Does Drinking Plain Water Not Hydrate You Enough? Here’s What You Should Be Adding, According to an MD

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If you're like us and you love nothing more than scrolling around on health and wellness TikTok, you've likely stumbled across a lot of chatter about whether or not drinking plain ol’ water is good enough for you—or if you should be adding electrolytes, a pinch of salt, a squeeze of citrus, or something else.

Of course, we know that drinking water is essential for just about every bodily function. However, the question is: Would we benefit even more from drinking water with few extra ingredients? In a recent TikTok video, @thetigerlilyxx claims that drinking plain water alone isn’t hydrating enough. Instead, they suggest that you need other minerals to replenish your body with vital nutrients that can be acquired by supplementing the drink with ingredients like lemon, lime, or Himalayan sea salt.

Experts In This Article
  • Jill Carnahan, MD, function medicine consultant and founder and medical director of Flatiron Functional Medicine in Louisville, Colorado

To ensure we were crystal clear (pun intended) about what we should be drinking, we spoke with functional medicine doctor Jill Carnahan, MD, Your Functional Medicine Expert and author of Unexpected, who revealed that drinking water plain is absolutely stellar, but adding a few additional ingredients can be helpful for certain populations, because needs can vary from person to person.

@thetigerlilyxx Allow your body to speak to you ❤️ I take 3 herbal supplements daily: Moringa, nettle, ashwagandha. Visit the l!nk in my b!o for yours #medicinewoman #plantmedicine #thehsecoach #wellnesscoach #virtualwellnesscenter #lifestyle #herbalistsoftiktok #oddlysatisfying #wellnesstips ♬ Under The Influence - Chris Brown

Does drinking plain water not hydrate you enough, according to an MD?

According to Dr. Carnahan, drinking plain water is 100 percent fine and healthy for the majority of people. Adding additional ingredients, however, might be beneficial in a few circumstances.

For starters, your body might benefit from added electrolytes (and not just plain water) if you are under a lot of stress or have a hormonal imbalance. “Adrenals are a stress response organ, and they are responsible for regulating and [producing] mineralocorticoids which are also related to electrolytes [and influence salt and water balances],” Dr. Carnahan says.

This means that any disruptions that affect your adrenals can have a negative effect on your hydration levels. “So basically, if we're under high stress or our adrenals aren't functioning well for some reason, it is important to add electrolytes, especially sodium, to your water because drinking just free water can actually cause hyponatremia, or low sodium, and that can lead to difficulties if you're sweating excessively,” Dr. Carnahan says. These cases are, of course, few and far between.

“Also, using an infrared sauna, excessively exercising, and any large loss of sweat will also cause loss of salt and electrolytes,” Dr. Carnahan adds, which is why she recommends giving water a little boost of minerals and electrolytes containing sodium.

Plus, if you’re dealing with an upset stomach or other gastrointestinal issues that can lead to diarrhea or nutrient loss, replenishing with more than just plain water is important. “If for some reason you have abdominal issues like gastroenteritis or diarrhea, you lose more potassium through the gut, and in that case, it would be best to supplement water with extra magnesium and potassium for those losses through the gut,” she says.

So, what should we be drinking instead of just plain water?

So what’s Dr. Carnahan’s drink of choice, you might ask? Well, it’s water…with a twist. “When you drink mineral-enriched water, like San Pellegrino or other European mineral waters, you are drinking an alkaline product. The minerals in these beverages can help maintain healthy bones,” she says, which is only true for mineral waters with or without carbonation. (And helps make a case for ordering the fancy, non-complimentary bottled water on the menu.) “That being said, I am not a big fan of flavor-enhanced waters or plain carbonated waters without minerals.”

So how can you up your water drinking if you find plain water utterly unappealing? “If someone doesn’t like the taste of clean water, then adding lemon or lime, or cucumber is a perfectly good alternative,” Dr. Carnahan says. Cheers.

An RD shares the most hydrating foods to keep your hydration levels in check:

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