Why hydration is important for mental health.
Not just about water
Many people think that hydration is defined by consuming adequate amounts of water, however, this truth has very little weight to it. It would be much more accurate to say that proper hydration is not merely consuming water, but is the proficiency by which your body is able to distribute the water. If there was any single element of physiology that we could say the body prioritizes over all other things, it is the distribution of water. When we talk about water, or more specifically the distribution of water, we cannot talk about it without talking about electrolytes. Electrolytes are metals such as sodium (salt) that define how water moves throughout cells and through the body. When the electrolytic balance is correct, the distribution of water will be correct. Now keep in mind that one is not more important than the other, for if we lack water or electrolytes, the body will cease to function properly. So we need both.
The importance of electrolytes
The more difficult topic is electrolytes. What are these electrolytes and how do we know we are getting the right amount? Electrolytes are molecules with an electrical charge that change electrical gradients in water. These gradients then have the ability to move water such as a gravitational gradient of a river flowing down a mountain. Because our cells operate on such a delicate water balance, they must have an acute ability to control how much water is in them and around them. To do this they have proteins that act as pumps for the electrolytes. Yes, the cells don’t move the water as water molecules are small and monotonous, but they can move electrolytes and the electrolytes can move the water. The key electrolyte pairs are sodium / potassium, calcium / magnesium with manganese as magnesiums helper in balancing calcium.
Not only do electrolytes work in the distribution of water, but they also have a big role in muscle contraction and nervous system activity. The muscles and brain rely heavily on electricity to function. That electricity is controlled and maintained by the electrolytes and other metals that can change the way nerves fire. There are little particles of metals between nerve cells that determine the firing rates of the neurons. If the metals aren’t in balance the nerve cells might fire to easily or not fire at all which can be caused by nerve cell damage. It would be like cutting the wires to the lights in your house. In order for the wire to work, it needs to be consistent from beginning to end. Even one little snip in the wire means your lights wont work at all. The body works in the same way as it must transmit hundreds of electrical signals per second through these wire-like strings called nerves. Although the same applies to brain cells as well. So if there is any lack in electrolytes, the brain and nerve cells will begin to behave much differently. Therefore, making electrolytes critical for mental health and mental performance.
So what could we do better?
One thing to watch out for is filtered water through reverse osmosis. This special filtered water became a health trend in the mid 2000’s but later the companies were sued because they found the water was so pure that it was devoid of any minerals or electrolytes, and it changed the gradients of the body in such a way it was pulling electrolytes out of the body and causing severe health problems. Everything in our body works on gradients, too pure of water can actually pull vital electrolytes out of our body and cause harm. Also, if we consume too much water, it can have the same effect.
The other really important factor regarding hydration is the use of stimulants. Because stimulants like caffeine along with many other plants or drugs can have a diuretic effect (losing water retention), that we can lose valuable electrolytes in the process. Our body will prefer to hold onto the more essential minerals, but still, with every drink of coffee, some will get lost. For this reason, it is really important for those taking caffeinated beverages, nootropics, or any kind of stimulant, to ensure that one is consuming a proper amount of minerals and electrolytes.
How do we stay more well hydrated?
In nature, humans would get our drinking water from wells and streams that contained massive amounts of diverse minerals. Nowadays, everything is highly filtered and sterilized so finding these precious sources of water can be difficult in our modern day society. There are actually many youtube videos about water connoisseurs who look for and praise naturally mineralized waters as healing medicines, pulling samples from exotic places such as the alps and the volcanoes of iceland. But the easiest way to find water with all the electrolytes is coconut water. Coconut water contains the 5 essential electrolytes mentioned before, it tastes good, and can be found in most grocery stores. Most stores also offer mineral water next to the water as an alternative. It might cost a dollar extra, but it wouldn’t be wise to sacrifice our mental health for a dollar, so if you can find mineral water, it would be best to go with that.
Another source for electrolytes is fruit. Particularly avocados and bananas have a decent amount of magnesium putting them at the top of the list. Although, most fruits contain a decent amount of electrolytes because they came from a plant that also requires electrolytes for its survival. The reason we put avocado and banana at the top of the list is not because they have the most electrolytes, but because they have the most magnesium of any fruit. Out of all the electrolytes, people statistically seem to be the most deficient in magnesium… by a long shot. So it would be preferable to prioritize your magnesium intake to maintain a healthy level of hydration.
Staying hydrated is a very important aspect of mental health and beyond that, a fundamental act of taking care of one’s self. A little self awareness is really all we need to make sure we consume enough water, but to allow our body to use the water properly for peak performance takes a little more thought. To do that we should try to consume water that contains electrolytes and minerals and avoid overly filtered water sources. Furthermore, it’s good to choose supplements that contain electrolytes. Many supplement brands will skip the electrolytes, but just make sure you pick a supplement that included a decent amount of electrolytes and minerals. For us, we take hydration very seriously as it is a critical component for building lasting brain health. For that reason we included over 72 minerals with key electrolytes into each of the Nootripure products. This helps build a healthy nervous system and leads to better mental health. When it comes to the mind, there is no shortcut worth taking. Nootripure is investing a lot into the mental health of the world. How much are you investing into your mental well-being?