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Chiropractic Care and Involuntary Dehydration
Dehydration is a condition when the human body lacks a sufficient volume of water to maintain homeostasis and normal functioning. This occurs in situations where water intake is not enough to eliminate water from the body through things such as sweating, urination, or diarrhea.
Water is essential to human health and well-being. It makes up about 60% of the human body weight and is essential for many body functions including maintaining normal blood volume and makeup, and removing waste byproducts from the body. We often associate dehydration with vigorous physical activity and exercise, and hot weather. Although it is true that these two factors are common causes of dehydration, there are other less obvious reasons for dehydration and dehydration can occur in individuals who are not exposed to heat or strenuous exercise.
Dehydration can also be caused by increased urination, vomiting, and diarrhea. In these conditions, the body often loses water faster than it can be replaced. Many over-the-counter and prescription drugs are substances known as diuretics. This causes increased urination and thus water loss. Interestingly, another major factor contributing to dehydration is the favorite drink that Americans often consume.
While many of us drink soda, black tea, coffee, and alcoholic beverages to quench our thirst and prevent dehydration, the opposite may be true. All these drinks have a diuretic effect on the human body. Caffeine in soda, tea, coffee, and other beverages can increase the frequency and volume of urination. The same goes for alcohol in alcoholic beverages. This causes water loss in the body and is not corrected, resulting in dehydration. Since these beverages are a favorite with most Americans, it’s likely that a large portion of the American population walks around with a predisposition to at least some dehydration. With that in mind, let’s look at the three main stages of dehydration.
There are three generally accepted stages of dehydration. Each stage checks water loss based on a percentage of body weight. In mild dehydration, patients lose 3 to 5 percent of their body weight. Moderate dehydration is characterized by a loss of 6 to 9% of body weight, while severe dehydration results in a loss of 10% or more of body weight. Now that we know a little about the classification of dehydration, let’s review some common symptoms.
Research has shown that a 2% lack of hydration can lead to a 10% decrease in athletic performance. However, the effects of dehydration are not limited to athletes. Many Chiropractic patients experience symptoms similar to those of mild to moderate dehydration. Some of these include:
– Headache, dizziness and lightheadedness
– Muscle cramps and muscle pain
– Muscle spasms
– Dry mouth
– Dry eyes
– Dry skin
– And more
So how do you prevent dehydration? The obvious solution is to make sure you drink enough water to meet your body’s needs. An average-sized adult needs about 1 liter, or 32 ounces, of water per day. Physically active adults need more: sometimes up to 4 to 5 liters per day. To prevent dehydration, we need to increase our water intake before, during, and after exercise. Some sources say you should drink about 4 to 6 ounces of water every 12 to 15 minutes during exercise. As a general rule, the more you weigh, the higher the air temperature and the more vigorous the exercise, the more fluid you need.
Many people mistakenly think they are not dehydrated because they are not exercising or because they are not thirsty. Vigorous exercise and profuse sweating obviously accelerate the dehydration process and make it easier to occur but are not required for dehydration. It is important to note that the sensation of thirst is not a reliable indicator of adequate hydration. Research shows the sensation of thirst is actually a reaction to the early stages of dehydration. The human body doesn’t even feel thirsty until it experiences a 1 to 2 percent weight loss!
Another big problem with dehydration is that people mistakenly believe that they are hydrated enough because they drink beverages throughout the day. Unfortunately, these drinks are often soda, coffee, tea, or other alcoholic beverages. As already mentioned, all these drinks have a diuretic effect on the body. Increased urination and water loss caused by drinking these beverages can offset or negate the benefits of these fluids. Avoiding caffeinated and alcoholic beverages while increasing your water intake is a great way to prevent unintentional dehydration.
You are probably wondering how all this talk about water and dehydration has to do with Chiropractic care. The connections are truly endless! Doctors of Chiropractic are concerned with general health and well-being and not just the biomechanics of the spine. Since water is essential to life, it is always of great concern to the Chiropractor who really has the best interests of the patient.
Many patients initially consult a Doctor of Chiropractic because they experience headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness, weakness, weakness, back pain, or muscle spasms; all are also common symptoms of mild to moderate dehydration. Dehydration is also associated with impaired cognitive function.
Dehydration can also cause joint degeneration and degenerative changes in the spine. Intervertebral discs are natural shock absorbers that absorb the bones of the spine. Positioned between the bones of the spine, the intervertebral discs are mainly composed of water. It is a resilient structure consisting of a tougher outer ring of fibers with a gelatin-type center that allows the discs to be highly compressed, and elastic to absorb forces on the spine while allowing the spine to be flexible. We know from research that intervertebral disc degeneration actually begins with dehydration of the intervertebral disc; with age intervertebral discs become less hydrated and lose elasticity and flexibility. This loss of hydration leads to degeneration of the spine and ultimately pain and symptoms.
As you know, unintentional dehydration can happen even if we don’t exercise in a hot environment. Complicating matters further is the fact that most of us are not thirsty until we are already dehydrated. Simply drinking the wrong type of beverage throughout the day can lead to early stages of dehydration that can affect cognitive and physical performance. Water is essential for the cartilage that lubricates and protects our joints and for the intervertebral discs that cushion and protect our spines. Persistent dehydration, even at mild levels, can have a detrimental effect on mental health and physical well-being. No wonder Doctors of Chiropractic are concerned with proper hydration. Take care of yourself and your body; take the time to make sure you are adequately hydrated.
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