Striking the right hydration balance can be tricky. The body, which is about 60 percent water, needs water to stay alive. Every system depends on it – from carrying nutrients to the cells and flushing toxins from organs.
And while I haven’t specifically come across any studies or researches that discuss a connection between hydration and pain, in my experience, if a body is not in good condition, it won’t be able to function optimally. And pain is a sign that something is wrong. Plus, we know that at a very basic level, dehydration can cause symptoms such as headaches.
But too much water can have an adverse effect, too.
So how much is too much? Or too little? And what are the dangers of overhydration?
We’ve all heard we should be drinking at least eight glasses of water a day, but its origin is elusive – and many medical experts indicate it’s not even backed by science. In fact, what the studies show is that there’s really no hard-and-fast recommendation as to how much water a person should drink each day to stay hydrated.
Quite simply, that’s because everyone’s different. We have different blood chemistries and engage in varying levels of activity. And water isn’t just found in the glass. There’s water in salad greens and fruit. While considered a diuretic, that morning coffee is still contributing more fluid than it’s helping to eliminate.
I know if I drank that much water each day, I’d have zero energy. My blood sugars are naturally on the low side, and if they become diluted with too much water, I wouldn’t be able to function. So I’m more likely to grab some grapes or a glass of milk instead, which keeps me hydrated without upsetting my natural balance.
Water is lost throughout the day via perspiration, elimination and breathing. That water needs to be replenished. But how, then, do you then determine if you’re not staying hydrated and are in need of more fluid?
- As obvious as it sounds, are you thirsty? If so, drink something.
- Are your lips or mouth dry?
- A really good indicator, though, is the color of your urine – and not the first-time-in-the-morning sample because it’s been building up all night, but how it appears throughout the day. If it’s really bright yellow or a darker color, you need more fluid. If it’s closer to clear, you might be drinking too much water.
What are the dangers of overhydration?
Although most people are concerned about staying hydrated, the dangers of overhydration can even be fatal, because it can throw off the nutrient balance in the blood, with low sodium or potassium levels being particularly dangerous. Extreme athletes, for example, are so concerned about staying hydrated that they can be at risk for accidentally drinking too much water, causing their electrolytes – including sodium, potassium and calcium – to plunge. And I’m not saying it’s necessarily a good thing, but that’s why many athletes opt for a sports drink instead or water, which contain electrolytes and sugars.
Overhydration can also be caused when water is retained by the body because of conditions such as liver or kidney disease or congestive heart failure.
- Nausea and vomiting
- Mental confusion or disorientation
- Muscle spasms or cramps
- Loss of consciousness and even coma
A suggestion to drink in
Still, knowing the effect it has on me, I can’t in good conscience prescribe lots of water for a patient. Rather, I’d suggest a balanced, healthy diet, which is the foundation for overall good health. If there’s a concern about hydration, keeping a daily record of everything that’s consumed would be a helpful starting place.
If you’re experiencing headaches or muscle spasms, for example, and wonder if hydration is an issue, you can take advantage of a free consultation at Pain Stop North Phoenix – and be sure to bring that food-and-fluid log along.
We’ll work with you to get to the root cause of the pain whether hydration, overhydration – or something totally unrelated to water.
By Erin Waychoff, DC
Owner of Pain Stop North Phoenix