Thursday, April 24, 2008

Dehydration is Responsible for More Than You Might Think

Since I tend to suffer with a lot of dizzyness, vertigo, and inner-ear swelling/pain whenever the humidity rises or the weather is bad, I've been experimenting a bit with drinking less water to see if that would help me any. Prior to this I'd been drinking around a gallon a day, and that much water was making my ears swell and hurt pretty badly by the time I got to the last quart. Especially since I've been cutting down lately on caffeinated sodas.

So as far as the dizziness and fullness in my inner ears is concerned, drinking less water did help "initially", but if I cut down too much, it only made other things worse. Plus, the humidity itself, like today, if very high still causes my ears to swell, no matter how much less water I've drank.

One of the first things I noticed was I was getting consistent headaches, where I haven't suffered with those in months. Especially when I moved back into my low carb, PSMF diet this week. I'd heard that headaches can be a sign of dehydration, and since initial weight losses from restricted carbs are mainly water and glycogen, I thought I'd do a little research to see what I could find out.

So many folks believe those Induction headaches are caused by sugar and caffeine withdrawals that I wanted to see how much dehydration contributes to that.

Well...I was really surprised to find out just how much can be attributed to dehydration. We hear all the time that as low carbers we NEED to drink our water, with the most common reason given that we can flush out excess ketones. But dehydration is actually responsible for far more than even most low carbers think.

The list of symptoms of dehydration was pretty long, but was basically consistent over all the web pages and articles I looked at. Of interest was the fact that many of these things are attributed by low carbers to be caused by something other than dehydration.

For example, a complaint of muscle cramps will generally gain you the advice to up your potassium, (when the "best" advice would be to get ALL of your electrolytes -- sodium and magnesium, as well as potassium plus water intake in BALANCE). And a complaint of a loss of skin tone and/or loose, wrinkly skin will generally gain you the advice to up your fats. When it's actually a sign of dehydration.

So here's a partial list: Fatigue, headaches, dry mouth, dizziness, weakness, rapid heartbeat, dry flushed skin, muscle cramps with extreme muscle pain, loss of skin tone and/or loose skin and/or wrinkles, and constipation.

In addition to the standard stuff, I also discovered that it causes, or contributes to rheumatoid joint pain, arthritis in general, (due to a water shortage in the joint), low back pain and arthritis of the spine, (due to a water shortage in the spine and disks), angina (due to a water shortage in the heart and lungs axis), migraines (due to a water shortage in the brain and eyes), asthma, (caused by drought management programs of the body). With asthma (which particularly caught my attention, since I suffer from that too) free passage of air is obstructed, so water doesn't leave the body in the form of vapor.

But here's another interesting tidbit. Asthmatics NEED salt. It breaks down the mucus plugs in the lungs that obstruct free flow of air in and out of the air sacs. So the caution here, is that the common advice given among a lot of low carbers to cut down on salt/sodium intake, due to a bit of water retention or glycogen storage after a "cheat" might NOT be "the best advice" for everyone. In fact, if you suffer with asthma like I do, it can even be detrimental.

The thing about dehydration is that thirst is not the only, or even the first sign of dehydration. By the time you're actually thirsty, you're already dehydrated. So we need to make sure that we have a good water drinking plan in place, and that we're following that plan. Taking into account that the amount of exercise, daily temperature, and the state of our health all affect just "how much" water we need to drink on a daily basis.

The brain is actually about 75% water, so when we don't get enough, it tends to produce histamines which causes a lot of pain. Now granted, histamines aren't the ONLY reason we get headaches, nor is dehydration necessarily the only reason, but the thing to remember is that pain of "any" type is really our bodies way of putting out a cry for help.


But we tend to medicate that pain, and ignore it's root causes far too often. Just because the pain is gone (now that we've told it to shut up by feeding it a pain reliever med) that doesn't mean the problem has been solved. We've only pushed the problem into a corner where we don't have to deal with the REAL cause anymore.

Probably the "most" detrimental aspect of dehydration is that in that condition, the body is unable to eliminate toxic wastes from the body. So they accumulate and cause all kinds of havoc. Especially inflammation. And that when we reach the point where we're actually suffering from about a 2% loss, overall, our physical and mental performances can be reduced by as much as 20%!!!

Water seems to be something that a great many people "think" they drink a LOT of, when in reality, they don't. Over and over again, my in-laws keep telling me how MUCH water they drink, but my Tanita-like scale keeps reporting back to them that they are SEVERELY dehydrated!!!

When I had showed that to them several times this past visit, and was then finally able to pin them down in regards to just how much water they drink each day, they weren't drinking very much water at all. Cuz to them, a "bottle" of water is their teeny, tiny 8oz bottles. A single cupful. And they were trying to do low carb by drinking maybe 5 or 6 of those a day, thinking that was a whole lot.

When I told them that they needed to be drinking a gallon of water a day, or even more, they outright CHOKED. Now, we're talking about someone who weighs in the neighborhood of 300 pounds, who is seriously dehydrated and needs to "correct" the problem. So they obviously need to drink MORE than their current needs in order to do that.

The point is...if we aren't KEEPING TRACT of just how much water we're drinking, we might not be drinking enough. And it's really hard to get back into the habit once you've fallen out of it. It's like starting all over again. It really needs to become a "permanent" lifestyle change. Not just because we're low carbing, but because it's one of the healthiest things we can do for ourselves.


  1. I think you're right the induction flu is from electrolyte losses at the beginning of induction, severe headache is usually caffeine withdrawal but dehydration does it as well so probably a double wammy for some. The electrolytes do rebalance themselves but a lot of people when they start induction eat heaps of sodium but not many veggies especially if they follow the cup rule. I've yet to see someone follow the advice of taking potassium and not feeling better. Potassium and mag supp is good too. Over here at least, it is very hard to find an electrolyte supplement that is not full of sugar.

    When you read very low carb studies you often see that they supplement them with sodium and potassium.

    Personally, I don't get induction flu or cramps I do eat heaps of veggies and don't restrict my salt so maybe that helps? I also go by Australian carb counts of low carb veggies which are much less then yours e.g. over here brocolli = 0.5g carbs per 100g
    Even when I was refeeding, I never had any issues going in and out of ketosis each week.

    I do however get caffeine headache and gosh that is horrible, only had one headache worse then that and that was after my spinal tap!

  2. Holy crud! A gallon of water a day? I had no idea I needed that much. I consume approx 2 1/2 to 3 liters of water and club soda every day. But, as I seem to have a couple of the symptoms you mentioned, I guess I will try to increase my intake. Thanks!

  3. I usually drink about 3 (32-oz) glasses of water. Any more than that will give me vertigo. But that's just particular to me. Low carbers need a little more water than other folks do because low carb is so dehydrating. One can go too far the other way though, so be careful. I would up your intake slowly, if the formula says you're not drinking enough.

  4. Try eating more sodium. Pickles are a great way to get in some more.