How to avoid dehydration throughout the summer

Jul 12, 2015

Water and summer go together like peanut butter and jelly. From the ocean to backyard pools, water tends to be a way of life for most during hot weather. But while everyone is having fun many forget how important it is to drink water as well.

This week on “Take Care,” health expert Johannah Sakimura talks about the importance of staying hydrated during these hot summer months.

Sakimura has a master’s degree in nutrition from the Columbia University Institute of Human Nutrition and also writes the Nutrition Sleuth column at Everyday Health.

Staying cool is always a challenge when it comes to summer fun. Our bodies have many ways in which to keep us cool during the heat. The main way our bodies stay cool is through sweat.

Much like water, sweat and summer are pretty tightknit as well, but the more we sweat the more dangerous it can become.

“When it is hot outside, you are losing water through sweat and that is one of your body’s cooling processes,” Sakimura says. “You do have to replace those losses if you are outside in the hot weather.”

Sweating is part of the body’s regulatory system, but too much sweating without replenishing can cause dehydration.

Dehydration comes in two steps: mild and severe. Thirst and a dry tongue or mouth represents the first warning signs. Headaches, dizziness, weakness and cramping occur if the initial steps are ignored.

The secret to getting rid of dehydration? Water.

Sakimura says that for the vast majority of people water is the perfect hydrator.

“Hydration needs vary individually,” says Sakimura. “They are based on your activity level, the weather and also your body size. So on average you may need eight to 10 cups a day, if sedentary, but you might want to bring much more than that if you are going out in the heat.”

Hydration, however, should not just happen while out in the heat. Sakimura says that it is important to hydrate throughout the day.

“Make sure you’re starting the day well hydrated, drinking water throughout the day and then drinking a glass of water when you come back inside,” Sakimura says.

Electrolytes, mostly sodium, should be equally as replenished as water. Sports drinks, often seen as the ultimate electrolyte replenisher, are not the end-all be-all when it comes to filling our electrolyte needs.

“Sweat is primarily water but it also does have some electrolytes in it, the main one being sodium,” Sakimura explains. “Sodium doesn’t have to come from a sports drink but rather some pretzels, crackers or a nice meal after you are done. You don’t have to rely on sports drinks.”

Food, like water, plays an important role in our hydration as well. Sakimura says that about 20 percent of our daily fluid comes from the food we eat.

“You can get a lot of hydration from eating,” Sakimura says. “That is why it is important to eat a whole foods diet. Eating a generally healthy diet can help you meet your fluid needs.”

Foods like watermelons, strawberries, lettuce and yogurt are also great for hydration.

Ultimately, Sakimura says that it all comes down to what we do in the heat. Understanding sweat, the warning signs of dehydration and what to do when those signs show up are the best ways to keep summer safe and fun until the school bells ring.