Why does this happen? The body tries hard to keep itself in homeostasis (balance) in many ways and one of the keyways is through electrolytes (minerals).
Too high a concentration of minerals, in cells = water being let into the cells
Too high water in the cells = minerals being brought into the cells.
A short-term minor imbalance won’t kill us, but it is a sign that we should pay attention. This can happen at any time of the year, but summer seems to be most prevalent. It can seem to happen out of nowhere and suddenly your ankles are puffy and your fingers are like sausages. It’s usually because we are not quite climatized for the hot day that comes out of nowhere, or you literally just spent too much time in the sun.
It seems odd to think if you are dehydrated how can you be retaining water? But it makes sense for cell salvation. Cells are alerted of danger and go into a water starvation mode, hanging onto whatever they have not letting go, thus, retaining water.
Signs of dehydration:
- dark yellow and thick urine
- dry mouth
- dry skin
- thirst, or thirst not being quenched.
- Sweet food cravings – the reason for this is that when the body is dehydrated it cannot absorb nutrients properly. The liver needs water to release energy, so the body responds by looking for a quick energy source – glucose (sugar), hence = the sweet cravings.
The 3 main electrolytes that have to do with fluid balance are sodium, chloride (often always found together as table salt) and potassium. These are the main ones you will find in supplementation or sports drinks. The added salt and sugar in these drinks are because sodium requires glucose to be absorbed, which takes place in the colon, resulting in water reabsorption. Reabsorption is important otherwise mass amounts of water would be lost in the feces causing dangerous dehydration and diarrhea. Potassium on the other hand, does the opposite, by letting water go, keeping this important balance.
Overhydration has similar or same signs as dehydration and can be just as dangerous or deadly if severe. A good rule for water intake is to spread your water out throughout the day with the following rules.
8oz of water x 8 times spread out throughout the day
Do not exceed in excess of 1 liter of water in 1 hour, as that is as fast and much the kidneys can excrete in that time.
When exercising strenuously add 8oz every 15 minutes as sweating will draw water out of the body.
In conclusion adding electrolytes will help for either dehydration or overhydration, for mild symptoms as bloating or puffiness.
NOTE: If you have more severe signs (vomiting, diarrhea, fever, confusion, seizures…) SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION.
20% of our water comes from food we eat and the other 80% is from a combination of what we drink. Easy ways to get in your electrolytes in addition to supplementation or sports drinks mentioned above are:
- Eat high water content foods as, cucumbers, watermelon, cantaloupe, tomatoes and or strawberries, as they are 90% water and will have some electrolytes too.
- Drink 2 cups water with, juice from half a lemon, 2 tsp honey and 1/8 tsp salt
- Blend watermelon chunks (1 cup), 1 cup water, 2 tsp maple syrup and 1/8 tsp salt.
- Drink coconut water, will have all you need
- Mix 2 cups water with a ¼ cup of a sports drink should give you enough electrolyte balance as these drinks are high in all ingredients especially sugar
Mikkie Nettles, Certified Personal Trainer/Holistic & Sports Nutritionist
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