worse. Increased inflammation and decreases in synovial fluid over time will make joints move less smoothly and could increase arthritis symptoms.

Can You Drink Too Much Water?

Yes, it is possible to drink too much water and cause an imbalance in your electrolytes. Excessive water intake can lower the levels of sodium in your blood, resulting in hyponatremia. This can cause symptoms such as head pain, muscle spasms, nausea, and fatigue.

Research shows that healthy kidneys are only able to excrete 800-1,000 milliliters (ml) of water per hour. It is important to spread your water intake throughout the day to avoid overhydrating.

Tips to Increase Your Water Intake

By making simple changes you can start to increase your water intake. Try these tips to boost your hydration:

  • Carry a water bottle with you
  • Add fruit, like limes or lemons, to add flavor to your water
  • Set reminders to help you drink water
  • Try apps or tally your water intake on a piece of paper 
  • Commit to replacing at least one calorie containing beverage with water each day until it becomes a habit

A Word From Verywell

There is limited research assessing waters direct impact on arthritis, but other studies provide insight into how your hydration status could be affecting your joint health. Research shows that dehydration increases inflammation. Inflammation increases joint stiffness and pain.

Staying adequately hydrated and reducing inflammation could help with preventing and managing arthritis and gout flares. Aim for about eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day and spread your fluid intake throughout the day.

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Article Sources
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