Water: Are You Getting Enough?
Are You Getting Enough Water?
Now that the summer is here we are more aware of the need to drink plenty of water to replenish the fluids lost due to the heat and the physical activities that increase at this time of year.
Many people become dehydrated because they wait until they are thirsty to drink some fluids. You must always hydrate your body in advance. A second reason for dehydration is sadly the aging population and their problems with incontinence. Many elderly people who are going out for the day actually refuse to drink liquids because they do not want to be scrounging around looking for a bathroom and this lack of fluids can be particularly dangerous to the elderly.
Losing as little as 1 to 2 per cent of your body weight from fluids can impair your physical performance and your ability to think, not to mention increase your risk for heat stroke because of the diminished amount of electrolytes in your bloodstream.
Normally, an average adult loses more than 10 cups (approximately 2.5 litres) of water each day just by breathing, sweating and excreting wastes. When it’s hot outside your body loses even more water through sweat, especially if you are active. One round of golf on a hot day can cause your body to lose as much as 4 litres of fluids.
Water is the most abundant substance in our bodies making up roughly 60 per cent of our weight. Water is necessary to regulate your temperature, transport oxygen and nutrients to your cells, keep your skin moist and even to cushion your joints.
Water is even a protective substance that helps to guard against kidney stones, constipation, some cancers and even heart disease.
Because your body is constantly losing water, you need to replace it by drinking fluids and to a lesser degree by eating foods that contain water such as fruits and vegetables. If you don’t consume enough fluids to replace your water loss you will start to feel dizzy, lightheaded or fatigued, and you may even get a headache or severe muscle cramps.
Mild to moderate signs of dehydration will be thirst, decreased urine output, flushed skin, dry mouth and eyes, nausea and a loss of appetite. Even feeling irritable on a hot day may be a sign of dehydration.
If this dehydration goes untreated and gets worse, lack of sweating, low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, muscle spasm and heat injury can occur. A seriously dehydrated person whose blood pressure and electrolytes have dropped so low could develop a life-threatening heat stroke.
Some people are more prone to dehydration than others. These include young children, older adults and people who must work outside in the hot weather. If you have diabetes, congestive heart failure, asthma or any other chronic disease you are actually more susceptible to becoming dehydrated. In fact, if you are taking any type of long-term prescription medication, these drugs will definitely contribute to your dehydration.
This time of year many people get outside and decide they will start to exercise but usually they do not drink enough water before, during and after their exercise routine. If your water levels are insufficient for your exercise, your heart beats harder, your body temperature rises and your performance suffers. Drinking a very large volume of water before you go out is not good enough and can even be dangerous. You must spread out your fluids over the course of the day.
Many people tell me that they do not like to drink large volumes of water but nearly all beverages (excluding alcoholic ones) count toward your daily water requirements: water, fruit juice, milk, soy beverages, soft drinks, and even coffee and tea. Although many people think that the caffeine in coffee or tea acts as a diuretic, your body adjusts to this side-effect within 5 days stopping its mild effect on fluid loss.
If you are on a diet you want to avoid consuming too many calories from your beverages and you should limit those drinks to 10% of your daily caloric intake, approximately 200 calories.
This means that water is your first choice, followed by unsweetened coffee or tea, low-fat milk, soy beverages, diet drinks, fruit juices and sport drinks. Please read the labels very carefully to avoid the sugars. The best sugary source of fluids is actually fruit such as red or green grapes, pineapple, all types of melons, oranges, apples and ripe bananas. Sugar found in fruits is organically bound and very safe for all people including diabetics. On the other hand, refined sugars such as those found in fruit juices and sport drinks are very unhealthy and are not to be taken by diabetics or overweight or obese people.
As Canadians we hibernate all winter waiting for the good outdoor weather we are having at this time of year. In order to enjoy it to its fullest, make sure that you are fully hydrated before you go outside and take plenty of fluids with you if you are going to be out for the day.
A simple thing like a bottle of water can keep you healthy and happy on a hot summer day.