Thick Water- Why Would You Want Water to be Thick? (2024)

There are lots of different variations of water, from alkaline water to black activated charcoal water, but one that might seem the most strange is thick water.

You read that right; water that is thick. So, what is thick water exactly? Is it just fluid that has something added to alter the consistency? At a glance, the idea of thick water might sound silly but it exists for a good reason. For those who have trouble swallowing liquids, thickened water is a handy way to help stay hydrated. You might have already heard of thick water on social media, but it’s much more than a fad.

Thick water is designed for people who have difficulty swallowing- a condition called dysphagia. By thickening the water, they are able to drink water easily and stay adequately hydrated. While stores carry pre-thickened liquids, thick water can be made at home with thickening agents.

  • What is Thick Water?
  • Why is Thick Water Popular On Social Media?
  • Why Do People Drink Thickened Water?
    • Do People Thicken Other Liquids?
    • Does Thick Water Really Help?
  • Is Thick Water Healthy? Are Thin liquids Better?
  • Thick Water Nutrition Facts
  • What Brands Make Thick Water?
  • How Do you Make Thick Water at Home?
    • Can you use ice cubes in thick water?
  • The Bottom Line

What is Thick Water?

Thick water is regular water made ‘thicker’ with some thickening agent. The texture is often compared to aloe vera gel. It should however not taste much different from normal tap water or bottled water.

With thick water compared to regular water, the main difference is the consistency, ranging from slightly thick, moderately thick to a much thicker consistency. Store-bought thick water will often use phrases like “nectar,” “honey,” and “pudding” to describe their thickened drinks’ texture and viscosity.

Why is Thick Water Popular On Social Media?

Many people didn’t hear of thickened water until it became a social media trend. More recently, the “Thick water challenge” spread through TikTok, which saw users trying thick water for the very first time.

Some social media trends regarding food and drinks can be dangerous, so always approach that kind of content with extreme caution. Some users have expressed concern that buying thickened water for a trend can leave those who need it without some.

Why Do People Drink Thickened Water?

Thick water is aimed at people with swallowing problems. There is no need to drink thick water at all – unless you’re curious or happen to like it better.

If it’s not medically necessary, you probably won’t like the texture or the sensation of drinking it. A study found that healthy participants had trouble swallowing it.

However, there is a wide range of conditions in which thickened liquids could be of aid.

  • People with dysphagia are typically recommended thickened water. This condition is not uncommon in those with Parkinson’s disease but can also be due to old age or the shape of someone’s throat. It’s very common for some nursing home patients to be required to consume thickened liquids.
  • Additionally, thickened water is usually recommended for people with swallowing issues, neurological conditions, acid reflux, spinal cord injuries, or even acid reflux.
  • Thickened water is also recommended for those with aspiration pneumonia as the water does not flow as quickly down your throat, meaning it is less likely to enter the airway aka “the wrong pipe” – thus potentially preventing an additional lung infection.

Do People Thicken Other Liquids?

If you drink thick water due to necessity, it is very likely would need and benefit from other liquids being thickened as well. Many thickened water brands sell other thickened fluids like juice. People can also thicken tea, coffee, skim milk, broth, and any other thin liquids they’re consuming.

Does Thick Water Really Help?

Whether thickened water really works depends on why someone needs it but there is some debate about whether it is worthwhile.

If the goal is to aid the swallowing process for someone with an injury, then it could be effective.

That said, there have been calls to reevaluate how dysphagia is treated. A review found that thickened liquids reduced aspiration, but there was post-swallow residue in the pharynx after consuming extremely thick liquid. Another review noted that there is not enough solid evidence to prove that thickened liquids can reduce instances of pneumonia in people with dysphagia. It also suggested that switching people onto modified foods like pureed foods and thickened liquids could actually reduce overall fluid intake.

With that said, a 2008 study found some effect when looking at rates of pneumonia in elderly patients with dementia or Parkinson’s. The study found that those drinking liquids with a nectar consistency had lower rates of pneumonia than those drinking liquids as thick as honey. It also noted that those drinking thickened liquids compared to drinking all fluids in a chin-down position had more instances of dehydration, urinary tract infection, and fever. So, more research needs to be done to determine is thicker fluids is the best approach for these patients.

Is Thick Water Healthy? Are Thin liquids Better?

Generally, thick water or any other liquid should be just as healthy as it thinner alternative. There is not enough research to say that thin liquid water is healthier than thickened water. After all, there are lots of different flavors of thin water with added sugars. For many people with swallowing disorders or other medical conditions, thick water serves as an essential aid.

However, some store-bought brands could contain high fructose corn syrup or other added sugars – especially if it’s flavored. With that said, standard flavored water can also contain added sugars too, so thickened store-bought water is not much worse from that perspective. Do read the ingredients and nutrition label before purchasing.

Additionally, thickened water can often have more sodium than regular water. While there can be around 4 grams of sodium in tap water, thick water can have up to four times as much. Sodium in water is not always a bad thing. Sodium can actually play a key role in hydration as it is an electrolyte. Electrolytes can help you stay hydrated for longer and help to maintain the right balance of fluids in the body.

However, too much sodium is an issue because it can raise blood pressure and potentially impact heart health. According to the FDA, the daily recommended amount of sodium is 2,300 mg per day, so a few glasses of thick water should not be harmful.

Thick Water Nutrition Facts

The exact nutritional breakdown of thickened water will vary brand per brand, or in how much thickener you use, but it plain unflavored thickened water should look something like this:

  • Calories: 0
  • Total Fat: 0g
  • Sodium: 40mg
  • Total Carbs: 0g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 0g

What Brands Make Thick Water?

The following are well known thick water brands:

  • Thick-It
  • Lyons Ready Care
  • Hormel Healthlabs
  • Nutrassist

Many of these brands sell water thickeners, too so you can make it yourself to the right consistency.

The following brands also sell thickeners:

  • Nestle Health Science ThickenUp®
  • Nutrica
  • Special Ingredients
  • McDougalls

Can you Make Thick Water & Thickened Liquids Yourself?

It’s straightforward to make thickened liquids yourself, but many people prefer to get pre-made thick water for convenience and accessibility.

Many thickened water brands sell their thickening agents. These are often a mix of starch-based thickeners like modified food starch and maltodextrin. Some pre-thickened water might be made from Xanthan gum powders. The difference between gum-based and starch-based thickeners is that starch can sometimes cause the liquid to continue to thicken after preparation, but this doesn’t seem to be the case with gum.

The following can be used to make thick water and other thick liquids yourself;

  • Aloe vera gel
  • Unflavored gelatin
  • Tapioca starch
  • Cassava flour
  • Banana flakes
  • Instant potato flakes
  • Slippery elm herb
  • Marshmallow herb
  • Food-grade Diatomaceous earth

How Do you Make Thick Water at Home?

How much water and thickener you need depends on your specific requirements. Many people prefer pre-made thickened water because they don’t need to experiment until the right consistency – or they won’t be able to determine if they made their water right by trial and error.

It’s good to start with one teaspoon in your glass of water. If the water is still too thin, add more until you land on the right consistency.

Can you use ice cubes in thick water?

It’s not advised to use ice in thickened water as it thins out your thick water when the ice melts. If you want ice, you can freeze some thick water in advance or use reusable ice cubes which will not melt into the drink.

The Bottom Line

If you don’t have a medical reason to consume thickened liquids, you can bypass this trend and stick to thin drinks. Although how effective thickened water is at helping people with difficulty swallowing remain hydrated is debatable, it does seem to help people have better control over the flow rate of liquids.

Thick Water- Why Would You Want Water to be Thick? (2024)


Thick Water- Why Would You Want Water to be Thick? ›

Thick water and other thickened liquids allow those with swallowing disorders such as dysphagia to control the fluid in their mouth better. These beverages help slow down the rate these liquids flow down the throat, which lessens the chance of fluid going into your airway.

Why would you want thick water? ›

People who have difficulty swallowing thin liquids usually must drink thickened liquids. Drinking thickened liquids can help prevent choking and stop fluid from entering the lungs. Thickened liquids move slower than thin liquids giving your body more time to protect the airway.

Does thickened water hydrate you? ›

Thickened water maintains body hydration, but did not calm thirst as water. When a thickened drink is disliked, more time and swallows are needed to drink it. Water intake after 90 min was higher when drinking starch-based thickener.

How do you make thick water thick? ›

  1. 1 cup of water or broth (vegetable or meat or fish) or milk (also vegetable)
  2. 1 tablespoon of starch or thickener.
  3. 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Why is thick it used? ›

Thick-It® Original Concentrated Food & Beverage Thickener is a concentrated formula which means you use less to achieve your desired consistency, resulting in the consumption of fewer calories and carbohydrates. This may be a better option for people with diabetes and those trying to manage their weight.

What are the side effects of thickened liquids? ›

Do thickeners have side effects? Thickening agents may cause side effects such as constipation, gassiness, or loose stools (soft poop or diarrhea). How long does my child have to use a thickening agent? A thickening agent is used until your child can swallow safely.

Is heavy water drinkable? ›

The density of deuterium is higher than hydrogen. Drinking heavy water in small quantities does not harm. But, drinking in larger quantities for a prolonged period can cause dizziness and low blood pressure.

How long can you keep thickened water? ›

Try to make enough to last the whole day (1 – 2 litres) and store the thickened drinks in your refrigerator. Throw out any blended drinks that have been left in the fridge for more than 24 hours.

Does thickened water make you feel full? ›

Thick liquids are digested more slowly, which can contribute to that feeling of fullness as well. Thickeners also slow down the absorption of nutrients from the liquid. That means your body is getting satiety signals for a longer period of time because the nutrition from the liquid has yet to be absorbed.

What do hospitals use to thicken water? ›

What is thick water? Thick or thickened water is water designed for people with difficulty swallowing, a medical condition known as dysphagia. Thick water contains an odorless, flavorless thickener, such as xanthan gum, which gives the water a thicker consistency.

What is the best drink for dysphagia? ›

Liquids should be the thickness recommended by your SLP or doctor: thin, nectar, or honey-thickened.

What are the benefits of thickened fluids? ›

Thickened fluids can reduce the risk of laryngeal penetration and aspiration. Some patients might prefer thickened fluids as they can improve oral control, fluid intake, or reduce distressing or unacceptable coughing when drinking.

What is the point of thick water? ›

Thick water is primarily for people who have a swallowing disorder called dysphagia. Such people – usually elderly, but sometimes not – have difficulty swallowing thin liquids, so adding a thickener makes the water they so much need more swallowable and digestible.

Can thickened liquids cause dehydration? ›

Sharpe et al. (2007) reported that all the starch- and gum-based thickeners tested in rats and humans released 95+% of the fluid content to the subject's systems. Therefore, the use of thickened liquids will not contribute to patient dehydration.

Can thick it expire? ›

Thick-It® Instant Food and Beverage Thickener has a quality shelf life of 30 months from the date of manufacture and Thick-It® Purees has a quality shelf life of 24 months from the date of manufacture and Thick-It® AquaCareH2O® Beverages have the following shelf life: Water – 18 months; Juices and Coffee – 9 months.

What is the condition where you have to drink thick water? ›

This is called dysphagia (dis-fay-juh). Children with dysphagia need to have their food and drink changed so they can safely eat and drink. If your child has dysphagia, you may need to thicken the liquids they drink. Thickened liquids move more slowly than thin liquids.

Why do you think that heavy water can be used for drinking purpose? ›

Heavy water (D2O) acts as a moderator, i.e., it slows the rate of a reaction. Due to this property of D2O, it cannot be used for drinking purposes because it will slow down anabolic and catabolic reactions taking place in the body and lead to a casualty. Q.

Why do we need extra water? ›

Water is vital to our health. It plays a key role in many of our body's functions, including bringing nutrients to cells, getting rid of wastes, protecting joints and organs, and maintaining body temperature. Water should almost always be your go-to beverage.

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