Staying Hydrated

July 15, 2014 in Fitness, General, Health by Joyce Bunderson

During the past couple of weeks we moved from a home of twenty-three years to the new home that we just finished building. During that time I learned many things; one is that moving during July is the busiest time of year. I think July is so busy because the children are out of school. We certainly did not plan to move during the heat of summer, but our house was delayed (repeatedly). The hot, high altitude mountain west, during a more humid than usual July, offered challenges for staying hydrated. Moving and all that is entailed in the process is physically, emotionally and mentally challenging; but moving in hot, humid, and high altitudes offered some unforeseen challenges. I noticed that the people that helped us seemed to be sipping liquids all day long. I wasn’t doing it so much, as it’s not my habit to drink lots of fluids. But I noticed when I took a cue from the helpers and took a drink that I felt better.

I was working and absolutely amazed at the extreme fatigue I was feeling; looking back, probably it was dehydration. Sufficient water makes every organ work optimally. The heart pumps blood more effectively and the blood transports oxygen and other essential nutrients to your cells. Our brains are about 70% to 80% water; so if you’re dehydrated you may feel a little muddled and have difficulty thinking. I remember having excessive difficulty managing ordinary questions.

The fact is that normally we don’t really need to drink the folk-wisdom maxim of eight glasses of liquid per day.  The Institute of Medicine makes it sound even worse.  They recommend that men get about 15 glasses (8 oz. glasses) of water a day and women get about 11. But that includes water from all the foods and beverages that you eat and drink. Most of the time we get enough liquids, but if you’re exposed to heat (hot summer day) and or active for a long time (like moving boxes all day long) you may need some extra fluids.

You’d probably guess that an apple has lots of water  (84% water) because you see the juiciness when you bite into it, but you might not guess that vegetables like broccoli (91%) are full of water too.  Even American cheese (39%) and a dry looking food like a bagel (33%) have water.

When it’s hot and humid and you add exercise you can get dehydrated as quickly as 30 minutes. Don’t forget that high altitudes can add to the dehydrating process. So you’ll need to use extra caution to stay hydrated – longer breaks, lightweight clothing and maybe a lower intensity workout. Consider having 5 to 10 ounces of fluid every 20 minutes when in very dehydrating circumstances.

Alcohol is very dehydrating. Coffee and caffeinated drinks can increase your urination, but still hydrate you because of the high water content. If you’re watching your calories, be careful with juice and sweetened drinks; try water, iced tea, or other non-sweetened drinks.

If you’re pregnant, you need more fluids that you did before your pregnancy. Also children are at risk; they can quickly dehydrate, but generally they will complain of thirst. Unfortunately, older persons often lose their sense of thirst and are dehydrated before they sense thirst.

There are some health concerns that require a greater intake of fluids.  If you have diabetes, cystic fibrosis, kidney disease or are taking medications that encourage additional fluids, ask your health care provider how much liquid you should take.

Moisture is constantly leaving our bodies. We breathe out some of it, urinate, defecate, and sweat. If you notice that your urine is beginning to look like concentrated apple juice, you may already be dehydrated. There is water in every cell, tissue and organ of your body. It is involved in getting rid of waste, keeping your temperature at the right level, protecting you from kidney stones, moving nutrients from cells to cell, cushioning joints, keeping your skin moisturized and many metabolic functions – it’s very important to life.

If you’re dehydrated, you may experience any of these symptoms: fatigue, flushed skin, faster breathing and pulse rate, muscle cramps, trouble exercising, weakness, dizziness or labored breathing. If so, try to move to a cool place and slowly drink fluids. Drinking too fast can provoke urination, resulting in less hydration.

It’s pretty easy to get dehydrated in summer, but if you’re aware, you can avoid the uncomfortable and dangerous symptoms by getting a routine for keeping the fluids and juicy foods (think melon) supporting a well-hydrated body. I can speak from experience; it’s not a good feeling to allow ourselves to become dehydrated. So if you’re doing more than usual, especially in hot weather, remember to add some extra fluids.