Hydration & Electrolytes
It Takes More Than Just Water for Proper Hydration
By Dr. Chris Meletis N. D.
When you were born your water content was about 78%. As a healthy adult you should be comprised of about 70% water content within your lean muscle mass (excluding body fat, bones and vital organs which do not contain much water). In measuring lean body mass hydration, researchers have noted an optimal lean mass level equivalent of 70% to 74%.
Other than oxygen, there is no single more important substance critical to life itself. We have all made the observation that with aging dehydration occurs as evidenced by the wrinkled look associated with aging. I call this “the grape to raisin” and ”plum to prune” phenomena.
The signs of overt dehydration are clear, yet it is the subclinical symptoms that warrant daily attention such as fatigue and lack of vitality, headache, an inability to concentrate, joint pain due to insufficient cushioning at the joint space, muscle pain and discomfort, skin conditions, constipation, etc.
One can live weeks without food, yet only days without water. But water alone is not enough, it is the minerals carried by the moisture in the body that is essential to life itself. These minerals are referred to routinely as electrolytes. They actually allow for the conduction of electricity within the body, including the creating of electrical impulses throughout our nervous system.
Symptoms of insufficient hydration and electrolytes include: thirst, restless or irritable behavior, decreased skin resilience, dry mucous membranes, sunken eyes and absence of tears when crying vigorously.
Symptoms of early or mild dehydration include (one or more of the following):
- fatigue and lack of energy and vitality
- diminished mental clarity and concentration
- overall muscle weakness
- headaches (includes muscle tension and sinus pain)
- flushed face
- dry, warm skin
- cramping in the arms and legs
- increased illness susceptibility due to dry mucus membranes
Even with mild dehydration the blood becomes more thick, this increased blood viscosity (thickness) can trigger cerebral (stroke) or myocardial infarction (heart attacks).i Making sure you are drinking enough water is important, yet replacing lost minerals that occur with simply breath, sweating even if not noticeable, and loss of electrolytes and water in the urine and stool is critical.
Recent data from a study conducted by Stanford University School of Medicine suggest that as many as 50% of older adults are dehydrated.ii
ProACTIVE Step to Feeling Better
The medical professions are finally learning about the true importance of proper fluid and electrolyte levels as it is associated with wellness and mortality.iii
The human body is made up of 75 trillion cells and they demand sufficient nutrients, oxygen and waste removal to function optimally. Yet, without proper levels of hydration and electrolytes, tissues like your muscles that are highest source of hydration reserve within your body cannot function.
If a person does not have the proper blend of minerals and water, the brain will not perform properly. Researchers have documented that dehydration is a reliable predictor of impaired cognitive status.iv
Back in Motion
Even the skeletal system made up of bones is affected by proper hydration. Research has shown that during the aging process the thinning of the bone, and loss of bone mineral density increases and thus demands sufficient minerals and hydration of the intervertebral disc.v To protect the back and maintain proper functioning of the spine there must be sufficient hydration disc to provide adequate shock absorbing capacity.
Hydrating and re-hydrated the human body requires a lot more that just 64 ounces (8 glasses) of water consumption to replenish and retain optimal cellular fluid levels. It is essential to provide a balance of minerals to maintain the balance of not just surviving day to day, but to truly thrive.
Magnesium is the second most plentiful positively charged mineral within the body, following calcium, and is involved with more than 300 enzyme systems. The availability of magnesium for proper muscle and overall energy within all the cells of the body is critical. The body has created a reserve system of magnesium to help maintain stable levels with a full third of skeletal magnesium being on the surface of the bone and acts as a reservoir to maintain the extra-cellular magnesium concentration. vi vii.
The potassium mineral plays a role in many body functions including acid-base balance, nerve and muscle health, including the heart and various enzymatic reactions.viii It is essential in the functioning processes including nerve impulse transmission; cardiac, smooth, and skeletal muscle contraction; gastric secretion; renal function; tissue synthesis; and carbohydrate synthesis. Inadequate dietary intake of potassium can contribute to high blood pressure, stroke, and heartdisease. Potassium works together with other nutrients to produce beneficial physiological effects.ix
Individuals with low sodium levels, that hasn’t re-hydrated after warm weather, a work out or is just plain low in sodium that are the patients complaining most of feeling weak, tired and overall washout. The single most important thing to remember about sodium is to keep it balanced with the other electrolyte minerals such as potassium. Our bodies are seeking balance and by maintaining balance the body stays in harmony. The standard western diet typically contains sufficient sodium with the exception of serious athletes.
In order for the muscles of our body to contract such as our heart and skeletal muscles sufficient calcium needs to be readily available to literally keep our body in motion. Yet, one must have sufficient magnesium for muscles to relax. It is all about balance for peak performance.
For those seeking to help ensure stronger bones, healthier muscle performance and supporting overall health calcium is a key cornerstone in building a strong wellness foundation.
The average modern diet is devoid of sufficient minerals to allow us to fully enjoy wellness. Over the last 200 years, top soil erosion in the United States has gone from 21 inches to a mere 6 inches. This means that trace minerals have been washed and blown away from farmlands. Without the minerals in the soil, the plants can’t deliver them to our body to sustain the dynamic human frame. So, it is imperative to actively, infact Pro-Actively take charge, and charge your nervous system and entire body with the electrolytes that are the spark of life.
xi Buchowski MS, Semenya J, Johnson AO. Dietary calcium intake in lactose maldigesting intolerant and tolerant African-American women. J Am Coll Nutr 2002;21:47-54.
xii Tanasescu M, Ferris AM, Himmelgreen DA, et al. Biobehavioral factors are associated with obesity in Puerto Rican children. J Nutr 2000;130:173442
xiii Zemel MB, Thompson W, Milstead A, et al. Calcium and dairy acceleration of weight and fat loss during energy restriction in obese adults. Obes Res 2004;12:58290.
xiv Lin YC, Lyle RM, McCabe LD, et al. Dairy calcium is related to changes in body composition during a two-year exercise intervention in young women. J Am Coll Nutr 2000;19:754-60.