Hydration is something that gets talked about a lot, especially in those who are interested in improving their health. When most people are talking about hydration or giving advice on hydration, you may often hear things like: “make sure you’re getting enough fluids”, or “make sure you drink tons of water”. Most people think that being hydrated simply means drinking more water, but there is more to it than that when it comes to hydration.
Our bodies are roughly made of 60% water, but its not the same plain water from the tap. The human body has about the same salinity as the ocean, and there is always stuff mixed into that solution. Our bodies require a certain ion balance or electrolyte balance within that water to do things efficiently. Salt is not the only thing our body needs, there’s also magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, and tons of different trace minerals needed.
Simply put, it’s not just plain and simple water that is required, but an electrochemical water solution. Our bodies rely on having the proper amount of dissolved concentrated minerals, vitamins, electrolytes, etc. in that water.
If you don’t drink enough water, or have balanced minerals or electrolytes, you may become dehydrated. This means your body doesn’t have enough usable fluids to operate properly.
Signals that mean you may be dehydrated include:
• Little or no urine
• Darker than usual urine
• Sleepiness or fatigue
• Brain fog
• Dry mouth
• Extreme thirst
• Dizziness or lightheadedness
• No tears when crying
• Decrease in sweat when performing exercise or in hot weather
You lose water throughout the day when you go to the bathroom, sweat, and even when you breathe. When the weather is particularly hot, you will lose water faster, or when you’re physically active, or when you have a fever. Diarrhea and vomiting can also cause dehydration.
Some people are more at risk of dehydration, including people who exercise for too long or at a high intensity, have medical conditions such as kidney stones, bladder infection, etc.), have a fever, vomiting, diarrhea or are sick, those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or people who are just not able to get enough fluids throughout the day. As you age, your brain may not be able to sense dehydration and may not send thirst signals, so older adults may be at higher risk as well.
How Much Water Do We Need?
Drinking massive amounts of plain water can not only be unnecessary (not everyone needs 8 cups of water per day, just like 8 cups of water might not be enough for some people), but it can even be dangerous. Luckily, unless you are doing extreme sports or highly athletic, chances are you won’t die from drinking too much water.
While there is no cookie-cutter amount of water that you should be drinking per day, many people suggest taking your weight in pounds, divide by half, then convert that number to ounces, and that might be sufficient. So, take a 180 lb. man, he would probably be healthy with 90 fluid oz of water per day. This is not the case for everyone. Especially when you factor in how balanced or unbalanced their vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes are.
Proper hydration when you exercise is extremely important. This means you should be drinking water before, during, and after exercise.
Osmosis of Minerals and Electrolytes
To understand why too much plain water might not always be best, its important to know what osmosis is. Osmosis happens everyday all day, in your body and in the outside world, and simply put is when something is dissolved in a solution, it will always flow from a higher concentration to a lower concentration. For example, take a bottle of food coloring and a glass of water. Alone, the food coloring is very dense in color, and the water is very plain. However, when you add a couple of drops of food coloring to water, the food coloring becomes diluted within the water. The same thing happens in your body with drinking plain water. The more that you drink plain water, the electrolytes and minerals within your body become more diluted.
Therefore, if you were drinking plain tap or bottled water as a sole choice, you would deplete your body of these key nutrients and ions that your body relies on for process like neurochemical signaling, intracellular transport, and other processes that are required for your body to function. Essentially, by drinking too much plain water, you are draining your electrolytes.
Water is still very important, but the balance of ions and electrolytes are extremely important as well. People who face extreme conditions such as marathon runners or athletes tend to experience the negative effects if the proper balance is not there.
Deeper Than Water
Supplementing water does not simply have to come from drinking a glass or bottle of water. Fruits and vegetables are also high in water (some contain up to 80-90% water), ions, and trace minerals. The water in vegetables is also biochemically structured to be more bioavailable or better absorbed by the cells. While water is important, let’s not forget fruits and vegetables either. Fruits and vegetables with the highest water content include:
If you’re not a frequent water drinker, infusing your water with watermelon, berries, or cucumber would be a great way to add trace minerals as well as make your water more easily palatable.
Himalayan sea salt, the salt that comes in its most pure form, can also be added to water. Often called pink salt, this salt is in its most natural form, meaning that it hasn’t been baked at 3000degrees or dyed with chemicals like traditional white table salt often is. The reason to love Himalayan sea salt is because it contains over 80 trace minerals that are inherent to its structure, which when added to water, creates a higher water/electrolyte content balance. When you drink a glass of water, just add a pinch of this salt to your water. Don’t overdo it though. Some say, “if you can taste it, you’ve gone too far”. A little goes a long way.
Oral Hydration Solutions
If you drink a lot of bottled water, which is often stripped of electrolytes and essential minerals, you should consider adding a supplement (or even something as simple as a lemon or lime).
Trace Minerals can be found in health food stores, and its an electrolyte concentrate that comes from natural saltwater lakes in Utah, and the idea is the same. Dissolve electrolytes and minerals into your water by simply adding it and consuming it throughout the day.
Cell Salts can also be extremely beneficial (especially when experiencing illness). These are a supplement that essentially packages up the most highly usable and prevalent salts that occur in your cells. Simply put a dissolvable tablet under your tongue, and you’re all set!
Hydration is about both the water and electrolyte balance. Make sure you’re not flushing yourself out when you’re drinking large amounts of water. Additionally if you feel you’re not getting enough water, a water supplement may encourage your natural desire to drink more.