Water is RA's best friend
During the dog days of summer, we often don’t need much of a reminder to stay hydrated as thirst is a constant companion, but remembering to stay hydrated when summer ends is a crucial habit.
Drinking water needs to be a daily and consistent part of our lives from the time we wake up until we head to bed. This is true for everyone, especially for those with joint issues like rheumatoid arthritis. Not because it is a “treatment” but rather a necessary part of keeping our bodily systems healthy, which includes our joints.
The benefits of water
Remember that even though dehydration may not be directly linked to flares, getting the proper amount of water serves several key purposes that influence our RA. Hydration is a key to eliminating toxins which, in turn, reduces inflammation. Well-hydrated cartilage reduces friction in our joints, making them less likely to swell and cause pain.1
Drinking water promotes healthy joints in several ways. It can stimulate the production of synovial fluid, the joint lubricant we need to move more efficiently and comfortably. Inflammation is one of the many symptoms of RA and can make our lives miserable. Consistent and sufficient water intake reduces inflammation and supports circulation. It also helps to prevent muscle cramps. When exercising, it is especially important to stay adequately hydrated to avoid dehydration.1 It is so easy to get wrapped up in physical activity and forget to hydrate. I set reminders on my phone so that I can take a break and hydrate throughout my workout.
Dehydration is bad news for RA
Speaking of dehydration, it can have very serious consequences. Dehydration can enhance chronic muscle and joint pain, slow down the rate of healing, and increase the chances of injury. Water helps hydrate discs between the vertebrae in your spine and prevents your tendons, ligaments, and muscles from becoming tight and stiff. In addition, many of the medications prescribed for RA pass through the liver and kidneys, so keeping our bodies hydrated helps those organs stay healthy and process those medications.
Signs of dehydration include:
- Feeling thirsty
- Dark yellow or strong-smelling urine
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
- Dryness of the mouth, eyes, and lips
- Urinating less than normal or fewer than 3-4 times a day
My hydration routine
It can be helpful to set up a routine to ensure you drink enough water every day. Some suggestions include:
- Setting a reminder on your phone or an app to keep you on target
- Avoid or limit dehydrating beverages like alcohol or caffeinated drinks
- Drink water with added electrolytes
- Add interesting things to your water like lemon or lime
- Eat water-enriched foods like melons or soups
- Track how much you drink if you are finding that you are falling short each day
- Consider a reusable container so you can fill and refill it throughout the day
- Keep water by your bedside. Not only is it there to drink, but it is the first thing you see in the morning and acts as a great reminder to start your day.
What lifestyle changes have you found to be most helpful in managing your RA?
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