Water is one of the most important nutrients in our body. It makes up approximately 70 percent of our muscles, and about 75 percent of our brains. We use water as well as expend it. In fact just in everyday breathing we lose about two cups of water. Other ways that we lose body water is through sweating and urinating. If we fail to replenish these losses, we set ourselves up to become dehydrated.
If our body sense’s low water stores it will tell the kidneys to conserve the water instead of excreting it (darker colored urine will result). Dehydration can also lead to constipation and bloating as well. Some other symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth and tongue, apathy and a lack of energy, and muscle cramping.
If left untreated, dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. These symptoms include: fatigue, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, headache, rapid shallow breathing, high temperatures, rapid heart beat, and decreased alertness or complete loss of consciousness.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), more than 6,600 people have died from heat related causes from 1979-1995. And last year in Texas, 130 people died during the summer. These statistics are grim, but dehydration is 100 percent preventable. Here are some practical tips to prevent you from becoming dehydrated this summer:
* Drink plenty of fluids: on average it is recommended to consume at least 8- eight ounce glasses of fluid a day
* Sports drinks can encourage active people to drink more fluids because they are flavored and are higher in sodium
* Avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol, both contain substances that will cause dehydration
* Avoid carbonated beverages because the carbonation may cause bloating or a feeling of fullness and prevent adequate consumption of fluids
* Wear light colored, absorbable, loose fitting clothes
* Stay in cool, shaded areas and protect your skin with sunblock whenever possible
For most of us, being aware and prepared is the easiest way to prevent dehydration from occurring. On hot humid days, an active person can become dehydrated in just 15 minutes. If you experience any of the symptoms above, stop the activity and rest in a cool area. Then drink fluids to replenish the water lost.
Adapted from: Preventing Dehydration and Heat Illness; American College of Emergency Physicians and Preventing Dehydration by L. Reilly. Vegetarian Times. January 1998.