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Avoid Dehydration This Summer

General | December 11, 2017 | Author: Naturopath

general

Avoid Dehydration This Summer

An increase in sweating due to rising temperatures this summer can put you at risk of dehydration. When you lose more water than what your body needs this can lead to muscle cramps, fainting and headaches. However, it’s not just sweating which causes us to lose excess fluids from the body.

Causes of Dehydration 

  • A fever
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive sweating
  • Excessive urination (diuretics can cause this)

We also naturally loose fluids when we breathe, sweat, poop, cry and spit. Usually the fluids are replaced by drinking enough water and eating foods that contain water—but this is not always the case. People may not replace enough fluids because they forget to drink water or don’t realize they are thirsty in the first place. Vomiting and nausea can make it hard to keep down fluids and then of course there are endurance events and sports which can lead to excessive sweating.

Our body is made up of 50-75% water and our body can only survive a few days without drinking it.

Water is vital for the health and integrity of every single cell in our body. It is needed for most body functions, including to:

  • Allow our blood to flow easily through blood vessels to carry nutrients and oxygen to cells
  • Eliminate waste products
  • Regulate body temperature
  • Moisten mucous membranes and skin
  • Improve digestion and reduce constipation
  • Reduce urinary tract and kidney infections
  • Accumulate in areas of the body to act as a shock absorber i.e. joints, eyes and amniotic sac

Dehydration can be either mild, moderate or severe. Here are some signs and symptoms of dehydration to look out for.

Mild dehydration

  • Dry mouth
  • Thirst
  • Reduced urine, which is usually a dark colour
  • Dry, cool skin
  • Headache
  • Muscle cramps

Severe dehydration

  • Very concentrated urine and not needing to pee
  • Very dry skin
  • Feeling dizzy and fainting
  • Rapid heartbeat and breathing
  • Sunken eyes
  • Sleepiness, lack of energy, confusion or irritability

Heat-related illnesses

To keep healthy, our body temperature needs to stay around 37°C. The body cools itself by sweating, which normally accounts for 70 to 80 per cent of the body’s heat loss. If a person becomes dehydrated, they have a reduced ability to sweat and body temperature can soar. This can put someone at risk of heat exhaustion and a more dangerous version, heatstroke.

Heat exhaustion 

Heat exhaustion occurs when excessive sweating in a hot environment reduces a person’s blood volume. Warning signs may include paleness and sweating, rapid heart rate, muscle cramps (usually in the arms, legs or abdomen), headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness or fainting.

Heatstroke

Heatstroke happens when a person’s core body temperature rises above 40.5°C and internal systems start to shut down. Many organs in the body suffer damage and the body temperature must be reduced fast. Most people will have profound central nervous system changes such as delirium, coma and seizures. The person may have trouble walking, appear confused, collapse and become unconscious. As well as effects on the nervous system, there can be damage to vital organs such as the liver, kidneys, muscles and heart.

Heatstroke is a medical emergency and requires urgent attention. 

Who is at risk?

Some people are at a higher risk of developing dehydration, including:

  • Babies and young children
  • The elderly
  • People who are ill with an acute illness
  • People who have a chronic disease such as diabetes
  • People who are active outdoors in hot, humid weather

How much water should we drink?

Below is a rough recommendation on how many litres or cups of water to consume daily.

  • children 1–3 years – 1.0 litres (about 4 cups)
  • children 4–8 years – 1.2 litres (about 5 cups)
  • girls 9–13 years – 1.4 litres (about 5-6 cups)
  • boys 9–18 years – 1.6 litres (about 6 cups)
  • boys 14–18 years – 1.9 litres (about 7-8 cups)
  • women – 2.1 litres (about 8 cups)
  • men – 2.6 litres (about 10 cups)

Sedentary individuals, people in cold environments, or people who eat a lot of high-water content foods (such as fruits and vegetables) may need less water. Pregnancy, breastfeeding, vomiting, diarrhoea and people who are physically active or exposed to hot conditions will need to increase their recommended water intake.

Electrolytes

Sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and chloride are important electrolytes that are required by the body to help regulate our heartbeat, control our blood pressure, contract and relax our muscles and so much more! Drinking an electrolyte solution can help to restore these important nutrients which may have been depleted due to dehydration. These drinks can be very helpful for athletes, labourers working outdoors and kids playing sport. If there is excess fluid loss during vomiting and diarrhoea they can also be helpful in these instances.

ElectrolytesWhen selecting an electrolyte solution make sure it is lower in sugar, contains no artificial sweeteners, flavours or colours and has higher amounts of electrolytes, including magnesium.

Coconut water is an alternative to regular rehydration formulas as it contains potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, sodium and an easily digested carbohydrate.

For the majority of people, electrolytes that are derived naturally from food is all that is necessary.

Combine this with adequate fluid intake and taking other precautionary measures, this should be sufficient to avoid an electrolyte imbalance and dehydration.

Here are some foods that are high in specific electrolytes.

Calcium is found in almonds, broccoli, tahini and dairy products.

Magnesium is sourced from green leafy veggies, wholegrains and nuts.

Potassium you will find abundantly in a wide-range of fresh fruits, veggies and dairy.

Sodium is easily derived from sea or table salt and most foods that are tinned or packaged.

Chloride can be obtained from table salt, olives, tomatoes, seaweed and rye.

Other ways to prevent dehydration

  • avoid exposure to heat
  • restrict activity to cooler parts of the day
  • protect yourself outdoors by wearing lightweight clothes, a hat, sunscreen and sunglasses
  • rest often, stay indoors or in the shade
  • use cold washers, fans, air conditioning and showers to stay cool
  • avoid diuretics such as coffee, tea and caffeinated beverages

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References

https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/dehydration-adults#1

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/water-a-vital-nutrient#lp-h-5

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/heat-stress-and-heat-related-illness

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/153188.php

Lewis R. Addressing dehydration. Nurs Stand. 2014 Aug 26;28(51):74

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25138892

Atha WF. Heat-related illness. Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2013 Nov;31(4):1097-108

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24176481

Kalman DS. Comparison of coconut water and a carbohydrate-electrolyte sport drink on measures of hydration and physical performance in exercise-trained men. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012 Jan 18;9(1):1

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22257640

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