December 24, 2016

Hydration and Electrolytes: Important for Everyone, Especially Old People with Parkinson’s Like Me

In this week's blog posts, we’re spending a lot of time in my bathroom.

On Monday morning, I woke up at 6:30 and -- as usual -- immediately headed for the bathroom, albeit more slowly than usual. 

My mouth felt very dry and my urine was darker than usual. These symptoms weren’t new to me; I knew they signaled dehydration. But this time, there was something else. My muscles were extremely stiff.

I stood at the bathroom sink for nearly half an hour, slowly sipping water and even more slowly attempting mini-stretches to loosen up the muscles. When I felt able, I spent the next half-hour doing my usual stretching routines.

At first, I thought my Parkinson’s was causing this uncommon stiffness. Later, I wondered if dehydration was the culprit. So I decided to do some research, and here's what I found.

Dehydration and Electrolyte Imbalance
Though anyone can become dehydrated, the condition is especially dangerous for young children and older adults. Many people, particularly seniors, don't feel thirsty until they're already dehydrated.

Dehydration is a particular concern for elderly people with Parkinson’s like me. The meds we take to help slow the progression of the disease can also raise the risk of dehydration.

Dehydration concerns more than just water. The condition can deplete the body's electrolytes. We obtain important electrolytes by eating different foods and drinking certain fluids. Electrolyte imbalance can result from a poor diet, from too much or too little exercise, and from dehydration.

What are the Major Electrolytes?
  • Calcium supports muscle contractions, nerve signaling, blood clotting, cell division, and the formation and maintenance of bones and teeth.
  • Potassium helps stabilize blood pressure, regulate heart contractions, and maintain muscle function.
  • Magnesium supports muscle contractions, proper heart rhythm, nerve function, bone building and strength, anxiety reduction, digestion, and fluid balance.
  • Sodium helps maintain fluid balance, muscle contractions, and nerve signaling.
  • Chloride supports fluid balance.

Dehydration, Electrolyte Imbalance, and Parkinson's Disease
If your electrolyte levels get too low, you could wake up one morning unable to walk. Of course, if you're a person with Parkinson’s, you automatically assume that PD is the cause.

My research suggests that electrolyte imbalance may have contributed to other problems I've experienced, like hypotension and hypertension.

Avoiding Dehydration and Electrolyte Imbalance
Simple dietary changes can often correct minor electrolyte imbalances. Eating less junk food, take-out food, and restaurant food – and eating more fresh foods at home – is a great place to start.

Eating these foods can help prevent dehydration and maintain electrolyte balance:
  • coconut water
  • celery
  • watermelon
  • cucumber
  • kiwi
  • bell peppers
  • citrus fruit
  • carrots
  • culture dairy (amasai, kefir, yogurt)
  • pineapple

Drink Enough Water (but Not Too Much)
Electrolyte imbalance can result from either dehydration or over-hydration.

While "eight glasses a day" has been a standard recommendation, it isn't necessarily best for everyone. Factors like diet, age, physical activity, and body size all combine to determine proper levels of water consumption. Here’s a good rule of thumb: drink enough so you urinate at least every three to four hours. For most people, that means eight to ten glasses a day.

You might even have one of those glasses filled with eggnog!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for all the research you do for your blog. Your blog and others I read are so helpful and encouraging.