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Extension Agent: Stay hydrated this summer the right way - with water

By By Brenda Anderson
July 22, 2014 at 2:22 a.m.


What is odorless, colorless, and has no calories but we must have it to survive? Water.

Water is the most abundant substance on Earth and in the human body. Seventy-five percent of our bodies are made of water and almost every bodily function requires water.

How much water is enough? The U.S. Dietary Guidelines do not make a specific recommendation, so let your thirst be your guide. We need to drink water every day because we constantly lose water through perspiration, bodily functions and breathing, especially during hot, humid weather or strenuous activity. A general rule of thumb is to drink about eight cups of water or other beverages a day (64 ounces total).

What we drink makes up 80 percent of our daily fluid intake, so here are some beverage tips:

When it comes to water, some people prefer the taste of bottled water, but since it can get expensive, you may want to fill up reusable water bottles with filtered water from home.

Milk contains bone-strengthening calcium and is a great beverage choice to have with meals, since anyone over the age 9 should get three cups of dairy each day.

Fruit juice provides hydration but is especially high in sugar, so limit juice to once a day and choose only 100 percent fruit juice.

Sports drinks help replace fluids and nutrients that are lost through perspiration during strenuous activities, but water is adequate for fluid replacement if exercising for less than one hour.

Tea and coffee are sources of hydration but can also have a diuretic affect because of their caffeine content, so enjoy them in moderation or choose decaffeinated beverages.

While sodas are also a source of fluid, they can be high in sugar and should be enjoyed in moderation.

Alcohol does not count toward daily fluid intake because it has dehydrating effects.

The foods we eat contribute the other 20 percent of our daily fluid intake - especially fruits and vegetables. Did you know that watermelon and carrots are about 90 percent water? To add more water to your eating plan, start a meal with soup or enjoy fruits and vegetables for snacks.

When it comes to dehydration, older adults, infants, children, athletes and those who are ill are more at risk. Know the signs of dehydration: thirst, dry mouth, flushed skin, fatigue, headache, high body temperature, increased breathing rate, rapid pulse, dark yellow urine and skin that stays in a pinched position (when you pinch the skin on the top of your hand, it should immediately return to normal when released).

Although rare, too much water in too short a time can lead to water toxicity, which can be deadly. The symptoms of water toxicity are the same as for dehydration. But if you stick to six to eight beverages spread throughout the day, you are unlikely to encounter this problem.

Have a safe summer and remember, let your thirst be your guide to staying hydrated.

Brenda Anderson is a Victoria County extension assistant.

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