Hydrate for Health
by Dr. Alisa Cooper, D.C
Did you know that when dehydrated, the brain takes what it needs at the expense of other organs and structures? This is just like what happens in hypothermia when blood is shunted to the brain while lesser structures like fingers, toes and noses fall prey to frostbite. In our body’s effort to keep our brains hydrated, the rest of our body may end up dangerously parched.
But I Don’t Feel Thirsty
Contrary to popular thought, you cannot wait for a strong thirst sensation to compel you to drink. According to Dr. Batmanghelidj, M.D., author of Your Body’sMany Cries for Water, the consumption of flavored beverages like soda, juice, and flavored coffees has destroyed the spontaneous urge to drink water when given a choice. Many believe that drinking a liquid, any liquid, will be satisfactorily hydrating. Not so! There are many beverages, coffee being the most popular, that dehydrate the body and further deplete its vital water reserves. And, if you wait until your mouth and lips are dry to drink some water, you are too late! Dehydration has already set in.
Gone Too Far
Summer is particularly tricky when it comes to proper hydration. People are out playing volleyball, running road races, biking, hiking, and sunning themselves on beaches. It is easy to overlook how much water is lost through sweating when you are busy having a good time. It would be far more obvious if we panted like dogs to stay cool!
Additionally, people often underestimate how dehydrating drinking alcohol can be. Combining physical exertion in the heat with recreational drinking can be a recipe for disaster. One must be vigilant with hydration and moderate when consuming alcohol. Everyone needs to be familiar with the signs of dehydration such as dry tongue and mouth, flushing of the skin, fatigue, nausea, headache, light headedness and dark urine.
Sometimes dehydration goes too far and medical care becomes necessary. If someone becomes disoriented, irritable and extremely fatigued, or their skin is hot and dry, their heart rate and respiration is rapid, their eyes look sunken, they can’t keep fluids down, they develop bloody, black stools and scanty urination, a true medical emergency is at hand. Not all these signs may be present at once. When unsure, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
How Will I Know When to Drink?
Barring the obvious signs of dehydration and specific situations mentioned, people are often unsure of their day-to-day water requirements. There is no easy, agreed-upon recommendation since it varies from person to person depending on age, overall health, activity level and geographic location, but it is still reasonable to strive for 8 8oz. glasses per day.
Interestingly, our bodies have developed complex physical signals to let us know when we are dehydrated. These signals are often misinterpreted as symptoms. One of the first thirst signals that may show up is the pain of heartburn or gastritis, even in young children. “Mommy, I have a tummy ache” may not be related to food or an excuse to get out of doing something. It may be dehydration. Unfortunately, seeing heartburn as a symptom rather than a signal has set millions on the path to acid blockers and potentially dangerous proton pump inhibitors when chronic dehydration is often the issue needing to be addressed.
Common Sense Prevails
It makes sense that if we have a hunger pain signal we might also have a thirst pain signal. Dr. Batmanghelidj thought so, and he successfully treated thousands of chronically ill people with water. While water is not a panacea for everything that ails us, it contributes to most everything that does. What if brain dehydration factored in to Alzheimer’s disease and joint dehydration contributed to arthritis? Dr Batman, for short, treated these and many other chronic conditions including low back pain by simply re-establishing proper hydration in his patients. Certainly, many cases of back pain originate from dried-out, desiccated intervertebral discs. Normally plump and pliable, dehydrated discs are more vulnerable to micro tears and injury. It may be reasonable to consider a connection between dehydration and many chronic degenerative conditions.
Sip Slowly but Surely
A terrible idea is to guzzle large amounts of water all at once. At its extreme, it can upset electrolyte balance; least of all, it will cause the urgent need to urinate shortly afterwards. Getting caught up in a cycle of gulping large amounts of water and urinating right away will lead to releasing the water consumed before it has a chance to facilitate hydration. One can never get ahead of chronic dehydration that way. It is far more effective to sip water throughout the day, giving your body a chance to absorb it at the cellular level.
You may, or may not, come to believe that chronic dehydration is the root of most chronic, degenerative diseases. But if you decide to consistently sip pure, quality water throughout the entire day, especially during the hot summer months, you may find yourself not only avoiding dehydration, heat exhaustion or heat stroke, you may also discover you have more energy and vitality than you’ve known in years. Either way, you will get to know the location of every restroom in town.
Dr. Alisa Cooper is a chiropractor, clinical nutritionist and EFT practitioner in private practice in Scottsdale, Arizona. She is a popular speaker, writer and wellness advocate. Dr. Cooper can be contacted for appointments, speaking engagements and freelance writing assignments at firstname.lastname@example.org, 602-361-3283 or visit www.LiveAndBeWell.com; TheWriteRehab.com