July 27, 2017

Hydration Principles

Articles by Dr. Erdman are for informational purposes, and are not to be taken as specific medical advice.

The heat of summer is here. The humidity makes some days unbearable, so we hide in the air conditioning. At those times you choose to be outside or must be in the heat, do you stay hydrated?

During strenuous activities, especially in the summer heat, we need to replenish liquids and sometimes, electrolytes. On a daily basis, listening to your thirst mechanism is a good way to stay hydrated. Pure, clean water is vital for optimal health.

Once your body has lost 1-2% of its total water content, you start to feel thirsty. During times of heavy exercise or work, by the time you feel thirsty you are already dehydrated to some degree. This is why it is important to drink plenty of liquids prior to and during periods of heavy sweating. Professional athletes tend to know this.

Signs of dehydration include dark infrequent urination, disorientation, headache, lack of sweating during exercise, low energy, and muscle cramps and spasms.

When you are thirsty and need hydration, what do you reach for? Is your first thought that you need one of those brightly colored sports drinks? These chemical laden drinks are promoted nearly non-stop on all media venues. The sales of sports drinks reached nearly $5 billion last year. If your exercise of work is that intense that you need not only water, but electrolytes, I suggest you find a way other than sports drinks to satisfy your needs.

Sports drinks are a terrible substitute for plain water. They contain so much junk they may actually do more harm than good. One sports drink contains nearly 29 grams of fructose. Ouch! Forcing the liver to process that much sugar is bound to lead to chronic disease and insulin resistance!

Dr. Mercola suggests a little known source of good hydration, coconut water. It is rich in vitamins, minerals and trace elements, has amino acids, antioxidants and phytonutrients, packs a lot of electrolytes and natural salts such as magnesium and potassium, and it is low in calories and sugar. Coconut water has an alkalizing effect on your body, since exercise and fluid loss is acidifying.

Young athletes should stick to water, pure and simple, for most all their hydration needs. If your child isn’t exercising heavily for more than one hour, electrolytes are probably not needed; just plain old water will hydrate them fully.

Many kids these days are mixing up energy drinks and sports drinks. Children are using energy drinks as hydration, and that is a big no-no! These energy drinks can contain up to 500mg of caffeine, equivalent to 14 cans of soda! Using caffeine drinks is even worse than sports drinks to try to recover from dehydration.

Here is a way to make your own electrolyte replacement drink. Start with one quart of plain water, coconut water, or home brewed green or herbal tea. Then simply add one or more of the following: ¼ tsp. of quality Himalayan or sea salt; 1 tsp. magnesium or calcium powder; ¼ cup of freshly squeezed citrus juice – lemon, lime, or orange; 1-2 tbsp. of honey or some stevia drops; and lastly, a few drops of trace minerals in liquid form. Mix well.

Another way to prepare for an upcoming heavy time of exertion is to make a brine solution. Do this by using a quart of water and keep adding Himalayan salt or sea salt until no more salt will dissolve in the solution. This is a fully saturated brine solution. Drinking 1-2 ounces of this solution each day leading up to and after the heavy exercise will help keep electrolytes at peak levels, thereby avoiding cramping and dehydration most of the time.

Remember, pure water will satisfy most hydration needs of the majority of people. Athletes and those with strenuous outside jobs may need to add electrolyte replenishment. Reach for almost anything but those sports drinks for the sake of your long term health.