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May 31, 2024

How to Stay Hydrated This Summer: Be Aware of Signs of Dehydration

by Laurin Watts, MPH, RD, LDN

As the sun begins to shine brighter and temperatures start to rise, staying properly hydrated becomes more crucial than ever. Hydration is not just about quenching your thirst; it’s about maintaining a delicate balance of fluids and electrolytes in your body to ensure optimal health and performance. Our bodies constantly lose water and essential minerals through daily activities such as sweating, breathing, and even simple bodily functions like urination. Replenishing these lost fluids is vital to keeping our systems running smoothly, from our muscles and brain to our skin and joints. Understanding the true meaning of hydration and its significance can help you make informed choices to enhance your well-being and enjoy a vibrant, healthy life.

What Does Hydration Really Mean, and Why Is It Important?

With the warmer months approaching, it is important for us to pay more attention to our hydration throughout the day. Hydration refers to keeping a fluid balance in our body, including water, and charged molecules called electrolytes. Throughout the day, we lose water and electrolytes through sweat, breathing, and using the bathroom. It is important that we replenish these things to keep our bodies functioning properly and optimally.

Fluid balance plays a huge role in our overall health and can even impact the way we feel. Water is found all throughout our bodies: in our muscle, fat, brain, blood, and everywhere in between. In fact, our bodies are about 55 to 65% water!

As mentioned previously, hydration involves both water and electrolytes. Electrolytes are charged molecules that help our bodies maintain the proper balance of water throughout our bodies. The main electrolytes are sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. These molecules also play other important roles in our bodies such as aiding in temperature regulation, cognitive functioning, digestion, joint lubrication, and skin health. Learn more about each of them in our previous post: Hydration Education: Understanding and Their Vital Role in Your Health.

What Affects Hydration?

  • Temperature/humidity
  • Altitude
  • Sweat composition (the amount of salt you lose in sweat differs from person to person)
  • Exercise
  • Alcohol and caffeine consumption
  • Water content in food
  • Fiber intake
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Medications
  • Medical conditions

How Much Water Should We Drink?

The simplest way to determine if you are drinking enough water is to look at the color of your urine. As mentioned previously, we want to maintain a balance, not too little and not too much. Take a glance at where you may fall on the scale below to determine if you need to make changes to how much you are drinking throughout the day.

Another way to estimate how much to drink is by using the standard formula 1 mL per kilogram (0.5 mL per pound) of bodyweight. It is important to keep in mind that this is an approximation based on a general healthy person, so be sure to monitor what amount feels best for you.

Pay attention to your body by keeping an eye out for the common signs of dehydration. Other than dark colored urine, other signs include feeling tired, lightheaded, dizzy, confused, thirsty or having a headache. In worst case scenarios, dehydration can cause loss of consciousness, seizures, urinary and kidney problems, heatstroke, low blood volume, and death.

If you experience any symptoms of dehydration or would like to learn more, please contact your primary care provider.

Ways to Increase Hydration Throughout the Day

There is good news for you: dehydration can be prevented! By being mindful of your fluid intake and eating foods high in water content (like fruits and vegetables), you can stay hydrated. For most people, following thirst along with monitoring your body for signs of dehydration are great guidelines to ensure adequate hydration. Check out our previous blog for some creative ideas to stay hydrated: 7 Hydration Tips For This Summer.

If you want more individualized guidance on your hydration or other nutrition concerns, set up a one-on-one with an Avance Care registered dietitian. You can schedule online, or call (919)237-1337, option 4 and have one of our nutrition coordinators help schedule you.

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