Hydration in Functional Medicine

Hydration in Functional Medicine

As the sunny afternoons of the summer transition into the long cooler days of early fall, many breathe a sigh of relief as the temperature starts to drop and cool, refreshing autumn weather rolls in. Though we do tend to experience fewer incidences of heat-related health issues during cooler months, it is still important to remember one of the most important factors for optimal health: water. Liquid intake is definitely stressed during the hotter months, but proper hydration is important year round. Here are a few interesting notes on hydration and commonly seen ailments in functional medicine:

Joint pain — Did you know that inadequate hydration can lead to joint soreness? Though oftentimes true joint pain is the result of a mechanical discrepancy, improper water intake can lead to additional soreness. Maintaining proper water intake keeps the cartilage that lines joints soft and hydrated. Glucosamine, an amino sugar present in joint cartilage, aids in the water-uptake pathway that helps keep joints hydrated and working smoothly. Unfortunately, if there isn’t enough water available that pathway is slowed down and joints don’t function as they should.

Headaches — As Okay, this is one that many of us are familiar with the idea that headaches can be an indicator of improper hydration, but have you ever considered the mechanism of this symptom? When we don’t consume enough water, our total blood volume decreases. This decrease in total blood volume leads to crenation, or shrinking, of cerebral tissue — once this tissue shrinks and pulls away from the inside of the skull, an achy head is around the corner. Maintaining proper hydration levels can help ward off these painful dehydration headaches.

Muscle Aches and Cramps — Muscle cramps and soreness are not issues reserved for those who are highly active. Persons whom are dehydrated can experience muscle cramps at rates much higher than well-hydrated individuals. Similar to the mechanism for dehydration headaches, the decreased blood volume leads to issues in muscular function. Muscle fibers require enough water, glucose, and other ions to allow the proteins within them to perform a necessary contraction; dehydration impedes these vital nutrients for regular contraction-relaxation pattern of muscle fibers from being delivered appropriately, resulting in irritable muscle spasms. Ensuring proper hydration and ion balance within our bodies can help us maintain proper musculoskeletal functioning.

Maintaining proper hydration is key in avoiding these malaises and various other functional health concerns. Regulating your water intake may seem like a difficult task, but there are ways to make this health practice more manageable. Consider investing in a reusable travel bottle to take with you on your commute to work, this easily incorporates more chances for water intake during the go-go-go craze of daily life. Setting a reminder on your phone every hour is a great way to remind yourself to drink some water if forgetfulness seems to be the main issue. Making the habit of getting a drink of water along every bathroom break during the workday is also an effective way to create the habit of hydrating periodically. Though we aren’t looking at dealing with extreme heat in the upcoming months, be intentional about hydration during the drier fall and winter months as well. If you’re struggling with dehydration headaches, muscle pain, or joint pain, consider your water intake as a method of minimizing their intensity. Ask one of our team members about their suggestions for getting their daily water in!