Friday, September 23, 2016

Balancing Water and Sleep

Did you know the average adult is around 60% water and continued water circulation is essential for health? With sufficient water our bodies run better. Metabolism speeds up, toxins are efficiently removed, overall pain and headaches are reduced; you eat healthier, digest your food better, and experience more energy. Lack of water deteriorates the body’s functions fostering obesity, diabetes, heart issues, even cancer. Recommendations for the appropriate amount of daily water consumption vary greatly, and are rarely met by most people. Some suggest men should consume 15 cups of water per day, others say 13 cups, and more recently the number has been reduced to 8 cups. For women the numbers are lower with 13, 9, and 8 cups respectively being recommended. From many naturopaths I hear the figure of 10 cups, or 80 ounces for an adult male and 70 ounces for an adult female. Here’s the point, water is important and if you are not drinking at least 64 ounces (8 cups) per day, you are doing your body a disservice. Other beverages count for little in the hydration process. Drinking 8 cups of coffee, tea, juice, sports drinks, or soda such as Coke does not have the same effect as water. These beverages can provide dangerous side effects from too much sugar, caffeine, or unwanted additives; many are diuretic in nature and offer poor hydration. So for the majority of your beverages stick with clean water for true health.

Now with the amount of water necessary for proper health, and cleansing the body of toxins, we must consider the other end of the equation. Given a state of equilibrium all that water going in has to come out somewhere. And for many seniors this creates a serious problem resulting in lack of sleep when too many trips to the potty are taken throughout the night. Prolonged lack of sleep can further depress the immune system exacerbating health issues such as cancer.

So let’s take a more detailed look at the water process and how to best mitigate the flow to achieve a restful night. Simply put, when you drink water it travels through the stomach, through the small intestine, and then into the large intestine where it’s absorbed. From here it works its way into blood vessels and travels around the body eventually making its way to the liver, heart and lungs, and then to the kidneys. The two kidneys, located on each side of the abdomen, are part of the body’s filtering system, and it is here that water and toxins are removed from the blood. They also remove excess drugs, balance bodily fluid, control the production of red blood cells, help to regulate blood pressure, and produce a form of vitamin-d. Keeping you kidneys healthy with enough water flowing through is critical for good health. From the kidneys, water now as urine travels through two tubes called ureters into the single bladder. As the bladder fills with urine it expands like a balloon. When the bladder signals it is full, a valve at the bottom opens and you pee. A healthy bladder can hold around 2 cups of urine before signaling its time to pee, and a healthy body takes around 45 minutes for water to flow through your system. If you are well hydrated it may flow faster, and if you are dehydrated your body will retain more fluid so your bladder will fill slower.

Whether you drink a lot of water, or little during your waking hours, the kidneys are always producing urine ridding our bodies’ of toxic wastes. No matter how much you drink the bladder is constantly filling at different rates. Even if you stopped drinking fluids your kidneys would happily keep making urine until your body is deficient in water. Then your body would gradually grind to a halt from accumulated toxins. Sufficient water is essential to keep us alive. So no matter what you do, your bladder is filling at night. Fortunately the body, knowing your need for rest, is designed to slow the process by making a hormone at night retarding kidney functions. With slower bladder filling you sleep soundly through the night. Until you start to age, and the system starts to get tired or break down.

As you age there are a multitude of issues that can cause a sense of urgency, waking one throughout the night for a trip to the bathroom. And the older you get the more trips you may be making. Studies have shown, when one is younger and healthy say at 25, there will be an average of 6 trips to pee in a day (within 24 hours); and rarely is there a bathroom break needed at night. But by the age of 55 there are approximately 8 trips to pee with usually one trip to the bathroom in the middle of the night. And by the age of 65, many seniors are naturally making 1.4 to 2 trips to pee in the night. In other words on every night most seniors will have 1 bathroom trip, and some nights two. If your bathroom routine is busier than these schedules, it’s suggested you seek the help of a medical professional to evaluate why. And though these are the averages many seniors discover as they grow older some nights, seeming at random, have more trips to pee than others. The question becomes, why. Let’s see if we can shed some light on this subject.

There are many reasons for waking more often to pee in the night. It may be something as simple as decreased bladder elasticity due to age, overactive bladder muscles, or you having trained your bladder to retain less fluid. Bladder training can come from making unnecessary frequent trips to the bathroom because you are worried about needing to pee at an inopportune time. As your bladder becomes use to voiding before it is properly full the muscles and elasticity change to recognize the process and will naturally duplicate it later. You have essentially trained your bladder to void early. The solution for this condition may be Kegel exercises to improve bladder control or consciously extending the time between trips to pee.

Another easy fix comes when fluids are consumed too close to bedtime. People often consume 30% to 40% of their fluids during or after a late dinner. To resolve the problem this creates, you will want to consume the majority of your beverages before 4:00pm leaving roughly a half cup of water or beverage for diner, and just enough fluid to take any pills in the later evening.

Then there are the types of foods and beverages consumed late at night. Many act as diuretics causing the kidneys to go into overtime, filling the bladder quicker and more often during the night. If you are having frequent bathroom calls disturbing your sleep, foods and beverages you may want to stay away from in the latter part of the evening include: citrus fruits, pineapple, peaches, watermelon, oats, celery, Brussels sprouts, ginger, beets, cabbage, eggplant, carrots, artichoke, asparagus, alcohol, chocolate, all spicy foods, apple cider vinegar, coffee, caffeinated tea, all excessive sugary drinks and desserts, and all caffeinated beverages. It’s not that these foods and beverages are all ‘bad’ for you. In fact many are extremely healthy for a good diet. It is just that they can trigger your kidneys to produce more urine. Therefore, if you enjoy many of these foods as I do, eat them earlier in the day to reduce those unwanted bedtime bathroom trips.

While there is a long list of foods and beverages that may trigger more urine at night, there are few options that could slow the process. True licorice, not just artificial flavoring, can be antidiuretic when taken in the evening but it is not wise to use if you have high blood pressure or stomach issues. The herb valerian often used for insomnia, anxiety, and to reduce nervous restlessness also has antidiuretic properties but it can loose effectiveness with extended use; and valerian should not be used by anyone experiencing depression. So check with your doctor first.

Of course there can be more difficult issues at work causing you to wake too often. For many people the trigger can be intermittent snoring resulting in sleep apnea. When one’s airway becomes restricted the heart muscle trying to correct blood flow puts out a hormone called atrial natriuretic peptide that has the additional effect of increasing urine production. In this case when sleep apnea is corrected the bathroom calls at night often disappear. Another more serious heart issue causes fluid to collect in the legs during the day. Because of this, if you find yourself retaining fluid in your legs it’s wise to get your heart checked. Regarding sleep, excess fluid in the legs will be released back into the upper body throughout the night. To reduce this excess fluid, the kidneys will repeatedly fill the bladder. The sleep solution for this problem is laying down with your feet elevated above the level of your heart for an hour or two in the late afternoon and early evening. This allows you to rid your body of excess fluids before bedtime.

Another area to consider is that many medications such as blood pressure meds, and supplements, have diuretic effects. If you are having sleep issues be sure to ask your doctor(s) about the diuretic effects of any medications and supplements taken in the evening. If the meds are required, your doctor may come up with a different schedule for their administration.

Finally there are more complex far-reaching issues such as diabetes, infections, enlarged prostate, obesity, and neurodegenerative disorders that may cause one to wake more frequently at night. The solution to these could be as easy as loosing weight, an antibiotic for infection, special supplements to shrink or improve an enlarged prostate; or as difficult as prescriptions or surgery. The key point to remember is, if you are experiencing recent unexplained changes in your sleep-bathroom patterns, and changing your diet and fluid intake patterns does not make immediate improvement, it’s time to consult a professional to find out why. My recommendation is to consult both a ND and MD for advice in this matter, as they will approach the issue from different viewpoints giving you a multitude of options from which to choose.

Quality sleep is so very important for one’s health. As we become older it appears that our urinary system tends to get tired, and getting up once per night to pee is often the norm. This can be OK as long as we allow enough time to return to bed and gather additional rest. The real problem comes when our sleep pattern is disturbed too often during the night. Research studies have shown there is a strong relationship between lack of sleep and prostate, colorectal, and breast cancers. There is a twofold risk of developing prostate cancer with ongoing major sleep disturbance; a 50% increased risk of colorectal cancer for those sleeping less than 6 hours per night; and a much higher likelihood of aggressive breast cancer with lack of sleep. Both sleep and water are vital to a healthy immune system, so monitor your water intake, get plenty of rest, and seek professional help when needed. More information regarding the value of sleep may be found in my book, Release Prostate Cancer Now! available on 

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