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     Volume 7 Issue 38 | September 19, 2008 |

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Preventing Dehydration

How much should we drink?

Water is our most important nutrient. Did you know that the human body is mostly water roughly 12 gallons? That's approximately 50 to 75% of the body's weight. According to the American Dietetic Association's Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, the average adult loses about 10 cups of water daily. That volume needs to be replenished by drinking 8 to 10 glasses of water each day. Other fluids like juice, soup and decaffeinated tea or coffee count too. Individual's needs vary depending on one's level of physical activity, percentage of muscle mass and exterior temperature. Some water needs can be met through foods such as lettuce, watermelon and grapefruit. Vegetables and fruits have high water content while bread, nuts and oils have lower or no water content.

We use water as well as expend it. In fact just in everyday breathing we lose about two cups of water. Other ways that we lose body water is through sweating and urinating. If we fail to replenish these losses, we set ourselves up to become dehydrated.

If our body sense's low water stores it will tell the kidneys to conserve the water instead of excreting it (darker coloured urine will result). Dehydration can also lead to constipation and bloating as well. Some other symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth and tongue, apathy and a lack of energy, and muscle cramping.

If left untreated, dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. These symptoms include: fatigue, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, headache, rapid shallow breathing, high temperatures, rapid heart beat, and decreased alertness or complete loss of consciousness.

Function of Water

Water is essential for digestion, absorption of nutrients, and excretion. It is key in the structure and function of the circulatory system.
* Gives form to the cells
* Transports nutrients and all body substances
* Controls the physical and chemical makeup of the fluid inside and outside of cells
* Helps maintain body temperature
* Lubricates the joints


By the time one becomes thirsty, dehydration has already begun. Dehydration sets in when we have a less than optimal level of fluids in the body. 90% of the body's water is found in and around the cells, while the other 10% is in the bloodstream. When we lack water, available fluids move from our cells into our blood leaving us with withered cells. This loss of body fluid can lead to progressively worse symptoms of dehydration: thirst, fatigue, weakness, delirium. Losing just 10% of body water can cause severe disorders such as muscle spasms, delirium and wakefulness. A 20% loss could actually lead to death, when the inability of the blood to circulate normally ultimately causes kidney failure.

Tips for Staying Hydrated

* Keeping track of how much water and water-based beverages you consume.
* Count any frozen juice bars or icy treats.
* Carry a bottle of water around with you, if necessary.
* Remember, caffeine acts as a diuretic; so caffeinated beverages can cause fluid loss.
* Fruit juices may be diluted with water for the calorie conscious.
* Sports drinks can be a good source of electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, chloride, bicarbonate, which help keep the body electrically balanced
* Drink plenty of fluids: on average it is recommended to consume at least 8- eight ounce glasses of fluid a day
* Sports drinks can encourage active people to drink more fluids because they are flavoured and are higher in sodium
* Avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol, both contain substances that will cause dehydration
* Avoid carbonated beverages because the carbonation may cause bloating or a feeling of fullness and prevent adequate consumption of fluids
* Wear light coloured, absorbable, loose fitting clothes
* Stay in cool, shaded areas and protect your skin with sun block whenever possible

Get in the habit of drinking more fluids. Gradually increase your intake. Keep track of what you consume. Your life could depend on it.

For most of us, being aware and prepared is the easiest way to prevent dehydration from occurring. On hot humid days, an active person can become dehydrated in just 15 minutes. If you experience any of the symptoms above, stop the activity and rest in a cool area. Then drink fluids to replenish the water lost.

During Ramadan it is normal to feel a little dehydrated. This can be addressed by making sure that enough water and fluids are consumed between iftar and sehri. Although usually we tend to focus more on the solid food that is served during iftar and sehri, it is wise to start with water or juice followed by fruits. Lemonade and coconut water are excellent ways to rehydrate the body. As long as the daily requirement of fluids is maintained, there will be lower chances of getting dehydrated and feeling overly fatigued.

sources: healthlink, Medical College of Wisconsin, USA, American Dietetic Association.

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