Friday Feb 10 | BY |
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Dehydration is a serious problem, but mostly preventable . Every year, hospitals charge about 5.5 billion dollars treating emergency room visits for dehydration. It can be deadly for infants and dangerous for the elderly. But few realize the problems associated with persistently low levels of electrolytes for health and wellness.

Chronic dehydration is more common than realized. Studies show that 75 percent of Americans go about their day partially dehydrated. Dehydration is worse in South Florida, Southern California, Arizona, and the other hot sunny states. It’s worse in the summer. And, plagues high altitude climbers and hikers.

The difference between acute and chronic are distinct, but many of the symptoms overlap.

Symptoms of Acute Dehydration:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Dry mouth and eyes
  • Scanty urination
  • Dark colored urine
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion

Symptoms of Chronic Dehydration:

  • Bad breath
  • Scanty dark-colored urine
  • Dry non-elastic skin
  • Headaches
  • Constipation with dry stool
  • Dry eyes with few tears
  • Muscle cramping

Symptoms of chronic dehydration may overlap with the complaints associated with chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia. Over time, chronic dehydration can lead to kidney stone formation, increased cholesterol, joint problems, muscle cramping, and damage.

For Effective Hydration Drinking More Fluids Is Not Enough

Dehydration is not merely a lack of fluid in the blood. It’s also about low levels of electrolytes: potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphate. In your body, these minerals carry an electric charge helping to maintain healthy body chemistry.

It’s counter-intuitive, I know, but we tend to drink a lot of fluids that are dehydrating. Coffee, alcohol and sugary sodas are drying. Alcohol shrink cells, squeezing water out and increases urination. The morning after a hangover headache is mostly due to dehydration. If you drink alcohol, a good rule to follow is one to two glasses of water for every cocktail or glass of wine.

High blood sugar and dehydration go together. People with diabetes flush out excess glucose through their kidneys. Overworked kidneys can lead to high blood pressure and stone formation. A high protein diet leads to chronic dehydration because more water is needed for your kidneys to flush out excess nitrogen contained in protein.

You may not realize that many common foods and some herbal teas are diuretics. Parsley, celery, carrot, dandelion, asparagus and watercress make you urinate more.

For adequate electrolyte replacement, you can get an intravenous remineralization drip. Or, you can make an electrolyte cocktail with pure water and a commercial electrolyte powder or tablet. Look for formulas with zero sugar. Some also have trace minerals like zinc and selenium but are not necessary if you take them in a daily multivitamin and mineral.

Electrolyte Mineral Replacement Dosages: (for extreme dehydration, higher dosages are required)

  • Sodium 50-60 mg
  • Potassium 50-200 mg
  • Chloride 75-200 mg
  • Magnesium 50-150 mg
  • Calcium 50-100 mg
  • Phosphorous 50-70 mg

There are plenty of electrolyte mixes on the market. Pedialyte is a hydration elixir for babies. But, it’s also suitable for adults. It contains dextrose, but about half the sugar of sports drinks. Emergen-C also sells an electrolyte mix. However, I recommend high-performance electrolyte powders used by athletes. During my high-altitude treks in the Andes mountains, I carry medical grade electrolyte replacement mixes.

Your Daily Hydration Cure

There is nothing better for your body than live pure water from springs or glacial melt. I prefer to drink water from deep spring wells bottled in glass at the source. Structured water that matches the negative charge of your cells’ natural fluid is also valuable for hydration. Alkaline water and distilled water are at the extremes of alkaline and acid. The pH of natural spring and structured water is in the ideal physiologic range of 6.5 to 7.5. Distilled water contains no minerals and is not effective for rehydration.

Start with a glass of water first thing in the morning. The Vermont folk remedy of apple cider vinegar, honey, in warm water works because it adds electrolytes and glucose. And, so does a twist of lemon, lime, or orange. A morning fresh green juice in pure water works wonders. Order a wheat grass shot and a glass of water, or bring your own water. Mix the wheat grass in the water, or chase it with a glass of pure water.

Coconut water is excellent for daily hydration , even if pricey. It contains less sugar than sports drinks or fruit juices. It has plenty of potassium, but does not have enough sodium. Therefore, it can be quickly depleted when you sweat a lot during hot weather or from extreme sports. If your budget allows for coconut water, scientific studies show that coconut water is healthier than sports drinks, but requires adding sodium when you sweat a lot.

Don’t forget to drink extra water when exercising, doing hot yoga, and in sweltering weather, and add electrolytes.

Dr. J. E. Williams


Dr. Williams is a pioneer in integrative and functional medicine, the author of six books, and a practicing clinician with over 100,000 patient visits. His areas of interest include longevity and viral immunity. Formerly from San Diego, he now resides in Sarasota, Florida and practices at the Florida Integrative Medical Center. He teaches at NOVA Southeastern University and Emperor’s College of Oriental Medicine.

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  1. June Hanson says:

    Always thought water was enough to really quench thirst. Coconut water is my favorite electrolyte drink. Get it reasonable at big discount store. Did not realize, needed sodium. Also on a diuretic, taking potassium. Live in Southern Florida. Easy to get more sodium into diet. Thanks for giving us such valuable information.

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