In the summertime, when the weather is hot, your body does its best to maintain its ideal temperature (around 37°C or 98.6°F). This involves the dilation of blood vessels close to the skin to cool the blood, and an increase in sweating. Through sweating, you lose considerable quantities of water, essential for your body to function. If you drink enough, you replenish the body’s water supplies. If you don’t, you’ll dehydrate, which can lead to all kinds of bad things happening inside your body.
Drink enough, or else you’ll be dehydrated
Dehydration occurs when your body doesn’t have enough water to function properly. It has several stages, from mild to severe, each with its own telltale signs and effects.
If you are only mildly dehydrated, you’ll feel sleepy or tired, your mouth and eyes will be dry, you’ll urinate less, and have a harder stool (or even become constipated). Mild dehydration often causes headaches, dizziness, and lightheadedness. Oh, and you’ll probably feel thirsty all the time.
Severe dehydration has much scarier symptoms, from changes in behavior to effects on the body. A severely dehydrated adult is irritable and fussy, or even delirious in a more severe case. The mouth, skin, and eyes are very dry. The blood pressure drops, the heart beats rapidly. The urine – the best indicator of your level of hydration – becomes darker.
In extreme cases, severe dehydration can lead to serious complications, ranging from heat stroke, cerebral edema (swelling of the brain), hypovolemic shock (caused by the rapid drop of your blood volume), kidney failure, coma, and even death.Dehydration is not something you want to take lightly.
How to avoid dehydration
The simplest way for you to avoid dehydration is to drink enough fluids. You should adapt your water consumption to the environmental conditions, and the type of activity you are engaged in. Normally, an adult human needs about 70 oz (2 liters) of fluids a day. But when the weather is hot, or you work out, you sweat excessively, and need more fluids to replenish your reserves – if you work out and sweat, you must continuously replenish your reserves. During a heat wave, you should drink between 2 and 4 glasses of fluids per hour. Vomiting and diarrhea can also deplete your body’s water reserves. They need to be replenished periodically to avoid issues.
Don’t drink diuretics!
Coffee, tea, cola, and many other beverages come with a hefty dose of caffeine, which many specialists consider to be a diuretic. The same goes for alcohol. You might feel tempted to drink a cold beer after a workout, or on a torrid day, but it will most likely make you lose fluids in the long run.
Too much water, not enough sodium
Drinking a lot of water will keep you hydrated, but can lead to another complication: hyponatremia. This is a condition caused by the severe reduction of the body’s sodium levels. If you sweat excessively, you’ll need to replenish more than just your water reserves – you lose a lot of salt, and other minerals, through sweating. If you drink enough water, but not much more, the falling sodium levels in your body can interfere with its functions. Hyponatremia can affect the brain, the heart, and your muscles, too.
You can replenish the minerals you lost by a few simple hacks. Bananas contain a hefty dose of potassium, and so does yogurt. Adding a pinch of salt to your water will boost your sodium and chloride levels. Yogurt or milk will help you recover calcium – but be careful, as these can cause diarrhea in those sensitive to lactose. Nuts, spinach, and coconut water are also great sources of minerals.