Hydration and Health
We all know that when the heat hits it is very important to stay hydrated. High temperatures invite our body to ingest liquids to satisfy the loss that we suffer when the thermometers rise, with a clear signal such as thirst. But what other symptoms can we have with dehydration? And most importantly, how important is hydration to our health, both in summer and winter? Next, we will answer all these questions.
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What is dehydration?
As indicated by the who , the recommended intake of water is between 1.5 and 2 liters per day, although a higher amount is advisable in adults, athletes and in warm areas. Drink liquid below these figures can produce what we know as dehydration , which is the process that is generated in our body when we experience a loss of fluids greater than ingestion, which is known as negative water balance .
In a situation of mild dehydration we can notice various symptom for example:
- Thirst, the first indicator of a lack of hydration,
- Weakness, fatigue,
When dehydration reaches higher levels, the consequences also increase. Faced with a moderate water imbalance, our body will respond with an increased pulse, reduced urination, dry skin, until reaching a more serious phase in which even muscle spasms, vomiting and mental confusion can occur. In these cases it will be necessary to go to a medical center to immediately stop these adverse effects that can be lethal .
How does dehydration occur?
In summer the answer is clear: when the temperature rises, our body reacts with sweating, which helps regulate body temperature, and thirst appears as a consequence of this loss of fluids. When we feel thirsty, the dehydration process It has already started, so it is time to remedy and give our body what it is demanding, although it is much better to anticipate and regularly drink the amounts of water that we think the body is going to lose.
But dehydration is not unique to summer. In colder seasons we also experience fluid loss through:
- Breathing : in sedentary people we speak of 250 to 350 ml / day, a figure that doubles in the case of active people.
- Sweat : Although insensitive for us in cases of moderate temperature, our body releases toxins and mineral salts.
- Urine : Our kidneys are responsible for filtering the blood and the body adjusts the amounts of fluid, eliminating toxins through the urine. This function does not stop at any time, so even if the fluid intake decreases, the kidney continues to filter and lose water producing that negative water balance.
Types of dehydration
When that negative water balance occurs, electrolyte levels drop. Electrolytes are minerals found in blood and other body fluids that carry an electrical charge: Common electrolytes include:
Depending on the rate of loss of water versus electrolytes, dehydration can be classified as isotonic, hypertonic, or hypotonic.
- Isotonic dehydration: it is when water and sodium are lost in identical proportions, which usually occurs in cases of vomiting, diarrhea or insufficient intake. It is the most common type of dehydration in young children.
- Hypertonic dehydration: in which the volume of water lost is greater than that of sodium. It happens when there is an intake of diuretics and an excess of sweating.
- Hypotonic dehydration: when the loss of sodium is proportionally higher than that of water. It occurs in cases of high sweating or after ingesting too much water or other liquids with little sodium content.
Ideal hydration levels
As we have commented, the WHO indicates that the intake of healthy water for humans should be between 1.5 and 2 liters per day. These figures may vary depending on the circumstances of each person: their age, their activity level, their diet, the environmental conditions of their surroundings, etc. Children and the elderly are the groups most prone to dehydration. In the case of the former, gastroenteritis and diarrhea are more common since their immune system is developing and the sensation of thirst is not yet as advanced as it becomes in adulthood. Similarly, elderly people have a lower perception of thirst and can sometimes suffer from diseases in which their water levels are affected. In both cases, the continued intake of water is recommended, throughout the day, in small amounts, to maintain balanced levels.
When we refer to adults, the ideal consumption is between 2 and 2.5 liters per day. If they carry out sports activities, it is advisable to recover the liquid lost during the practice, adding it to the total water of the day. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should also increase this intake since they present a greater risk of dehydration, since the needs of the mother are added to those of the baby.
In summary, how do we stay hydrated?
About 80% of our hydration comes from liquids, and the remaining 20% from solid foods. Thus, some of the most common medical recommendations to stay hydrated are related to healthy consumption habits.
First, regularly drink the recommended amounts of water and other fluids. Not only water, but in the form of juices, infusions, broths … all this will provide the recommended fluid levels, that 80% mentioned. Although packaged soft drinks and juices also fulfill this function, it is better to consume them occasionally due to their sugar content that is not beneficial to our body.
Regarding the role of our diet, fruits and vegetables undoubtedly play a fundamental role since they contain high percentages of water (around 85%), and are excellent allies for our water balance.
Maintaining good hydration is essential to take care of health, therefore we must ensure that the water to drink is of very good quality.