By Elisa Juarez
Staying hydrated in hot weather and other circumstances is important for all of us, but it is especially critical for older people and young children. As we move from summer into fall, the weather in many regions is still very warm, and it may be easy to forget to drink plenty of water. Dehydration occurs any time the body loses or uses more fluids than it takes in. This could be a result of being out in the heat, working or playing in the sun, or exercising. You can also get dehydrated when you have a fever, diarrhea, or are vomiting. As your body loses fluids it also loses electrolytes, minerals in your blood and body fluids which affect nerve and muscle function. These need to be replaced when lost, and there are a variety of ways to do this including coconut water, sports drinks, Himalayan pink salt in water, and nutritious meals.
The best way to stay hydrated is obviously to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. It helps to be aware of how much fluid you are losing through sweat and urination so you can try to take in more than that. Here are some other tips:
Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink. Keep drinking throughout the day.
Make sure water is within easy reach day and night.
Drink 6 to 8 cups of fluids a day, and more if you have fever or the weather is hot.
Don’t skip meals.
Avoid high-protein drinks and alcohol as these can dehydrate you.
Eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. They contain large amounts of water, salt, and vitamins that can help prevent dehydration. Include foods that have a high water content such as watermelon, cucumbers, celery, zucchini, strawberries, and cauliflower.
Add fresh fruit or a splash of fruit juice to your water.
When exercising, drink a cup of water about 4 hours before exercising, another half-cup every 10-15 minutes during exercise, and again afterward.
Keep an eye on your urine. If your body is producing plenty of light-yellow urine, that’s a good indicator that you’re hydrated.
Exercise creates a greater need for fluids and electrolytes, so it is best to drink before, during, and afterward. Here are a few tips from WebMD:
Drink a cup of water approximately 4 hours before you exercise.
Have another 1/2 cup of water every 10-15 minutes during exercise.
Drink water after finishing exercise. Adding a 1/2 teaspoon of Himalayan pink salt or other quality sea salt to your water can help to rebalance the electrolytes in your body since salt is lost through perspiration. If your body is producing plenty of light-colored urine, that’s a good sign that your body is hydrated.
Why is hydration so important? It stabilizes body temperature, reduces kidney stone risk, supports bowel regularity, and filters waste products. It is also essential for brain function including memory. “Water is necessary for nearly every body function, from lubricating joints to regulating body temperature and pumping blood to the muscles” (www.health.clevelandclinic.org) so not getting enough of it can have numerous health consequences. If you’ve ever been dehydrated, you’ve experienced first-hand how it affects the body. Dehydration is an often overlooked health risk in seniors and a common cause of hospitalization. As we age our sense of thirst diminishes, so when our bodies need to be replenished with water we may not realize it. In addition, our bodies have less water than younger adults. Symptoms of dehydration in seniors can go unrecognized because they can be attributed to other health issues. Some of these early signs include dry mouth, fatigue, dizziness, and muscle cramps.
If you are caring for a loved one, follow some of the tips above to help them stay hydrated and happy. Perhaps they have a favorite cup or mug that they can keep with them throughout the day as a reminder to keep drinking water. When you are with them, pour yourself a glass of water and invite them to join you. They may need encouragement, but when they are hydrated they will feel better and so will you!
Sources: WebMD (www.webmd.com)