Sometimes Water Just Isn't Enough: Electrolytes

Last updated: September 2022

I have always been a hydrating person. Since my college days, at least, it was rare that you did not see me with a water bottle nearby. Even when I was working, I typically had 2 beverages nearby at all times.

However, getting a urostomy was an adjustment. Following that closely with chemotherapy was a bigger adjustment. Many chemotherapies can cause dehydration. During that time, I also started an anti-depressant, Lexapro. One of the initial side effects was getting a cottonmouth. I felt like I was constantly thirsty.

I'm not going to lie. I struggled. I don't recall just how much water I had daily in those early days. I know it had to have been a lot. I felt like I should have been floating away at times!

Battling dehydration

My friends supplied me with Pedialyte (beverages and popsicles) and Powerade. Pedialyte flavors were not great. To this day, I have popsicles I haven't used. Powerade was a challenge to get as I'm picky about their flavors and the cases were heavy. I didn't always have the manpower to deal with the heavy cases or to send someone to the store to get enough to last me a while. I couldn't deal with either thing on my own in those days. I've never really liked Gatorade.

At that point, my knowledge of electrolytes was pretty much limited to those 3 choices. I was getting tired of those choices.

Cue electrolyte

As time passed and I was out of active treatment, I figured out that even with drinking 80 to 104 oz (or more!) of water daily, I was still feeling dehydrated. I needed to incorporate electrolyte beverages into my daily routine. Once I realized that, I started feeling better bit by bit. That feeling became more frequent.

You see, when you are only drinking water, you are flushing out a lot of the things that are in your body... Possibly both toxins and the vitamins and minerals your body actually needs. Incorporating electrolytes may be one way to equalize the playing field.

Yes, this really was a game-changer for me!

Pickle juice?

I recalled hearing the medical team I worked with discussing that several patients they saw swore by using pickle juice to get and stay hydrated. I recalled my dad forcing my brother and me to drink pickle juice when we had Charlie horses as kids.

I always thought it might be an old wives' tale or some Appalachian herbal remedy or something. It does help, though. Still, pickles have a lot of salt in them, especially if they are store-bought. That much salt isn't good for anyone, so I couldn't only drink pickle juice.

Just for the record, there actually are clinical studies that prove that pickle juice helps with hydration. You can find them on the National Institute of Health's library, and many studies have free access.

At one point, some of the doctors I worked with suggested coconut water to help with hydration. It does help, but I typically need to mix it with some fruit juice or an electrolyte flavor packet. I didn't care for it plain.

Electrolytes and a urinary diversion

At that time, I had not yet plugged into the ostomy community. I was like a horse at the racetrack - with blinders on. Instead of the track, all I could see was the cancer portion of what I was going through.

I didn't have a computer or tablet then, so I took to Google on my little phone screen. I started doing some research on electrolyte options. I needed some packets to mix in water so I could take some with me without needing to carry water bottles with me constantly. During treatment, I was using a walker and, eventually, a wheelchair. Dealing with water bottles was just too much at the time.

Eventually, I regained strength and could carry bottles around again, but I still needed the electrolytes. I didn't want to carry many bottles with me, so I wanted to find stick packets of powder to mix in. That way, I could put them in my purse or backpack and take them everywhere I went. This was also really helpful with needing to hydrate while traveling!

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