Hot and muggy can be a dangerous combination

The weather has been very hot and muggy lately and I always worry when it is like that, that some people will become dehydrated and sick from it. The elderly, the very young, pregnant and lactating women are most at risk, but we all need to pay attention to our hydration levels during this type of weather. Our bodies are about 60 percent water and that level is vital for good health and optimal functioning. Even losing a modest amount of water (1.5 percent) leading to mild dehydration results in loss of energy, loss of cognitive function (fuzzy thinking) and affects people’s mood.

Women can become dehydrated during their time of the month. This is not just from the water loss due to heavy periods but from the fact that the hormones estrogen and progesterone influence the hydration levels. Women who are breastfeeding their babies also run the risk of dehydration as well as depletion of other nutrients.

Pregnant women find that their blood volume and cardiac output usually increase, which increases a women’s fluid requirements. If the pregnancy is also complicated by nausea and morning sickness, it is essential to replace the lost fluid so that optimal hydration is achieved.

Older adults and very young children do not regulate their fluid levels well. And as we age the sensation for thirst declines and it can become difficult to remember to drink adequate amounts daily. It is recommended that older people keep a bottle of water by them at all times and keep track of how much they consume each day.

Those with diabetes, and especially those who do not yet know they have diabetes, are at a greater risk for dehydration than others. When blood sugar levels rise, the body attempts to rid itself of excess glucose (sugar) through increasing urine output and excreting glucose through the urine. Keep drinking water and get yourself checked for diabetes if you suspect that you are going to the bathroom too frequently.

Blood pressure medications that are diuretics increase urine output as well. Many other medications that may list diarrhea or vomiting or increased urination as side effects all can lead to dehydration.

Increase your fluid intake if you need to take meds that list these side effects. Some herbal remedies such as parsley, celery seed, dandelion and watercress increase urine output as well. Eating these items might not cause difficulty, but when they are in a supplement and highly concentrated, they could.

Those who eat low carb diets might run the risk of dehydration because carbohydrates store water in your body naturally.

Protein increases dehydration because not only does it not hold water in your body, it actually takes a lot of water to metabolize it. This is why a low carb/ high protein diet will result in almost immediate weight loss. It is just not a healthy long-term weight loss solution.

During and after a workout in which you sweat, or any activity where you perspire, you need to replace the lost fluid and electrolytes. If you weigh yourself before the workout or activity and you have lost a pound — drink at least that much water back. Trust me, you didn’t lose a pound of fat! (Wishful thinking).

If you are stressed, your adrenal glands become exhausted. They are responsible for the regulation of fluid levels through a hormone called aldosterone. If the adrenals are overworked because of stress, your aldosterone levels drop and you become dehydrated and also have low electrolyte levels. Although you can replenish your fluid and electrolytes, getting at the root of the problem and reducing the stress is a better long-term strategy.

Many people who are stressed also suffer from irritable bowel syndrome which leads to dehydration because of chronic diarrhea and nausea. Sometimes people try to eliminate certain foods which they believe are triggers to their condition as well and if these foods are fluid-rich foods, it can exacerbate the issue. Stress reduction is key.

Anyone who flies knows how dehydrated you can get traveling by air. Our bodies acclimatize to high altitudes by speeding up breathing and increasing urine output, leading to dehydration.

If you drink alcohol on the flight you make it worse. Alcohol is a diuretic and also impairs your ability to sense dehydration effects as well as inhibits anti-diuretic hormone which would normally save back some water from your urine outflow. The symptoms of hangovers are largely a result of severe dehydration.

It has been recommended that you drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day but here’s the real facts. If you weigh 100 pounds you should drink 50 ounces of water a day. If you weight 200 pounds then you should drink 100 ounces a day.

Whatever your weight, take half and that is the amount of water in ounces that you should take. If you are eating lots of juicy fruit and veggies, you can get up to 20 percent of your daily required water (and lots of other good nutrients including your electrolytes) simply by that source.

Looks like it is going to be a long hot muggy one — don’t dehydrate!

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Jane Riley is a certified nutritional adviser. She can be reached at janerileyfitness@gmail.com, (808) 212-1451, (808) 212-8119 (cell) or www.janerileyfitness.com

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