Experiencing Puffiness, Bloating or Edema? The Importance of Hydration & Electrolytes


Mikkie Nettles


February 19, 2022

A hot summer day is here and out of nowhere your ankles are suddenly puffy and your fingers like sausages. This short-term minor imbalance does not usually warrant extreme caution, but it is a sign that we should pay attention to.

Why does this happen?  

Common causes include not being well-climatized for a hot day, or you simply spending a lot of time in the sun. (Summer is usually a culprit for this!) The body is notable for  keeping itself in homeostasis (a state of balance) in many ways. One of these key ways is through the balance of electrolytes which include the minerals Magnesium, Phosphorus, Calcium, Potassium and Sodium. Here is what can happen when we experience an imbalance of the electrolytes:

  • A higher concentration of minerals in cells results in water following into the cells (through a process known as osmosis)
  • A large amount of water  in the cells results in a dilution and  minerals follow by being brought into the cells (diffusion)

It may seem odd to think that  dehydration  is related to retaining water. However, it makes sense for cell salvation. Cells are aware of danger and go into a ‘water starvation’ mode, hanging onto what’s around them, not letting go and thus retaining water.

Here are some signs of dehydration:

  • Puffiness (especially palms, feet and legs)
  • Dark yellow and thick urine
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Dry skin
  • Thirst, or thirst not being quenched.
  • Sweet food cravings.  This is a result of the body’s impacted ability to absorb nutrients properly when dehydrated. The liver needs water to release energy (breaking down the stored glucose), so the body responds by signalling  for a quick energy source such as glucose (a type of sugar). This results in the sweet cravings when we really just need some water!

The electrolytes

The 3 main electrolytes that are involved in fluid balance are sodium, chloride (sodium and chloride are often found together as table salt) and potassium.  These are commonly found  in sport supplementation drinks.  The addition of  salt and sugar in these drinks help with the co-absorption of sodium and glucose which takes place in the colon.  The increase in minerals into the gut results in the reabsorption of water at the same time. This is important to prevent the loss of  large amounts of water into the feces, causing dehydration and diarrhea. Potassium on the other hand helps with sodium exchange, keeping the important balance of electrolytes between cells.

Is it possible to be over-hydrated?

Overhydration is possible and has some of the similar signs as dehydration which can lead to  potentially severe consequences.Here are a few mindful  guidesfor water intake that can help with water and electrolyte balance!:

  1. The 8x8 rule
    8oz of water for 8 times spread throughout the day
  1. The 1x1 rule:
    Do not exceed more than 1 liter of water in 1 hour, to prevent overexertion  on the kidneys
  2. When exercising strenuously add 8oz of water every 15 minutes as sweating will draw water out of the body.

A balancing act with water/electrolytes

Including electrolytes can help with  dehydration or overhydration and managing mild symptoms such as bloating or puffiness.However, if you have more severe signs (vomiting, diarrhea, fever, confusion, seizures), please SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION.

While most of the water we get comes from our beverages, about 20% also comes from the food we eat! Here are some ways to  balance your electrolytes in addition to supplementation or sports drinks :

Eat high water content foods such as cucumbers, watermelon, cantaloupe, tomatoes and or strawberries. These have a very high water content and will have some electrolytes too.

  1. Make a lemon drink with 2 cups water with juice from half a lemon, 2 tsp honey and 1/8 tsp salt
  2.  Enjoy an easy watermelon slush by blending 1 cup watermelon chunks , 1 cup water, 2 tsp maple syrup and 1/8 tsp salt.
  3. Have some  coconut water occasionally if you’d like!
  4. For an easy and complete electrolyte drink, mix 2 cups water with a ¼ cup of a sports drink of your choice!

Now you have an easy/adaptable recipe for good hydration!

Mikkie Nettles, Certified Personal Trainer/Holistic & Sports Nutritionist

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