The other day I was watching one of those morning news programs and the guest doctor was talking about sports drinks and carbohydrate replacement in hot weather. What made the biggest impression was the 2 liters of water he had to show as the amount of water we lose normally each day, and even more interesting, the fact that in the heat we would lose one of these bottles quite quickly. At that point, although I had known the importance of fluid replacement, the presence of the bottles of water made the picture quire clear — and so the importance of this article.
We, as diabetics, know that becoming dehydrated causes problems for us. No one who has ever been there before being diagnosed will forget the weight loss, excessive thirst, weakness, and high glucose levels that go with dehydration or the warnings for sick days after our diagnosis. Why then do we go out in 90 degree heat to mow the lawn or play tennis in a cavalier way without thinking first of our own good health?
While two out of three Americans know that they should be drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, half of those people admit they do not do this, or that they drink alternate water-robbing drinks. The result is that we are getting on the average, only a third of the water we need. Lack of adequate water intake leads to headache, grogginess, itchy skin, and severe dehydration which affects blood pressure, circulation, kidney function, and nearly all bodily processes. So water is correctly called the “silent nutrient.”
Next to oxygen water is most needed for life. It acts as a solvent, coolant, lubricant, and transport agent. The amount of body water varies with the amount of body fat. Water, as a percentage of body weight, is greater in lean people because of the nearly water-free characteristics of fat tissue. Besides keeping the body temperature stable, water carries nutriments, eliminates toxins and waste, maintains blood volume, and provides a medium for cell chemical reactions.
The body has sources of water intake, including water content in food, and the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids, but we continue to lose water all day long. Even if you’re at rest, you lose up to 80 ounces of water a day. In fact each time you exhale you lose water vapor, adding up to two 8-ounce glasses a day. Of course, your food is 70-90 percent water, so don’t hook the faucet to a glass and a straw quite yet, but do read on.
Water needs vary depending on the weather and your level of activity. For instance, in very humid weather you can lose more than a quart a water in an hour just through sweat. That water must be replaced immediately to prevent dehydration, even death because if dehydration becomes very serious, oxygen supply to the brain is effected. In addition, blood thickens and can’t reach the small blood vessels, while sodium and other electrolytes are depleted, threatening the body’s chemical and electrical systems.
Some facts to remember aobut taking in your required water intake each day:
- Being thirsty is not always a marker for your body’s need for water. It’s important to keep drinking during the day even if you’re not thirsty. Thirst does become blunted in the elderly — a fact to the wise.
- Drink at least two glasses of water 30 minutes to an hour before exercising and again 10 minutes before your work out. Remember to rehydrate as much as you can after you exercise.
- Skip high calorie sports drinks, unless you become hypoglycemic. Water is best.
- Increase your water intake if your diet is high in fiber.
- Remember that your food is high in water so it can count as some fluid intake.
- Milk, diet sodas, unsweetened carbonated waters, most herbal teas, decaffeinated teas, and decaffeinated coffees can substitute for water, but not fruit juices and sugar-sweetened drinks. The later can slow down water absorption.
- Don’t count caffeinated drinks or alcoholic fluid intake. Caffeine is a diuretic which removes water from the body so caffeinated drinks are a poor source for rehydration.
- It is very difficult to drink too much water so that it would flush out nutriment from the body. The reason for this is that nutriments are absorbed into the blood stream from the digestive tract long before the water goes to the kidneys for excretion.
Now down to basics about being outside during the summer and some facts to keep us all healthy so that we can ski next winter and try to recall those lovely warm days of July.
- Start taking precautions when the temperature reaches 80°F (26.7°C). Also take into account high humidity, anything 70% or higher.
- Precautions need to be taken for the very young and old, as well as for those with chronic diseases which may effect the heart and blood vessels, and that includes many of us with diabetes.
- Symptoms of heat exhaustion and dehydration can be tiredness, dizziness, pale skin and shortage of breath, cramping, excessive sweating, disorientation, and headache. These can occur in as little as 30 minutes if you’re sweating heavily.
- The solution is to remain hydrated. Pure water will enter the blood stream more rapidly than other drinks and cool water is absorbed faster than warm. Carry water with you and drink even if you’re not thirsty.
- Be careful when doing any intense exercise when it is hot outside. Keep all efforts comfortable and steady. In particular, avoid exercising intensely for 10 minutes or longer so that your body temperature does not rise to dangerous levels.
- Consider doing all physical activity in the early morning or late in the evening when the air temperature is cooler.
- Check the color of our urine if you are concerned. If it’s darker than the normal pale yellow, drink at least a pint ( ml) of water.
- Don’t judge your level of hydration by how much you are sweating. In a dry climate you may be sweating more, but it will evaporate quickly and you have the sense of sweating less.
- In hot weather wear light-colored clothing that is porous so that the sweat evaporates freely.
- Drink water as often as possible. If you need juice for low blood sugar, dilute it by half with water to get it into the blood steam as quickly as possible.
- If you switch from a cool climate to a hot one, allow your body to adjust. Your blood stream will adjust automatically, gaining water and increasing sweating.
- In extremely hot weather, restrict your time outdoors or opt for exercising in an air-conditioned facility.
- Know the symptoms of dehydration and heat exhaustion.
- If you are vacationing in a country that has both hot weather and unpotable water, carry cool bottled water. In fact, when we travel we always consume noncarbohated or “still” water — just to be safe. Remember if the water’s unpotable, it’s possible that the ice cubes are also. If you develop diarrhea, force yourself to drink liquids so you do not become dehydrated. Remember when someone does get dehydrated they lose their appetite — to keep eating, following your meal plan.
- Get medical help if you have any question as to what is happening to you. Don’t wait — even a short delay could spell trouble.