Hydration and Chronic Pain
In my opinion, proper pain management comes down to five main factors:
I’ve written several blogs about nutrition, including recipes, and there will be more to follow. Readers can visit us online to see the supplements that we recommend. If you haven’t read my blog on meditation and inflammation, please do. When I say “Activation,” I mean movement/exercise and you can read about that on our website as well. It’s time we discussed hydration, which one could argue is the most important, most overlooked, and simplest to include your Pain Toolbox.
Water is a basic necessity of life and is essential to all living things. Muscles, tendons, and even bones are made up of a large percentage of water. More than half of the human body is water. Our brains float in fluid inside of our skulls. Water fills our joints so they can be cushions for our bones. The very cells that make up our bodies are full of water. In fact, if you want to know a trick for making cooked meat moist, Google the word “brine”. When meat is placed into a high sodium environment WATER moves into the very cells of the meat and stays there even during cooking.
The average person loses 2-3 liters of water every day through breathing, sweat, urine, and bowel movements. That’s almost a gallon of fluid lost every day. If we don’t replace that fluid, we become “de-hydrated”. The symptoms of chronic dehydration include:
That isn’t even the entire list. How many of these symptoms are personally familiar? How often do you start your day with a cup of caffeinated coffee or tea? How many sodas do you drink in a day? We know how many calories we eat, we know how many medication doses we take, we know how much money we make, but how much water do we drink each day? I don’t encourage people to count calories, but water is a different story and I do encourage people to know how much water they drink each day.
If you are suffering from chronic low back pain, consider this: discs in between the vertebrae of the spine are filled with fluid, and skeletal joints are cushioned by synovial fluid and cartilage. Both can be depleted without adequate water intake. Symptoms such as ongoing stiffness, soreness, pain, and in some cases, deformity may develop over time because the protection has worn away due to insufficient cushioning and lubrication.
The human body is designed to survive, and your brain has decided what is necessary for survival and what isn’t. The brain, heart, lungs, liver, and other major organs are necessary and are made up of a significant amount of water. When the body is dehydrated, the brain will send signals instructing muscles, bones, and tissues to give up water to ensure that major organs have what they need to function. If your joints and tendons have to give up water for your major organs, you are probably going to hurt.
I recommend purchasing a bottle with ounces measured on the side. Divide your body weight (in pounds) in half and drink AT LEAST that many ounces of water every day. For example, if you weight 200 lbs, you'd need to drink 100 oz of water daily. Feel free to add fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice to this if you like. The skin of lemons and limes contain a molecule called D-Limonene that may be helpful for digestion, bowel movements, cholesterol management, and appetite suppression. Most importantly, D-Limonene has been shown to have health benefits for the liver (https://examine.com/supplements/limonene/). If you choose to add lemon or lime juice, please buy actual fruit and not the plastic bottles that are shaped like fruit. D-limonene comes from the skin of the actual fruit, so squeeze away.
In addition to lemons and limes, you may want to consider adding Nuun tablets to your water. Nuun tablets add essential electrolytes like sodium, magnesium, and potassium that help your body put water where it needs to go and can add nice flavor and carbonation.
Some sources will say that "fluid is fluid" and drinking soda, coffee, or tea counts toward your daily intake. I disagree. Caffeine is known to be de-hydrating and may cause blood flow restriction and increased heart rate/blood pressure. Sugar is inflammatory poison that makes pain worse and can lead to diabetes and a whole host of other health related issues. Besides, when did drinking water become something we turn up our noses up for?
Proper hydration is accessible, affordable, and essential to anyone struggling with chronic pain. Activation, meditation, and hydration do not require a prescription, a pharmacist, or insurance coverage. It only takes a little bit of time and effort, but I assure you the return on investment will be worth it.
Yours in Good Health,