Summer finds several of us limp, enervated, and exhausted. Rising temperatures put us in misery. These are symptoms of reduced water levels in the body. To enable us to run through our day effectively, we need to keep a close watch on our hydration levels. We can live without food for much longer than living without water. The importance of this simple nutrient is often underestimated.
So why is water important for us? What does water do to our body? Did you know that 70% of our body is made of water?
Among other functions, water is extremely necessary for these -
- Water helps to circulate blood and other nutrients around inside the body.
- Water removes toxins and waste from the body in the form of sweat, urine and stools.
- Maintains body temperature by removing heat from the internal organs, and flushing it out of the body through sweat.
A decrease in water leads to several disturbances in normal body functions. Absence of enough water in the body leads to a condition called dehydration. How do we recognise these symptoms?
- Do you know that your trips to the washroom are the best indicator of hydration levels? If you have yellow urine, accompanied some times with a burning sensation while urinating, OR if you have visited the washroom lesser than 2 times in the last 5 hours, and have been exercising or playing outdoors as well, then it is urgent that you sip up on fluids. Colourless urine is the best sign of hydration.
- Thirst – you have already lost 1% body water by the time the brain signals thirst! If you have not heeded your thirst signals, and are still away from your water bottle, you could experience some of these too -
- Dry around lips, fuzzy tongue.
- Increase in body temperature.
- Giddiness, shortness of breath.
- Confusion, lack of muscular coordination, muscle cramps.
- Loss of control over bowel movement!
- Beware! A bad combination of excessively hot weather, loss of body fluids and not enough water replenishment can lead to heat stroke and even death.
How many of us really want to get to such extremes? We can quickly reverse these symptoms by drinking up. At the first sign of dehydration, or even before that, start drinking up. How much water should we drink? The National Institute of Nutrition recommends at least 8 glasses of water daily for an average Indian. In summer, during exercise or when there is excess sweating, the recommendations go up higher.
Featured in picture - Tintrinee Panaka – Refreshing Tamarind Drink. Good way to hydrate in scorching heat.
The best way to re-hydrate is by sipping small mouthfuls of water throughout the day. Much like drip-irrigation in a field. Set up a pretty 1 litre glass bottle with drinking water close to your work station. Down a gulp every 10 minutes. This way, your water will last you for about 20 mouthfuls. If that is difficult, at least drink half a cup of water or other fluids every half an hour. This is more effective than drinking larger volumes at one time and going without fluids for long stretches of time.
Are there any other fluids that we can sip on? Surely, some people get nauseated from gulping only water throughout the day. Yes, there are some really healthy fluids that help you hydrate. Fluids like barley water, tender coconut water, diluted buttermilk, skim milk, unsweetened lemon juice, unsweetened fresh fruit juice, raw unsweetened juiced vegetables, and are all great for keeping our body in safe hydrated zones. All these fluids also bring some vital nutrients like vitamins and minerals apart from replacing fluid losses in the body.
Featured in picture - Aloe vera Lemonade – with the cooling properties of Aloe vera.
Then there are some foods that are high in moisture too. They help the body by adding valuable nutrients that are lost in excessive sweating. Foods that include moisture and essential minerals are cucumber, tomatoes, raw bottle gourd, watermelon, cantaloupe, oranges, apples. These are best eaten raw to ensure all the nutrients plus the water reaches the body.
In the next post, I will be discussing what fluids are not good for hydration. Also whether children, elderly, pregnant or sports people need any special hydration in summer.
Do write in if you have any unique dietary concerns for yourself or your family.