Debbie is a woman in her late 30’s who recently came to see me because she was not feeling herself. She felt tired and sluggish much of the time, despite the fact that she felt she was “taking good care” of herself. She was eating a very healthful diet, including lots of fruits and veggies, lean proteins and whole grains. She was exercising most days of the week vigorously, doing a combination of cardio and yoga. She held up the water bottle she was carrying and said, “I’m even getting at least 8 glasses of water a day!”. She said that her symptoms seemed to be getting worse as the summer months went on.
We had a long discussion about her health history, family history and her current diet, exercise routine and sleep habits. Ultimately the issue became clear: Debbie was chronically dehydrated. She was drinking plenty of water (which she would promptly pee out), but she was not obtaining enough electrolytes for dehydration, to make up for her losses during exercise and the rest of her day. These symptoms may also be part of serious medical conditions, so if you are experiencing them, you should see your doctor promptly.
So, what contributed to Debbie’s dehydration? Debbie had eliminated processed foods from her diet and with that, much of her sodium intake. Her efforts to eat a healthful diet and drink lots of plain water had left her low in sodium, magnesium and potassium. Her blood pressure was low, which is generally a good thing, but in this case it was contributing to her fatigue.
It is not commonly recognized that our bodies need more than just water to stay optimally hydrated. Our blood stream actually uses electrolytes to hold onto the water we consume. Through the process of osmosis, water moves to areas that have great concentration of electrolytes. Without them, the bloodstream essentially becomes diluted. Sodium and potassium help regulate just about every essential bodily function. They do this powering your cells to work properly. Magnesium is also an essential electrolyte for dehydration that helps your body properly hold onto the potassium it needs.
The kidney regulates this complicated orchestra of electrolyte levels. However, it cannot hold on to potassium if magnesium stores are low. On a day to day basis we often get enough potassium and sodium through our food. However, heavy exercise or sweating due to heat will deplete these electrolytes. Also, diets free of processed food and added salt can actually leave you without enough sodium stores in your body. Extreme cases of low sodium can even be life threatening. Potassium is essential for muscle strength and function. Low potassium also causes weakness, fatigue and in severe cases cardiac arrest. Magnesium deficiency can minimize the ability to replenish these other vital nutrients.
For these and other reasons, daily magnesium supplementation is useful. Magnesium should be part of a good Personalized Multivitamin (click here to take our brief survey in order to get your Personalized Multivitamin). If magnesium levels are optimal your kidneys can better hold onto other essential electrolytes when needed for dehydration.
Sodium, potassium and chloride also need replacement from time to time. Plain water is not enough to do that. In cases of dehydration, the emergency room does not just give you water in the IV fluids, rather a blend of electrolytes and water. We can all learn from this and push electrolytes ahead of time to avoid dehydration. Beverages like Gatorade contain some of these electrolytes but it is often in combination with loads of sugar and other artificial additives. Electrolyte tablets such as Power Up™ are a more direct and effective way to ingest vital electrolytes before and after a workout (without any added sugar or caffeine).
Back to Debbie. She started a new regimen of daily magnesium as part of a multivitamin regimen. On days she exercised she made an effort to take in enough sodium, chloride and other nutrients in addition to water. Her energy level improved dramatically and she feels she finally reaps the benefits of her efforts at being healthy.
Arielle Levitan is a doctor of Internal Medicine with a special interest in Preventive Medicine and Women’s Health. She is a mother of three active adolescents. Romy Block specializes in Endocrinology and Metabolism and is mother to three elementary age boys. As professional women with active family lives, they recognize that women, in their many roles, often neglect their own health needs and are uncertain about what vitamins to take. Each woman is different in her diet, exercise and health history, and will benefit from different nutrients. After years of advising their patients about the proper vitamins to take, Drs. Block and Levitan created Vous Vitamin® to provide women everywhere with quality vitamins that are suited to their individual needs.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Nothing contained herein is intended to be a diagnosis or constitute medical advice. The symptoms described in this Blog may be a result of a serious medical condition which requires medical treatment. You should consult with your doctor if you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned in this Blog and before beginning any vitamin or supplement regimen.