Lavender: “Are you sure I should keep buying Gatorade to function out in public? I could just stop going anywhere until it cools down. In theory, in two or three months it will start being human-livable again.”
Partner: “Complain less. Guzzle more. You are the only one being weird about paying for the hydration drinks that you need to stay functional. You are supposed to be drinking a gallon of liquid per day. You are the only one fighting putting money into the things that are necessary for Lavenders to function.”
Lavender: “But, look how much Gatorade costs. And, I need multiples of it to get through just one trip out…”
Partner: “You need multiples of it even if you don’t go out. The liquid requirement doesn’t only apply to days you leave the house.”
Lavender: “Which would then be even more expensive…”
Partner: “You could always just drink more water. You know what has been hydrating people effectively for thousands of years? Water.”
Lavender: “But plain water has such an unpleasant taste and texture. The only thing more sensory-bothersome that I can think of than plain water with ice is plain water without ice. I don’t know how you do it! But, Gatorade is scary expensive. What I need is a sugar free – but not artificially sugar free such that it triggers migraines – drink that is almost exactly like water, costs pennies on the dollar, but has just a little bit of different flavor and some texture. Also, maybe the hydration drink could include just a teaspoon or two of regular sugar or a little acidic bite just for the sensory stimulation.”
Partner: “So, you’re saying you really wish someone would ever invent tea?”
Hydration is hard. And, for the neurodiverse at least, the sensory experiences of food and drinks can matter, a lot. I don’t usually tend to think of myself as someone on the high end of the need for “safe foods” spectrum, but when I think about my aversion to some very specific items – chief among them water itself – I have to acknowledge that I am not exactly immune to sensory issues around food or drink, either.
I have never been able to tolerate plain water. I don’t really have a great explanation for it. It just feels – and tastes – so like nothing to me that its very lack of taste and texture is bothersome. It is low-grade painful to have to consume a full 8oz glass plain water. I feel the same way about vodka. (I don’t even want to mentally revisit my experience a couple of years ago with being given unflavored barium solution for a colonoscopy/endoscopy. What the drink led to later wasn’t even the issue for me. Too much honey alone has caused roughly the same gastrointestinal effects for me more times than I’d care to admit in my life. The most painful part of that experience for me was that that solution somehow managed to be even more “waterlike” than water itself. It felt like water, only heavier somehow. *Shudder*. )
I can barely get down a glass of plain water. My Partner is the opposite. He keeps his own Rubbermaid quart bottle of un-iced water on the counter and manages to go through multiple quarts of it daily. He also finds a lot of soda-like drinks like Gatorade “too sweet.” The preferred taste and texture of hydration vehicles seems to me, at least anecdotally, to be one of those very personal sensory issues for the neurodiverse just as much as our preferred type and texture of personal stim/fidget items.
This kind of sucks because there is an emerging research link between Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and neurodiversity. As EDS’s comorbid conditions include dysautonomia, which forces us to consume far more of those tricky-to-navigate hydration vehicles, as well as other comorbid conditions such as GI issues, gastroparesis, food intolerances and/or migraines, getting our gallon+ of water daily for proper functioning is not fun.
Hydration – and the particular sources thereof – is particularly challenging with sensory issues and dysautonomia. But, in general, dehydration is a spoon-sapper for most forms of chronic illness.
We’ve been alternating between ninety-plus degree days and days where it pours down rain just enough to leave it in the eighties with eighty percent humidity. The weather forecast suggests it will hit almost 100 degrees this week. If you don’t hear from me again next week, just assume I’ll be back with another Subway Sociology entry eventually about what it its like to faint on a subway…
Given all of this, though, I don’t know why the bully-in-my-brain always gives me grief over buying $2.50 Gatorades just to get by in summer. It’s not like I haven’t learned first hand what the consequences are of not buying those Gatorades when I’m feeling dizzy and starting to see grey around the edges of my vision. I really have fainted on the subway. Multiple times. I can laugh about it, but there’s no hyperbole in that humor.
Self-care, though, is hard with toxic shame, and the bully-in-my-brain is not very accepting of the fact that my sensory issues are also real and deserving of accommodations. It thinks that I’m being “selfish” if I struggle to obtain hydration from a gallon of plain water + generic white salt pills alone. (I’m not sure if the pink Himalayan salt pills I spoke about a few weeks ago actually are more effective than white salt alone yet, but the taste difference is so marked there’s no contest, for anyone wondering!) It also is simultaneously convinced that the money invested in proper hydration to accommodate those issues – rather than being a worthwhile investment that will return a healthy ROI in the form of continuing to work – is somehow going to be what makes me less safe. Nobody ever said C-PTSD was rationale.
However, I’m at least getting better at finding a middle ground between buying Gatorade, with all its associated cost, calories and confectionary add-ins, and trying to choke down plain water alone. I’ve also gotten better at sneaking in extra forms of liquid into my diet in general, both in a glass and as part of other edible foodstuffs, to actually drink a gallon a day without going broke or feeling like I want to barf.
For this week’s Where’s Whoopsie, enjoy my portrayal of dysautonomia itself and a few of those tips tricks I’ve picked up over the years to sneak more hydration into my life in case you also happen to find it difficult to stay hydrated through water alone below:
1) Iced Tea: My Partner wasn’t wrong on this one. Tea basically is water that’s just a little more interesting. The most complicated part of drinking iced tea is usually preparing it, but cold-brewed iced tea exists now. And, it’s glorious. Also, lemon juice can be obtained in bottles and/or powders now, so you don’t have to remember to keep fresh lemons on hand.
2) Soups: Technically soups do require spoons to consume (at least if you want to be classy.) But, if you put them in a cup or in a glass, it’s fine by me. I’m not going to be the etiquette police. Cold soups are also much easier to make with a blender. Just dump in vegetables (such as parsnips) from a safe-for-your-diet recipe and hit “blend.”
3) Smoothies: This is very similar to the above. Dump in safe fruits, vegetables, maybe some protein powder or powdered hydration drink, add ice (if you want to be more cost-effective) or milk/yogurt and hit blend. Another trick for both saving money, dealing with ADHD forgetfulness, and avoiding prep work is to buy frozen fruits and veggies. They are cheaper than fresh fruits and vegetables, but they pack almost the same nutritional punch. Plus, it’s impossible for them to go bad. Even if you forget about them for months and they get freezer burned, that freezer burn just becomes a little extra water when added to the blender in the end. On sale, I’ve regularly been able to find frozen fruits and veggies for a dollar or less a bag. There is an initial cost investment in buying a blender or food processor, but these can often be found at Goodwill or on Craigslist/Facebook market etc. cheaply and are worth it over time.
4) Lemon Juice or Fruit in Water: Following off of the above, if you are going to keep jumbo quantities of bottled lemon juice and frozen fruits in your house to make iced tea and smoothies, but you still lack the spoons to do either, at least add one or more of them to plain water. It adds just a little bit of taste and texture that might be enough to be able to drink regular water without gagging.
5) Ice Chips or Popsicles: Sometimes it really is too much on an upset stomach to consume 8 fluid ounces of any liquid. But, sucking on ice chips, tea or other liquids frozen into ice cube trays or even popsicles (if you can handle the sugar) will work. It takes longer, but frozen liquids still hydrate like liquids. And, sometimes they are easier to “graze on” over time.
6) Tonic Water or Carbonated Water: I call this “fizzy water.” Because I’m weird. But, that extra bit of “fizziness” cuts the scary nothing “mouth feel” of plain water and helps me drink it. Tonic water also comes with a healthy dose of salt included. These can be expensive, but they are, at least, not as expensive as Gatorade or other true “hydration” drinks commonly marketed to athletes. They also give a hint of sweetness and soda-like qualities without any calories or sugar, if that’s an issue. And, like soda, they conveniently come in their own carrying case to take out with you if you lack the spoons or the focus to have cleaned out your water bottle.
7) Bone Broth: I’m pretty sure I have Mishka of Crafts, Chronic Illness and Adulting to thank for this one. It’s like a lazy person’s soup and/or water all in one. And, it likely helps with other nutritional deficits at the same time. There is a wide difference in cost among different brands, but I’ve found the taste difference between the more and less expensive brands to not matter much.
8) Liquid IV, Pedialyte, Electrolyte Water and Other Hydration Drinks: For better or worse, hydration drinks like Gatorade do work. But, they come with a lot of sugar, calories and cost if you buy them in individual bottle packs. First and foremost, know that most sports drinks – including Gatorade – can be bought online as powdered supplements for half the cost of the pre-made stuff. For some reason, it took me years to learn that. The more you know. Also, know that there are multiple brands of sports drinks. Again, for a long time, I only thought there were Gatorade and Powerade. If you live near a Walmart, or can shop online at one, they make the single cheapest electrolyte water I have ever seen. (Note, it has to say electrolyte water. Smart Water is not the same thing.) Unfortunately for me, that brand still fundamentally tasted too much like normal water. But, if you can drink plain water – but just need a little extra boost – it might be an option for you for extra punch on the hottest of days. Pedialyte is not just for drunks anymore. It also functions as a lower sugar hydration drink. Most recently, I bought Liquid IV on sale. It tastes very much like Gatorade to me, satisfying my sweet tooth, but it has significantly less sugar than regular Gatorade without resorting to the artificial sweeteners that are a migraine trigger for me. It also works out to have half the cost per serving on sale of Gatorade and less than half the calories. There are a lot of options, it turns out, for hydration drinks, so don’t just assume it’s Gatorade or nothing.
9) Choose Your Water Bottle Carefully: The material and function of your water bottle matters. If you are going to buy one, make sure it meets your needs. In my opinion, glass water bottles “infect” the taste of the water in it the least. However, I can’t practically carry them around because they are heavier, I’m clumsy, I lose things, and I drop things regularly when I lose grip strength. So, I use glass water bottles at home. Out and about, metal water bottles are a bit lighter, shatterproof and still make water “taste” better than plastic. Plastic water bottles are surprisingly gross. Your preferences may vary; invest wisely. For some people, the material may be less important than the design. It is possible to buy water bottles that include built-in straws, if drinking without one is difficult, and if the imbalanced weight of having a water bottle in one person is likely to lead to dislocations or other injuries, a Camelback bladder for hiking that fits in a backpack and lets you drink without requiring you to repeatedly lift a water bottle up and down to your lips or take one in and out of a bag might be a viable option. Note also, that there is no law saying you must put water in a water bottle. If any of the alternatives above work better, who really cares If you are drinking bone broth or soup out of a “water” bottle?
10) Straws: I’m clumsy, and I will always use a straw when dining out so that I don’t dump all the liquid onto my lap instead of into my stomach. I will be that spoonie asking for a straw when they become a specialty item that are kept “behind the counter,” and any liberal activist who is too out-of-touch with chronic illness to understand why I will continue to use straws to be able to drink at all in public without humiliation can just deal. If they don’t get it, I invite them to live with my diagnoses for a day and see how they deal. I also have some re-usable metal ones I use at home. If I have to drink liquids that taste “weird” to me, it helps for some reason to consume them more slowly and control both the physical effort of getting the water into my mouth and the mental effort of getting through something that is not-good-but-good-for-me to sip, not guzzle. (I can use recycled and/or reusable straws, but I know some spoonies with even worse fine motor coordination than I have can’t. Do what you need to do. I am all for measure to save the environment for those for whom it isn’t an accessibility issue, but accessibility needs are valid and real.)
Need a recap of anything I’m talking about in any post? Check out my Glossary of Terms.