Proper hydration for spinal health
If you are suffering from joint pain and stiffness, you may be overlooking a critical cause: dehydration. According to some estimates, 75 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated, which can lead to fatigue, slowed metabolism and decreased brain function, to name a few consequences. Dehydration is also a contributing factor to joint pain and stiffness, both in the spine and the extremities.
Our spinal column consists of 24 vertebrae with 23 discs in between. These discs consist of 88 percent water and serve as shock absorbers. In a state of dehydration, the water content in discs decreases, leading to increased friction in spinal joints, and ultimately degeneration. In contrast, a well-lubricated spine has smoother movement and less risk for degeneration and pain.
So how do you properly hydrate? A good rule of thumb is to drink half of your body weight in ounces of water. So, for example, a 160-pound adult should drink 80 ounces of water per day, or ten 8-ounce glasses. Water should be increased during perspiration, exercise, hot climates, and sauna/steam room use.
A second component of proper hydration is to add minerals to each glass of water to ensure proper absorption. A simple way to do this is to add a pinch of sea salt to your water bottle. Sea salt comes in a variety of brands – such as Celtic and Himalayan – and contains iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc and a host of other healthy nutrients that help us to absorb water into our cells.
In contrast, table salt should be avoided. Table salt has virtually no health benefits because of its processing; it is bleached, heated and ground to produce the hard white powder, leaving it devoid of nutrients. After consuming table salt, the body subsequently craves more salt – not for flavor, but because the body’s requirement for minerals was not satisfied.
If you begin to become dehydrated, your body will look to retrieve water from your spine, so drinking abundant amounts of water throughout the day remains an important way of maintaining your spinal health.
With over 20 years of experience as a specialist in the upper cervical spine, Upper Cervical Chiropractor Dr. Erin Elster, D.C., has maintained a practice on Maui for the past four years. For more information. or to schedule an appointment, contact Dr. Elster in Kahului at (808) 866-6551 or www.erinelster.com.