So apparently this is a thing. I didn’t realize it, outside of victims of ecstasy at nightclubs, but you can routinely drink too much water. As a person who contends with chronic daily migraine I make a point of staying hydrated. In fact, my purse is a 3L hydration pack that happens to also carry my wallet and occasionally a lip balm or two. I live in terror of becoming de-hydrated because it can cause my migraine to flare up into impossible to operate with pain levels. I’ve done this for years.
So how did I discovery that perhaps I had become a little too overzealous in my diligent self watering you ask? It all started with volunteer work on the preserve. I am the Vice-President of the Southern Plains Land Trust and we had our board retreat this past weekend. While I was nervous about managing pain for three days in the sun I was excited about being away from the city and seeing all the lovely animals.
While I was down there I fed bison and donkeys, walked our land, strategized our upcoming fundraisers, and generally enjoyed myself. I employed liberal ice packs on the base of my skull, took ibuprofen like vitamins, and did pretty well up until the final project: dust dozens of acres of prairie dog burrows with insecticide to protect those darling critters from plague. It was noon, high noon, 101 degrees and no shade noon. We were dressed in full length pants and shirts and gloves. I filled my 3L hydration pack and got to dusting. I walked to a burrow, checked it for signs of burrowing owls, and if there were none, bent down and squirted the dust deep inside. Rinse, repeat. Walk, bend, straighten. Drink. Walk, bend, straighten. Drink. Soon it became so warm that I was drinking almost non-stop.
When we were done we loaded up into the car our President had so kindly delivered us in and headed home. I could feel the flare at the base of my skull, a veritable thundering horde of pain held back by sheer determination and my last remaining ice pack. My joints and back began to stiffen, my hands and feet to swell. I told my fellow board members I was going to be out of it for the ride home and popped an emergency Vicodin. Twenty minutes later and I could tell the Vicodin was going to do nothing, the inevitable blinding pain began to build and wash over me in waves.
We stopped for gas and I stumbled inside to get ice water. My treasurer got Gatorade and I thought, what the hell, maybe a SmartWater wouldn’t hurt. Instead I saw this water called Core and it was cheaper. What the hell, a penny saved…. I bought it. I drank it. I felt the pain recede a little. At the next stop I bought another larger Core and drank it in minutes. I felt better. By the time we were two thirds of the way home I had consumed three bottles of electrolyte enhanced water and the “Paying for it” flare up I had been dreading was back to a dull roar.
What the hell is going on!?!? I have spent the past 4 years searching for answers and pain management techniques and suddenly I discover an electrolyte enhanced water that works better than any “rescue” med I have ever had?
So with my renewed spoons I did some research.
Common symptoms of an electrolyte disorder include:
- irregular heartbeat
- fast heart rate
- convulsions or seizures
- diarrhea or constipation
- abdominal cramping
- muscle weakness
- muscle cramping
- numbness and tingling
Do any of these look familiar my fellow Fibromyalgia friends? It turns out that we need to keep our electrolytes in balance in order for our bodies to function properly. An electrolyte disorder occurs when one’s electrolytes are either too high or too low. In severe cases electrolyte imbalances can cause serious problems like coma, seizures, and cardiac arrest.
And, as it turns out, can mimic or exacerbate a fibro/migraine flare. By being so diligent with my water intake I was actually flushing these useful minerals out of my body and causing myself harm.
Okay, so what are electrolytes?
An electrolyte is a substance that conducts an electrical charge when dissolved in water. We need them to live. All living things need them. Our heart, muscle and nerve cells use electrolytes to maintain voltages across their cell membranes and to carry electrical impulses to other cells. With improper levels of electrolytes in our bodies these functions are impaired and can even break down.
So, I have learned the thing, what have I done to incorporate the thing into my self care plan?
Well I don’t like one-off plastic bottle use and try to avoid it whenever possible so I had to look away from simply drinking Core every day. It turns out Emergency-C carries an electrolyte supplement in packets similar to there vitamin C packets. So I bought them. In an attempt to avoid making my electrolytes too high I am adding one packet to my water bottle in the morning and proceeding as usual, perhaps with a little less water intake on the whole.
TMI ALERT: I discovered your urine should not be clear. It should look like a light refreshing lemonade -hopefully without the pulp. (If your urine is pulpy you should see someone about that.) My urine was clear, and has been clear, for ages. I took the advice that light colored urine was a positive thing to mean the lighter the better and assumed clear, being the lightest you can get, was best. I was wrong. It is a sign of over-hydration.
So there you go! Hopefully this information helps you as much as it did me. I will let you know if there are any other benefits/downsides to this experiment in balance.
For now, here are some pictures from my time on the preserve for your perusual and enjoyment: