Dehydration and Autoimmune Symptoms

inflammation weight loss Jun 11, 2024


Are you getting enough of this important food group to lower inflammation with autoimmune and arthritic conditions?

During my live food workshops, I always ask participants which is the most important and commonly overlooked food to help fight inflammation. Leafy greens and protein are the top responses, yet few ever mention water. This is because water is not included in the nutritional education we received in public school, nor is it ever really discussed at the doctors office.

So, let's turn this around and learn about the significance of staying hydrated when you have autoimmune and/or inflammation.

Hydration is the cornerstone of optimal health, affecting virtually every aspect of your well-being, including pain, energy, focus and brain fog, digestion, skin, hormones, metabolism and your ability to build physical and mental resilience while living with inflammation. 

Science estimates 78% of your body is made of water (your brain and heart are 73% water; bones are 31% water; kidneys and muscles are 79% water; skin is 64% water; lungs are 83% water).  Not only is water essential to keeping these critical organs functioning, it's involved in 1000s of metabolic reactions or processes in the body.

Water helps deliver nutrients and oxygen to cells, flush your body of waste and toxins, lubricate joints, make hormones, cushion your joints, brain and spine, and regulate your body temperature. And water is equally as important during warm and cold weather (especially if you like to be outside). You lose water through your breath, sweat, bowels and urine, so replenishing daily is a must-do to stay on top of a well performing body and health.

Headaches, fatigue, dry mouth, dizziness, rapid heart beat, low blood pressure, lack of appetite, flushed skin, swollen feet, muscle cramps, heat intolerance, chills, constipation and dark urine are all indications of dehydration.

Dehydration can be mild, moderate or severe (severe is a medical emergency). Symptoms of dehydration vary. If are thirsty, you are already dehydrated, and many confuse sugar cravings for thirst.

From physical performance to cognitive function, here's why staying hydrated should be at the forefront of your health journey. And I also have some really easy tips to help you increase hydration.


Boost Your Energy Levels:

In a survey of 7,800 patients with autoimmune, 98% said they suffered from daily fatigue, 89% said it was a major daily problem and 59% said it was their most debilitating symptom of their health (study conducted by the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association). To make matters worse, 9/10 respondents said they had talked to their doctors and 6/10 were NOT given ideas on treatment.

Fatigue requires a multi-pronged approach (nutrition for cellular health, digestion, lifestyle changes) ... and WATER is definitely part of the mix. It helps support lymphatic flow, delivery of key nutrients to cells AND detoxification (naturally flushing the body of toxins and metabolic waste). This helps ensure your body is getting what it need to function well, and getting rid of what no longer serves.

Water is also involved with 1000s of metabolic reactions and processes in the body, including healing. By ensuring you're adequately hydrated, you'll find yourself a bit more energized and ready to tackle the day.


Enhance Physical Performance & Endurance:

So much great information and learning comes from the study of competitive athletes. Just like with autoimmune, their bodies are under a lot of chronic stress with training and competition. When athletes are just 5% dehydrated, they experience a 30% drop in both physical and mental performance.

Whether you're a fitness enthusiast, trying to stay active or simply make it through the day, hydration is key to performing well for home, work and play. Proper fluid balance supports your brain, muscles and joints, improves endurance and stamina, and overall physical performance. 


Decrease Painful Joints & Muscles:

Dehydration impacts synovial fluid and cartilage in joints, increasing pain (hips, knees, feet, shoulders, hands). Synovial fluid is the gel-like substance in your joints that provides ease of movement, nutrition and cushion between joints, and your cartilage consists of 70-80% water. Drinking ample water will help protect and nourish these important parts of the body that keep you moving and grooving through life.

For muscles, when you're dehydrated, you can experience muscle twitches and cramping because you're muscles aren't getting the electrolytes they need. They will also fatigue more easily, leading to soreness and aches.


Support Your Organs:

When you're dehydrated, your skin (your body's largest organ) can feel itchy or look scaly, patchy and uneven. If you have psoriasis or eczema, hydration is even more important to help repair skin tissues. Water helps maintain skin elasticity and promotes a healthy complexion.

Mild dehydration can also impact your blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature. In severe cases, your kidneys won't be able to filter blood as effectively and can lead to kidney damage.


Sharpen Your Mind:

A well-hydrated brain functions more efficiently. In fact, a look at the adult brain (when dehydrated) shows that it has to work harder. Women are particularly susceptible to cognitive impairment with dehydration and the older the woman, the worse the decline in attention and cognitive processing. 

Stay on top of your mental game by keeping your brain cells properly hydrated, leading to improved concentration, better memory, and enhanced cognitive function.


What About Digestion?

If you have an IBD or a lot of gut inflammation, you're at greater risk for dehydration. Water aids in digestion and nutrient absorption. When you're dehydrated, you're more prone to bloating, acid reflux and constipation. If you have diarrhea, you need to replenish the water and electrolytes you're losing.


Water and Weight:

Weight challenges are often symptoms of inflammation. Dehydration can prompt your body to hold onto all it has whereas hydration helps lower your overall inflammatory load by supporting the naturally occurring systems in your body, your organs, nutrient and oxygen delivery to cells and the flushing of toxins. 


Practical Tips for Staying Hydrated:

Now that you understand the importance of hydration, let's explore some practical tips to incorporate more fluids into your daily life. Recommendations are anywhere from 2-3L for adults (8 - 12 cups), depending on weight and level of activity.

  • Drink a full glass of water first thing in the morning to get a head start on staying hydrated throughout the day.
  • Carry a reusable glass or stainless steel water bottle with you wherever you go.
  • Set reminders on your phone to take water breaks throughout the day.
  • Consume small amounts of water throughout the day (versus large amounts in one go) to help increase absorption (although, if you're thirsty, drink up).
  • Infuse your water with natural fruit or herbs like citrus, berries, or mint for added enjoyment.
  • Consume hydrating foods such as water-rich fruits and vegetables. Watermelon, cucumber and lettuce are all water-rich and autoimmune friendly!


Remember, small changes lead to big results. Prioritize hydration, and you'll be amazed at the transformative impact it can have on your overall health and well-being.





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