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Proper hydration is one of the most important aspects of a healthy lifestyle. The vast majority of people do not drink enough water and are dehydrated on a regular basis. With the heat of summer, it is especially important to stay hydrated. We lose much more water in the summer from evaporation from the sun and we also tend to sweat more and be more active with the heat.
Importance of hydration
Staying hydrated is important because it helps to regulate body temperature, keep joints lubricated, prevent infections, deliver nutrients to cells, and keep organs functioning properly. Staying properly hydrated will increase energy and help relieve fatigue, promote weight loss, help flush out toxins, improve skin complexion, and improve sleep. Hydration is especially important if you have any kidney impairment because it is difficult for our kidneys to function when we are dehydrated. Dehydration causes our blood to be thicker and more viscous and our kidneys need to filler our blood. It is much more difficult to filter a viscous liquid than it is to filter one with the consistency of water.
Signs of dehydration
- Feeling thirsty
- Dark and/or strong-smelling urine
- Dry mouth, lips, and eyes
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Heat intolerance
- Urinating less than 4 times per day
- Muscle cramps
If you are acutely dehydrated then your labs will show high hemoglobin, hematocrit, RBC, sodium, and potassium. If you are chronically dehydrated then in addition to the pervious labs you will also have high albumin, BUN, and serum protein.
Dehydration from elevation
The human body loses water through respiration, and this occurs twice as much at high elevation than it does at sea level. This is because there is less oxygen at higher elevations and thus you need to respirate more to acquire the same amount of oxygen. If you are going to visit any of the 14ers make sure you stay hydrated to help avoid altitude sickness. Altitude sickness is a physical distress from difficulty adjusting to lower oxygen pressure at high altitudes. Altitude sickness can occur at any altitude above 2,000 m or about 6,600 ft.
Many beverages have a diuretic effect on the body. This means that is causes fluid to be removed from the blood and urinated out at a much quicker rate. Drinking diuretics can thus lead to dehydration. Caffeine is a diuretic thus any caffeinated beverages such as tea, coffee, soda, and energy drinks have a dehydrating effect. Alcohol is also a diuretic. If you go out for a night of drinking and do not drink water, then you often have a hangover the next day because the alcohol dehydrated you. Hangover is just another word for dehydration.
To stay properly hydrated you should drink at least half your body weight in ounce of water through out the day. If due your weight this would be too much water to feasibly drink in a day or if you are drinking enough water, but your labs are still showing you as dehydrated, then you may need electrolytes in order to reach proper hydration status.
What are electrolytes?
Electrolytes are minerals that carry an electric charge. Essential electrolytes in the human body include sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride, calcium, and phosphorous. Electrolytes help the body regulate chemical reactions and maintain the balance between fluids inside and outside of the cells.
Why do electrolytes help with hydration?
Electrolytes are responsible for directing water to areas of the body where it’s needed most and maintaining optimal fluid balance inside the cells. Electrolytes do not increase your hydration, but they do help to make the most of your water and make sure that the water you are drinking is getting into the cells where it can be utilized. Electrolytes are especially important if we are sweating a lot because when we sweat, we do not only loose our bodies water but also our bodies electrolytes.
What electrolytes to use
The best electrolyte options that I know of are coconut water and Ultima. Most electrolytes seem to have sugar added or contain artificial sweetener whereas these do not. Electrolytes are not recommended if you have kidney impairment because one of the kidneys’ functions is to regulate electrolyte levels in the body. If the kidneys are not functioning properly then it is easier to have electrolyte imbalance and thus if your taking electrolytes, you are more likely to reach excess electrolytes.
Coconut water is nature’s electrolyte, and it is my top choice of electrolyte because it is entirely natural. However, I do not think that it is the best tasting electrolyte. You have to be careful and make sure that you are not getting a coconut water with added sugar because many do have it. To make the coconut water more palatable you could add a dash of juice to it. I like to use unsweetened cranberry juice.
Ultima is an electrolyte powder that is sweetened with stevia rather than sugar or artificial sweetener. Stevia is a natural sweetener derived from plants that does not have calories. I enjoy the taste of these electrolytes and find that they have accurate flavors.
Another electrolyte option is sole water. Sole water is water fully saturated with pink Himalayan salt. This is made by filling a jar a fourth of the way with pink Himalayan salt and filling it the rest of the way with water. Close the jar and shake it and then let sit for 12-24 hours. If all of the salt has dissolved after letting it sit add small amounts of salt until it no longer dissolves. 1 serving of sole water is 1 teaspoon. You can add 1 teaspoon of sole water to 1 cup of plain water for your daily electrolyte. Himalayan salt contains 84 different trace minerals and acts as an electrolyte.
Overuse of electrolytes
There is such a thing as too many electrolytes. Our bodies only function effectively with just the right concentration of electrolytes. If we are deficient or in excess, we will experience negative symptoms. Taking excess electrolytes can cause abnormal heart rhythms, muscle weakness, spasms, headache, nausea, cramps, and cloudy thinking. When taking electrolytes, the proper dose is 1 per day or 2 if you are sweating a lot.
Stay Hydrated this summer! (and hopefully the rest of the time too).