Diaries of the Dehydrated

How and why you probably need to drink more water

Greetings! I was sitting here watching the movie Waterworld for the first time and became inspired to write about, well, water.

I am BLOWN away on a weekly (and sometimes daily) basis with the amount of individuals whom I am certain do not drink enough water for optimal health. What shocks me even further is when someone says they “don’t like the taste of water.” What the…? You mean that tasteless, plain, clear stuff that is essential for life? Ok…

Here is a fun fact about water: you need it to live. Don’t drink much of it? Here are some problems you can face if you are anti-hydration:

  • Fatigue. Although I am a big fan of coffee myself, coffee is not the solution for persistent fatigue; water is. Caffeine may give you that little zing it takes to get going, but we all know it wears off eventually, which leads us to reach for it again…and again…and again. Meanwhile, all that caffeine is increasing the frequency by which you pee…leading to further dehydration…and subsequently even more fatigue.
  • Kidney stones. Without a shadow of a doubt, the #1 reason an individual develops kidney stones is inadequate hydration. There are other factors that can contribute, but chronic dehydration takes the cake. Period. Read more here.
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs). Without consistent urine output throughout the day, bacteria have more of a chance to set up shop in your urinary tract. If you’ve never had a UTI, you’re lucky. I used to get them frequently as a child, so I learned this lesson the hard way. They. Hurt.
  • Dry skin. Although the lip balm and lotion industry moguls won’t tell you this, drinking adequate water is the #1 way to ensure your lips and skin stay moisturized. Some people have dry skin no matter what (I happen to be one of them). No matter how much water I drink, I have dry feet, lips, and hands most of the time. However, I can still notice increased dryness when I am not drinking enough water. Furthermore, you need just as much (if not more) water in the winter as you need in the summer.
  • Difficulty with critical thinking. The brain is composed (or supposed to be composed) of more than 70% water. Your brain cannot possibly function optimally when chronically dehydrated.
  • Headaches.  Although there are countless causes of headaches, dehydration is on the short list. The next time you get an unexpected headache, retrace your water intake over they past 24 hours. I think you might just find a correlation.
  • Constipation.  The two most common causes of constipation are inadequate fiber and inadequate water.  What often happens though, is a constipated person thinks “oh, I’ll just take some Metamucil!  That’ll do the trick!”  However, increasing fiber intake without increasing water intake will only make you more constipated.  Fiber & water & your gut are all BFFs.  Try not to separate them.  Fiber + water = softer turds.

There are all sorts of calculations for fluid intake; some are more likely to be accurate than others. And we’ve all heard the “drink 8 (8 oz) glasses of water per day” adage. However, estimated fluid needs depend on many factors such as physical activity, humidity, etc.; so needs amongst individuals can vary widely.

It’s not that difficult to achieve optimal hydration. Most people need to aim for a minimum of about 60-80 ounces of water per day. Some people need close to double that amount. We also obtain some water from the foods we eat, especially vegetables and fruit (see, one more reason to eat them!).

While technically all fluids count toward your hydration, you benefit from making most of your fluid intake come from water. Caffeinated beverages count against you, so try to drink twice as much water as caffeinated beverages (2 mugs of water for every mug of coffee, for example). This strategy is not a “get out of jail free card” for drinking all the coffee you want; still try to limit your coffee intake to 2-3 cups per day.

Sugary beverages create far more harm than good, so limiting/avoiding them is prudent (soda, lemonade, sweet tea, fruit juice, Koolaid, etc.). While it seems all the rage to put that fake-sugar stuff in your water, stop it! First of all, eating or drinking neon colored anything is not good for you. (I can’t believe I have to say that, but I do.) Second, artificial sweeteners have been found to be damaging to the good bacteria in your gut. Why does this matter? The health of your gut is the absolute end-all-be-all-foundation of your health. If your gut is unhealthy, rest assured that many other aspects of your health will be too. Take care of your pooper! We want to promote the health of the good bacteria in there, not destroy it. Fake sugar is not better than real sugar; they both are things to avoid as best as humanly possible.

Water infusion is a great way to flavor water with some benefits and no risk. Although it sounds fancy, water infusion simply entails you putting a small bit of something in your water, such as a piece of lemon or lime. Try a hunk of cucumber. Throw a slice of orange in there. Some put herbs, spices, and/or combinations of fruits together. Unsweetened brewed herbal tea (consumed hot or iced) is another risk-free beneficial way to drink plenty of water. I bought a coconut mango tea the other day that was delish. Get crazy!

Until next time, bottoms up!

 

xoxo

~Casey

Bacon-wrapped Butter for Breakfast

Facts About

Today was reluctantly brought to you by ketogenic diets (aka Atkins). I have to admit, for a second there I thought that there were some promising aspects about ketogenic diets.  I always had viewed them as a sly way for people to eat all the bacon and butter they can shove down the hatch.  Turns out I was (and still am) mostly right about that…but there’s more to it, so I suggest you put your feet up, and read on.

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In a nutshell, ketogenic diets entail eating ridiculous amounts of fat, some protein, and very little carbohydrate. The theory is that by reducing carbs to almost nothing, we shift the body into a state of burning mainly body fat/dietary fat for energy. Sounds great, right? Eat a bunch of fatty, delicious foods while watching the pounds just melt away? Sign me up! NOT.

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For one, most people who are getting their nutrition information from their bros at the gym are not even doing it right. For ketosis to occur (aka for the body to be relying more on burning up stored fat for fuel), the diet has to be predominantly FAT, with moderate amounts of protein. However, typically those I see who “think” they are doing a ketogenic diet are eating a boat-load of protein. What’s the problem, you ask? Well, if ample protein is present, the body will rely more heavily on gluconeogenesis (aka production of glucose from protein in this case) rather than producing ketones. The body always prefers glucose to ketones when given the option.

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For two, although there are many studies that tout the benefits of a ketogenic diet, there are some significant factors to keep in mind while deciphering this research:

  • In the studies that mention huge improvement to trigyceride levels and blood sugar levels, what they DON’T ever mention is what the test subjects’ lifestyles were like prior to a ketogenic diet. In other words, if you were eating bags of Cheetos and drinking gallons of Coke every day, then a ketogenic diet might actually be a little healthier for you in terms of less substrate available to make triglycerides and/or raise blood sugar levels. However, if you are a relatively healthy person, and you embark upon a true ketogenic diet, it can have some negative effects on your overall heart health.
  • MANY of the studies that showed a significant initial weight loss in the beginning (first few weeks) of a ketogenic diet admit that it is a significant loss of water weight (loss of glycogen = loss of water), AND that after several more weeks/months, the subjects’ weight often returned to baseline. In other words, people either lost the ability to truly stick to this restrictive style of eating, or the rapid loss of weight made them feel invincible and able to eat anything, or both…
  • Although it sounds novel to think about being able to eat all the fat you want, this diet is very limiting and restrictive. Therefore most people can’t stick with it, so any benefits are temporary (as are most diets, so stop it!). A ketogenic diet doesn’t mean you get all the bacon cheeseburgers or ice cream you want. In fact, ice cream would not be allowed; nor would the bun on the cheeseburger or any French fries. So, a ketogenic meal would be high in fat but mediocre on the protein side; and forget about fruit, milk, yogurt, many vegetables, whole grains, etc. What I find amusing is that after a quick search of a nice example of a ketogenic meal to show you, most of what I found would not put you into “ketosis;” rather, it would encourage gluconeogenesis from the significant emphasis on protein. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
  • A “low carb eating style” is not at all the same as a “ketogenic diet.” In fact, most people I know who do “low carb” actually (and without even realizing it) are eating appropriate, moderate amounts of carbohydrate. Keep in mind that many of us (me) grew up eating copious amounts of carbs at meals. Where I’m from, we typically would have meat, potatoes, corn, bread, milk, and dessert all at the same meal. Therefore, “low carb” to me was having potatoes OR corn, a smaller amount or no bread, a smaller portion of milk, and no dessert. Is it truly “low carb”? No. But it’s far more appropriate in serving sizes than what I used to eat. Furthermore, low-carb eating entails eating enough carbohydrates to allow you to get plenty of much-needed antioxidants, fiber, and micronutrients from whole grains, vegetables, fruit, dairy, etc. but without consuming excess that can/will be stored as fat.
  • Few of the bazillion studies I’ve read in the very recent past address the fact that because the diet (if truly ketogenic) is so limited, micronutrient deficiencies are bound to occur. If you have to take a supplement in order to get proper nutrition, therein lies a profound problem with your philosophy on eating in general…
  • Ketogenic diets actually DO have some clinical relevance with regard to active cancer and epiliepsy. Here are some theories on why:
    • Cancer:
      • Cancer cells have a much bigger need for glucose than “normal” cells. The theory behind some emerging research on applying a ketogenic diet to active cancer is that you are “starving” the cancer cells. In other words, by reducing the glucose available for the cancer cells, they are forced to take up ketones. However, unlike normal cells, the cancer cells don’t fare so well with using ketones for energy. Therefore, ultimately the cancer is thought to die.
      • Please keep in mind though, that a ketogenic diet is not the gold standard for cancer prevention, although in theory it might sound like a good strategy. The reason why is that a ketogenic diet is quite low in antioxidant phytochemicals, the stuff that comes from plants and helps us fight off free-radicals  Free-radicals are molecules that our bodies produce that can lead to cancer and/or other chronic health ailments. So, a diet rich in whole plant foods (vegetables, fruits, whole grains) to prevent cancer would be a better strategy overall.
    • Epilepsy:
      • A ketogenic diet has been around for ages with regard to treating people, especially kiddos, for seizures. The mechanism by which a state of ketosis reduces/prevents seizures is unclear; but the thought seems to be that individuals predisposed to seizures may be lacking some enzymatic capability to efficiently use glucose in the brain. By using a ketogenic diet, the brain can use ketones as the “plan B” for energy, thus reducing the incidence of seizures.
      • Again, keep in mind that although the kiddos reduce/eliminate seizures, they still are at risk for multiple other ailments from a long-term ketogenic diet, such as heart disease, nutrient deficiencies, etc.
      • Emerging research is starting to show some benefits with other neurological diseases, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  The jury is still out on those subjects, however.

If you know me personally, or if you’ve read ANY of my previous posts, you will not be surprised by what I’m about to say:  STOP DIETING. PLEASE. Unless you have active cancer or epilepsy, in which case I am begging you to arrange to meet 1:1 with a registered dietitian nutritionist to do it right instead of google-doing-it. Please.

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I am on board with low-carb eating, and I should probably do it more myself. Knowledge doesn’t always change behavior, so I indulge more than I should. Whatever. The difference, I feel, is indulging and knowing what you’re doing to your body versus indulging and thinking you’re doing something “good.”

Here’s a shocking revelation: eat real food, mostly non-starchy vegetables, some fruit, some whole grains, a decent amount of lean meat, eggs, or plant-based protein, some healthy fats, some milk or yogurt, and exercise more often. For that matter, just get up off the chair once in a while. If you are consistent with meal timing and amounts, you will learn to better listen to your body. Slow down with eating; eat about every 4ish hours (small meal or snack); and try to learn to enjoy life, including the foods you eat. Seek out ways to not only eat healthy foods, but enjoy healthy foods, and you will improve your health, your performance, your weight, or whatever it is you’re trying to improve through food choices.

XOXO,
Casey