• August 23, 2019

STONE: Summer and hydration go hand in hand - Odessa American: Levi Stone

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STONE: Summer and hydration go hand in hand

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Posted: Sunday, August 4, 2019 7:00 am

Let’s face it, August in West Texas can be quite unbearable due to the usual hot and dry conditions this time of year. 

These sweltering 100-plus degree days certainly bring more than uncomfortable temperatures, but also increase the risks of heat-related illnesses and injuries. Left untreated, it can lead to serious complications or even death. 

Thankfully most heat-related illnesses are preventable, particularly in how we hydrate our bodies. Just like choosing the right tool to do a job, picking the right beverage can make all the difference in preventing problems brought on by scorching outdoor temperatures.

Texas is no stranger to heat-related injuries and deaths. In any given year, the Lone Star State accounts for around 20 percent of all heat-related deaths in the United States, more than any other state. 

Older adults, children, those with chronic illnesses, athletes, and those who work outdoors are more susceptible to heat related injuries. While these individuals need to take extra precautions during hot weather, everyone should consider what we are drinking and how often we are drinking it to avoid falling ill. Proper hydration is a vital piece in these efforts and the choices we make correlate to the results achieved.

Hydrating is an all day event. Regardless of your activity level, it’s even more imperative to increase fluid intake when outside temperatures rise. Thirst is not the best indicator to alert us when to rehydrate and should not be the primary factor to spur us to drink fluids. 

By the time our body “tells” us we are thirsty, it’s because we are already dehydrated. 

Don’t let it get to this point. Instead, consume enough fluids throughout the day to stay ahead of your body’s need to trigger a thirst response. We can also gauge the effectiveness of our hydration efforts by the color of our urine and how often we urinate. 

You’ll know you are hydrated adequately if you are urinating at least every two to four hours and your urine has a clear or pale/straw-colored appearance.

If you have not urinated in four hours and/or your urine is dark yellow, amber colored, and/or foul-smelling; it’s an indicator for you to drink more fluids.

When it comes to fluids, choose wisely as not all are created equal. 

For instance, alcoholic beverages can lead to dehydration.  One way this happens is alcohol decreases the body’s production of anti-diuretic hormone (ADH). 

ADH allows water to be reabsorbed into our body.  The fluid has to go somewhere and instead of hydrating our tissues and organs, it leaves our body in the form of urine. 

Drinks with high amounts of sugar and sodium can have similar dehydrating effects, as well.  While it doesn’t impact the ADH hormone like alcohol does, an excessive amount of sugar and sodium rapidly entering our bodies needs to be processed. 

When an imbalance of either sugar and/or salt enters the bloodstream, a naturally tendency is for the body to get rid of it through urination. Unfortunately, this often means having to pull existing fluid from normally hydrated cells and tissues to help push the excess salt and sugar out. 

The result is dehydration until enough water is replaced to compensate for the fluids lost during the process. The most effective and best, overall choice for hydration is water, plain and simple.  Bottom line, make water your “go to” beverage throughout the day. 

If you do indulge in a frosty beer, glass of wine, or soda pop save it for later, but still drink water in between these types of drinks.

However, there are exceptions when plain old water needs a little help to keep us hydrated effectively. 

When we exert our bodies and sweat heavily, we can lose electrolytes rapidly. 

It may be necessary to supplement these loses which cannot be done with water alone. 

Electrolytes are an essential component of normal body function. They help generate electricity, contract muscles, and facilitate the movement of fluids into and out of cells. 

Electrolyte depletion can lead to symptoms such as muscle cramps, fatigue, dizziness and nausea. 

In extreme cases, severe losses of electrolytes may even be deadly. For those engaged in strenuous activities, especially in hot conditions, supplementing your water intake with electrolyte enhanced drinks is a good idea. 

There are several options available, from commercially prepared sports drinks to coconut water; many of these beverages carry essential electrolytes that can be lost through sweat. In a pinch, these work well. 

But, my preference is Oral Rehydration Solutions (or ORS for short). My personal favorite is DripDrop (which can be purchased at Walgreens or Amazon) and developed by a physician with a formulation that aids in hydration when water and commercially prepared sports drinks aren’t enough. I absolutely love this ORS and just to be clear, I haven’t received any compensation from them — it is simply that good!

Beat the heat this summer by hydrating appropriately — and often.

Odessa, TX

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