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The Importance of Hydration for Gut Health

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Dehydration can lead to constipation, which is associated with decreased beneficial bacteria strains Bacteroides, Roseburia, and Coprococcusand. Constipation and decreased stool transit time is also linked with lower diversity in the gut. Not being adequately hydrated tends to increase gut symptoms, reiterating the link between hydration and gut function as well as the potential impact on the gut microbiota. 

Electrolytes are essential for proper hydration. Electrolytes can be easily lost when experiencing diarrhea or if you have had GI surgery, such as in a j-pouch. Electrolytes are essential minerals – sodium, magnesium, calcium, potassium that have many different functions in the body. These minerals are primarily required for: 

  • Fluid balance
  • Blood pressure
  • Muscle contraction
  • Nerve function 

                      We lose electrolytes primarily through sweat and urine, but we can also lose them by vomiting and diarrhea. If you are dehydrated and low in electrolytes, you might experience fatigue, nausea, headaches, muscle cramps, blood pressure changes, low energy, and just feeling off.  

Hydration for IBD Athletes

Hydration in exercise can be especially beneficial for the IBD athlete. 

Exercise creates a reduction of blood flow to the gut. Fun fact, up to an 80% reduction can happen! If blood flow is decreased by 50% or more, we can cause: 

  • Mucosal damage
  • Increased GI permeability (“leaky” gut barrier)
  • Nutrient malabsorption
  • Impaired gut-barrier function
  • GI bleeding 

This is especially likely when doing  higher intensity exercise or longer duration, while in high temperatures, and with exercising dehydrated. 

As you move, there is already some jostling happening in the gut causing varying degrees of aggravation.

In addition, dehydration can further increase permeability of the gut lining and cause more bleeding. Heat stress can injure the intestinal lining and reduce clearance of toxins.

The gut lining has a high turnover rate. This process requires a lot of energy and nutrients. It’s important to eat enough in order to help the gut function properly.