In 1834, British poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge penned “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” the tale of a seasoned, salty sailor who regales a fellow wedding guest with his account of a life on the seas. His story is both fascinating and tragic. Imagine, only salt water for miles – water everywhere – but not a drop that is drinkable.
As Coleridge knew in 1834, and your urologist can tell you today, too little or too much water can be a bad thing. And when it comes to urological problems, hydration – whether too little or too much – is key.
Dehydration and Urological Problems
Your urinary system is comprised of two kidneys, two ureters, bladder, and the urethra. Your organs rely on the urinary tract, which delivers hydration and acts as a sewage system to remove toxins and waste from your body.
Dehydration – not getting enough of the right liquid – can result in a number of issues impacting your overall health and well-being. The emphasis here is the “right liquids” – not sodas that are loaded with salt, sugars, or chemicals; caffeinated beverages that can act as diuretics, or alcohol, which can actually leave you dehydrated. While dehydration presents itself in many forms, from the inability to sweat to headaches and nausea, the two most common urinary tract ailments related to dehydration are urinary tract infections and kidney stones.
Urinary Tract Infections
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of your urinary system, although the majority involve the bladder and urethra in the lower urinary tract. UTIs can be very painful, and one can expect a dose of antibiotics before feeling themselves again. Nearly 96 percent of UTIs occur in women, but men are susceptible as well.
There are substances found in urine – such as calcium, oxalate and uric acid – that can stick together and even crystalize. The kidney stone forms where there are more crystallized particles in your urine than actual fluid that can dilute them. When you become dehydrated, these substances can’t be easily flushed from your body, resulting in kidney stones.
Overhydration: Water, water everywhere!
One would think the more water the better. But the ancient mariner knew that wasn’t always a good thing. In fact, too much water can throw your body into a tailspin. That’s because you actually might flush out too much of the good stuff – sodium and potassium – and cause an imbalance of electrolytes in the brain. When the sodium levels in your blood drop, it’s called hyponatremia, also known as water intoxication. As your kidneys go into overdrive trying to process and excrete all the excess liquids, they can shut down, causing nausea, vomiting, headache, lethargy, confusion, seizures, or coma.
So how much water is too much? Your body will let you know if you are properly hydrating, but you have to be able to read the signs, especially when it comes to your urinary health. The color of your urine is a good clue: optimally you hope for the color of light lemonade. Too dark? You are dehydrated. Too light or clear? You may be overhydrated. Cloudy or with traces of blood? Chances are good you may have a UTI.
It’s important to stay hydrated and to keep in tune with your urinary health.
If you notice cloudiness or blood in your urine, or are experiencing excruciating kidney, back, or flank pain, you may want to seek immediate medical attention. Contact the experts at Ironwood Urology who can determine the severity of your condition and ensure proper action is taken. To learn more, call Dr. Desi Avila Jr. at (480) 961-2323, or request an appointment online.