Sinus infections, asthma, allergies... I’ve been plagued with them most of the winter. Round one hit me right after Thanksgiving, requiring 2 courses of antibiotics. It took a month, but I finally was well enough to do my normal life, getting through Christmas okay, but I still not feeling 100%.
Round two hit me after an overnight visit to my daughter’s house in mid-February. She had just gotten two kittens. I am highly allergic to cats. My 2-year-old grandson had a bad cold and lots of hugs for me. It was the proverbial one-two punch... allergy + virus. I came home wheezing. The next day I was full-on sick... coughing, congested, and draining like crazy.
A week later, when my standard home-treatments, Sudafed and neti-pot, (along with tons of extra water... more about that later) failed to clear my symptoms, off I trotted to the doctor... told her about my cat allergy, and how I would really like to be able to visit my daughter’s house without getting sick. I also mentioned that on Thanksgiving weekend I had spent the better part of two days at my sister-in-law’s house. She also has cats. My doctor asked me to consider going on a maintenance drug... a steroid nasal spray or an antihistamine or both... an albuterol inhaler if necessary.
I already had an albuterol inhaler. As a kid I had asthma and used a Benzedrine inhaler nearly every day and also took allergy pills. I didn't have much allergy trouble in my teens and 20's. In my 30’s and 40’s I struggled with allergic rhinitis, which I controlled with Allegra-D and Nasacort. Over the past 10 years, my allergies have been much better... easily controlled with regular use of saline nasal spray. But if I got cold, usually one or two every winter, I always ended up with a sinus infection and on an antibiotic.
With the latest sinus infection, in addition to the neti-pot, Sudafed, and two courses of antibiotics, one of which, Biaxin, made me extremely nauseous, I also decided to double my fluid intake, determined to flood-out the bug.
The sinus infection cleared up. Sort of.
Because I was still draining like crazy... and trying to picture how I was going to survive an upcoming visit to my daughter’s. I decided to do a trial run of antihistamine as the doctor had suggested. I got some Claritin. I was still drinking tons of water and herb tea. Two days later I felt like I had a bladder infection and couldn’t sleep. Back I went to the doctor for a test. There was no infection but it turns out that Claritin can cause urinary retention. And insomnia. Great. So I tried Flonase. It made my drainage worse. So did Nasacort. They also kept me from sleeping. So did Allegra.
I gave up on the medication idea.
In desperation, I Googled “natural allergy relief” and the top item was something called “Water Cures”... claiming that every ailment from allergies to zombies is caused by dehydration. How could I be dehydrated? I was drinking more water than normal already. Read on.
In a nutshell, Water Cures has you do a calculation of how much water you need to drink each day, divided into six to eight 8-16 oz. portions. For me that boiled down to 9 cups of water. Other beverages don’t count. Only water. But the thing that distinguishes Water Cures is that, before drinking the water, you dissolve a certain amount of sea salt in your mouth, then swallow it with the water. Because, according to Dr. Fereydoon Batmanghelidj, the creator of Water Cures... without salt, the body can’t properly hydrate.
The Water Cures website also says to drink the water within 15 minutes of the sea salt. In other words, chug it. You drink a big glass of water 30 minutes before meals and 2.5 hours after. That supposedly helps with digestion. You are only allowed sips of water with meals.
Coffee, tea, and alcohol are banned because they’re dehydrating. Caffeine-laden chocolate is also on the nix-list. Since I’d been sick, I’d been avoiding alcohol (it makes me wheeze) so that didn’t seem like too much of a sacrifice, and I don’t drink caffeinated coffee or tea... but seriously... chocolate? That’s where I draw the line. Those two itty-bitty pieces of dark chocolate I enjoy at lunch couldn’t possibly dehydrate me that much!
In addition to all that sea salt with the water (for me, it added up to nearly a tsp. a day) the website encourages you to liberally lace your food with sea salt too.
I jumped right into Water Cures and experienced instant relief from my congestion. But 3 days later, I had a dull, persistent headache, nausea, and a burning tongue from all that salt. I couldn’t sleep. My fingers were puffy and tingly. The website says to stop the protocol immediately if this should happen and to go slower, especially if you’re not accustomed to drinking so much water. (But I was accustomed to drinking all that water... I’d been drinking large amounts of water for 2 weeks.)
The next day I made my own modifications to the protocol, drinking the recommended amount of water, but cutting the salt amount in half. I also drank my usual decaf tea in the morning, smoothie at noon, decaf tea in the afternoon, milk with dinner, and decaf coffee after dinner. Along with the 9 cups of water I drank, it added up to 16 cups of fluid.
Two days later, my congestion was still improved, but I still couldn’t sleep. I had no appetite and my skin was getting very dry. I was peeing tons. And another thing... I’d lost 3 pounds.
I was also reading Dr. Batmanghelidj’s book: You’re not Sick, You’re Thirsty. Filled with convincing theorizing on the myriad medical conditions caused by dehydration, all based on individual case studies... there are no double-blind studies to back up his work... Dr B. clarifies the water/salt protocol... he states that it might take a little doing to find the right balance of salt to water, and one should work with their doctor to find the correct balance. I hadn’t called my doctor yet, but I was close.
The next day I did a bunch of online research on dehydration.
Facts: plain water is adequate for hydration... no need to take extra salt. Most people get plenty of salt from their diet. Too much salt dehydrates. In spite of the amount of salt I was using, I was peeing tons... no doubt my body’s attempt to rid itself of excess salt. I guessed that the insomnia and nausea was caused by my adrenals pumping out extra cortisol in response to the dehydration. I have a hair-trigger cortisol response to stress of any kind. Clearly, my body was stressed.
The next day I switched to plain water. The nausea got worse. Any time I tried to drink plain water I got queasy. It’s like my body was rejecting water.
I online searched “how to drink water.” Found an article that advises to drink water slowly throughout the day. It said that if you chug a large amount of water all at once just runs right through you. So I tried that... sipping the requisite water throughout the morning. By noon, I simply could not drink water at all. I had no appetite and a dull headache... felt like I had the flu. I cracked open a can of Sprite and poured a small amount over ice. It tasted wonderful. I sipped Sprite every time I felt queasy... for the rest of the afternoon.
That night for supper all I ate was chicken noodle soup. Went to bed early and woke up every hour to pee. I had a small sip of water every time I woke up. At 4 a.m. I woke up ravenous and could not go back to sleep. I got up and made a peanut butter sandwich and drank a glass of milk. By 5:30 I was peacefully sleeping in my recliner.
I woke up at 7:30. Then I Googled, “I drank too much water.” Came up with this: The Dangers of Drinking too much Water. Then I called my doctor. She thought that I was suffering from Hyponatriemia. That’s what you get when you drink too much water and deplete your body of sodium... So I had gone from too much water with salt to too much water without salt. She said since I was starting to feel better, I would probably recover on my own, but to keep track of my fluid intake for several days, and not exceed 9 cups. She said that all fluids count, except alcohol and if my symptoms did not continue to improve, to come in. That was Thursday.
On Friday, I headed to my daughter’s, arriving at her house around 10 p.m. I was feeling even better and was eating and drinking normally... still fairly congested, though, with a bit of asthma that I was controlling with albuterol. (As soon as I stopped taking the sea salt, my sinus/allergy symptoms returned.) I told her my entire ordeal, including the part about how it doesn’t seem that there is a medication that I can tolerate for my allergies. She asked me if I had ever tried Zyrtec, which had worked well for her the last time she had a cold. I said that I had avoided Zyrtec because it causes drowsiness. But she encouraged me to try it anyway. She had some in the house and I took one. Within 20 minutes my congestion cleared and I felt very relaxed. I went to bed and slept 9 hours... the first good night’s sleep in 3 weeks.
All the next day, Saturday, I kept my distance from the kittens... not holding or petting them and avoiding the room where they sleep. My daughter doesn’t let the kittens in the guest room. Fortunately, none of the grandkids had colds.
Saturday afternoon I headed home. My daughter gave me several Zyrtec to take with me. That night I took Zyrtec again. I didn’t sleep as well... I woke up 4 times to pee (sipped a little water too.) Sunday night I only took ½ a Zyrtec. Woke up 4 times in the night again and woke up for good at 5:30 a.m.
On Monday I didn’t feel quite myself during the day... irritable, groggy, with a very dry mouth... hungry all the time. After supper I felt a little wheezy, but not bad enough to need my inhaler. About 9 p.m. I dozed off in my recliner while watching TV. I was exhausted. Headed up to bed at 10 hoping for a good night’s sleep. Took a ½ Zyrtec. Within 10 minutes, I was wide awake. It took me a good ½ hour to fall asleep. In spite of how tired I was, I woke up 4 times.
The next day I looked up Zyrtec side effects, sleepiness, insomnia, irritability, dry mouth, wheezing, increased appetite... the list goes on.
So now I’m off Zyrtec too. Not sure what I’m going to do about my allergies. It seems like antihistamines and nose sprays, even saline nose spray, makes me drain like crazy... come to think of it... spraying anything up your nose is a little unnatural.
The good news is that I’ve been a good girl... tracking my fluid intake for several days, sticking to the 9-10 cup limit and my drainage is much improved.
I have been off antihistamines for 3 nights and am sleeping better, waking only once in the middle of the night. That’s normal for me.
If I get too congested, Sudafed helps, but I only take one 4-hour tablet, ½ the adult dose, in the morning. It lasts me all day and wears off before bedtime. Most medications are too strong for me and take twice as long to wear off as it takes for most people.
What I am sure of is that next time I’m sick, I won’t flood myself with water. Lesson learned. Hyponatriemia is not something you want to mess with. For that reason, I recommend steering clear of Water Cures. Any physician worth his salt would probably say that Dr. Batmanghelidj and his Water Cure is pure quackery.
This post is not intended in any way, shape, or form to be medical advice. Please consult your doctor before starting any diet/health program.