Recently I have had many clients who have been testing up as being dehydrated. Water isn’t everyone’s favourite drink I know and everyone is guilty at one time or another of not drinking enough, myself included. However, some of these clients I know are really good at keeping up their fluid intake, but they all needed some form of electrolyte, so why is this happening?
Optimum fluid balance in body, we know is very important, but so is having an electrolyte balance. Both are needed for good health. The most obvious symptom of an imbalance neither, is that you are thirsty. However, by the time you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated, ideally you should be taking in fluid before you become thirsty. At the cellular level, according to Dr Lam, damage begins to occur with as little as one percent loss of body water. When we are experiencing thirst, this is usually when we have already lost two to three percent of its water.
Dr Lam states, ‘Water moves from one compartment freely to another due to osmosis. Osmosis is influenced by dissolved solutes in fluids such as minerals and electrolytes. When each compartment of the body contains the appropriate concentration of water and electrolytes, the body is said to be in fluid balance. This is the way nature intended it to be. Problems begin to occur when one compartment has more fluid than others do.’
So what could be a cause of fluid and electrolyte imbalance? The adrenals glands. I have spoken about the adrenals many times, but here is a quick summary. These glands sit on the top of our kidneys and secrete many different hormones. They help us deal with stress, fight or flight response, sex drive, inflammation, and, yes you guessed it, fluid balance. One of the many hormones that the adrenals secrete, aldosterone is responsible for maintaining not only adequate fluid but also your salt balance.
Your salts are comprised of electrolytes (sodium, potassium, chloride) and they effect your fluid content. Where sodium goes, water follows. Sodium is retained, so is water. It’s the job of the adrenals to release the hormone aldosterone, which tells the kidneys to hold on to sodium, so you don’t pee it all away. The more aldosterone is released, the more water is retained in the body.
If suffering with chronic stress, over time it can result in adrenal fatigue as the adrenals work hard to help the body cope. Stress can be emotional, or physical, such as over exercising. There are several levels of adrenal fatigue as the adrenals become more and more overworked. The adrenals compensate by releasing more aldosterone and more of another hormone called cortisol, that is released when we’re stressed. What is interesting, is that cortisol, if released at high levels, can work like aldosterone.
Eventually the increased output of aldosterone and cortisol reaches their maximum and begin to fall as the adrenal glands become exhausted. The body is no longer able to retain fluid or sodium as it should and then the body goes into a subclinical state of dehydration.
Without salt, the human body cannot produce energy, maintain blood pressure, or even regenerate. Salt is especially critical in treating adrenal fatigue. This is the reason why we reach for salty foods or we want more salt on our meals at this point, along with low blood pressure, despite our intake of more salt. Both are symptoms and a warning sign of problems such as early stages of adrenal fatigue.
So you may believe you are drinking enough water, but if you are chronically stressed and/or your salts are out of balance, your fluid intake requirement will be higher than those who are not and your body may be struggling to retain fluids.
Some signs and symptoms of dehydration (and early stages of adrenal fatigue)
- Dry Mouth
- Dry skin
- Brain fog
- UTI (Urinary tract infection)
- Dark coloured urine
What you can do now
- It is important to avoid any caffeinated drinks such as tea and coffee as they contain caffeine, a natural diuretic. If you can’t, you will need more water to compensate for the water lost, so drink one extra glass of water for the equivalent amount of these drinks you have.
- Don’t drink your water too fast, as this could dilute the sodium in your body. Just be consistent and gradual and don’t wait until your are thirsty.
- A little sea salt in your water may help you feel more energised, if your sodium levels are low.