When clients tell me about their chronic diarrhea, they often complain about how tired and exhausted they feel. I think many people don’t realize that dehydration may be the culprit!
It’s important to remember that when you have a lot of diarrhea, you are losing water, as well as essential electrolytes sodium and potassium. Extreme losses of these electrolytes can have harmful effects on your body. Symptoms of low sodium (called hyponatremia) are lethargy, restlessness, irritability, muscle cramps, and in severe cases, coma. Low potassium (called hypokalemia) can cause muscle cramping and dangerous heart irregularities.
The body has a special active transport system to get sodium into the body. Sodium needs to be coupled with glucose to travel across the cell membrane. That’s why all good electrolyte replacements have both glucose and sodium, as well as potassium.
When you have had a bad “diarrhea day”, are you replacing your electrolytes? Many people just drink water or slurp down Gatorade. Gatorade is not a bad option, but I have a few alternate choices:
- In a pinch, I like to use Propel. It is mainly water, but has contains some sodium and potassium.
- Pediatric electrolyte (i.e. Pedialyte) solutions are pretty high on my list of rehydration beverages, but let’s be realistic here. No one (including kids) likes the taste, and who wants to drive to the store when you have bad diarrhea? That said, it may be worth it to find a brands you like and keep some on hand.
- My favorite product out there is called Ceralyte. Here is their website for more information: http://www.ceraproductsinc.com/productline/ceralyte.html The only downside, is you usually have to order it online because not many stores readily carry their products.
- Another option is to make your own solution. Some taste better than others. Here are a couple of recipes:
- World Health Organization (WHO)– 1 level tsp salt (sodium chloride), 8 level tsp sugar, 4oz Orange Juice, mixed in 1 liter of clean water.
- The Rehydration Project– 1qt or liter of water, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp baking soda, 2 TBSP sugar or honey. Stir until salt and sugar dissolve.
- Electrolytes can also be replaced with food and other drinks, if your tummy will tolerate it.
- Examples are: canned vegetable juices, canned soups, etc.
How much rehydration is needed? Good question. Actually, one of the ways you can tell your hydration level is to watch the color of your urine… if it is dark yellow and malodorous, you are still dehydrated. Continue rehydrating until your urine is pale yellow in color, and you are urinating every 2-4 hours.
Keywords: dehydration, rehydration, electrolytes, Ceralyte, Pedialyte