Joint pain is a common complaint in the aging adult. The most common cause of joint pain is the development of osteoarthritis, most notably in the knee joint. Osteoarthritis usually develops in joints that were overused during one’s lifetime depending on the type of activity. These joints become injured and the cartilage is worn down unable to offer the joints enough cushioning. A result of this is the bones rubbing together causing joint pain and inflammation. Pain relievers are usually prescribed in such cases, but other treatments like glycosaminoglycans are also given to improve overall joint health. However, a less talked about contributing factor in poor joint health is dehydration. As it turns out, adequate fluid intake may significantly reduce joint pain.
Water and Joint Health
There is enough evidence to support the idea that age-related joint pain happens as a result of the joint cartilage wearing down. This is most often the case on the femoral side of the joint. This happens due to a gradual loss of cells and lower levels of growth hormone that happens as a natural part of aging. However, new studies suggest that age-related joint pain could be caused by something as simple as poor hydration. We shouldn’t be surprised by this as 70-80% of joint cartilage is made of water. This water content of the cartilage is controlled by a protein called aggrecan made of glycosaminoglycan chains. These protein molecules, when mixed with water, have a gel-like consistency. So even if you take glycosaminoglycan to support your joint health, without adequate hydration, all your efforts would be in vain. Age-related changes in aggrecan were found to influence joint hydration which is becoming a focus of newer arthritis studies.
Studies on Water and Healthy Joints
There are several studies that support the role of adequate fluid intake in preserving joint health. One study on the effects of drinking water with a high content of molecular hydrogen found that it reduces oxidative stress and the development of disease-related changes in rheumatoid arthritis patients. The subjects of this study drank 530 ml of high H2 water daily for two sessions lasting 4 weeks each. The researchers observed their urinary content and activity of their disease at the end of every session. The researchers found that the H2 molecule acted as a free-radical scavenger which helped prevent the advancement of rheumatoid arthritis. Another study of the effects of lubricating artificial joints with the water-binding hyaluronic acid found that adequate hydration helped preserve the durability of even artificial joints.
Older Adults and Fluid Intake
Some studies have found that older adults seem to have a weaker thirst response following water deprivation in comparison with their younger counterparts. This suggests that older adults drink less water simply because their bodies do not offer adequate signaling that water is needed. Another study found that younger adults drank twice the amount of water as older persons despite the fact that the older group had a higher osmotic load. The elderly are also less able to compensate for water loss following dehydration. This is why it is so important to pay attention to fluid intake with age to ensure you are getting adequate hydration not just for the sake of joint health but for overall health as well.
How much Water is Enough?
Increasing your water intake, preferably around 2 liters every day depending on your sex and age may prevent dehydration. We lose a lot of our body’s water through urine, fecal fluid, sweating, and respiration. On the other hand, we get our fluids from food and beverages. Some beverages such as coffee may act as diuretics and some foods such as high-protein foods are believed to promote fluid loss. The best way you can make sure that you are getting enough fluids is by drinking at least 2 liters of pure water every day.
Aging is a natural process that presents many challenges in the way our bodies function. The natural wear and tear of joints is one aspect of aging that manifests as joint pain, discomfort, and decreased mobility. One way you can prevent and even treat age-related joint pain is by providing adequate joint lubrication by increasing your fluid intake. Dehydration is a frequent occurrence in older adults and can be responsible for many ailments in old age, joint pain being one of them. Getting your daily dose of water can help your joints stay healthy and lubricated in the long run.