Extension Agent: Remember to hydrate this summer

By Brenda Phipps
July 10, 2012 at 2:10 a.m.

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

Water is vital in sustaining good health and life in general.

Almost every function of the human body requires water, including transporting nutrients and oxygen, helping medications to work properly, aiding in elimination of wastes, and assisting in body temperature regulation.

Healthy adults of all ages need about six to eight, eight-ounce glasses of water or other fluids every day. However, the United States Department of Agriculture dietary guidelines do not make a specific hydration recommendation. The dietary guidelines recommend allowing thirst to indicate how much water to drink.

We need to drink water throughout the day because we lose water through perspiration, bodily functions and breathing. During hot, humid weather (especially in Texas), fluid loss may be much higher, therefore, intake of fluids should be higher as well.

Of the water we consume each day, 20 percent comes from food that is eaten (like fruits and vegetables) and the remaining 80 percent comes from beverages. Here are some easy ways to add water to an eating plan:•  Start lunch or dinner with a bowl of soup Start lunch or dinner with a bowl of soup

•  Take a bottle of water with you when you go outside Take a bottle of water with you when you go outside

•  Drink milk with meals and water with snacks Drink milk with meals and water with snacks

•  Enjoy fruits and vegetables as snacks Enjoy fruits and vegetables as snacks

•  Enjoy decaffeinated teas and coffees Enjoy decaffeinated teas and coffees

•  Take water breaks throughout the day Take water breaks throughout the day

In the last few years, consumption of bottled water has soared. Bottled water is not necessarily safer than tap water, since both are tightly regulated by the government to ensure safety. While city water is safe, well water may have contaminants that could make bottled water a better choice, so make sure to have well water tested regularly.

Some people may prefer the taste of bottled water because tap water usually contains chlorine (which can add a slight "flavor") and fluoride (which helps fight cavities). Bottled water is easy to carry and handy to take along, but may be expensive. If bottled water is too expensive to buy, get reusable water bottles that can be filled with tap water and taken along.

All groups of people are susceptible to dehydration, regardless of age or physical condition. Dehydration can lead to increased urinary tract infections, increased risk of kidney stones, hospitalization, convulsions, cardiac arrest and even death. Be aware of the signs of dehydration: thirst, dry mouth, flushed skin, fatigue, weakness, headache, dizziness, confusion, high body temperature, increased breathing rate, rapid pulse, dark yellow urine and skin that stays in a pinched position.

These are also the signs of water toxicity (too much water in too short a time), but if you stick to six to eight beverages spread throughout the day, you are unlikely to encounter this problem.

As we get into the hottest part of the summer, remember to stay well hydrated. If you are experiencing signs of dehydration, replace lost fluids immediately. If symptoms persist, see your health care provider or get emergency assistance.

Brenda Phipps is a Victoria County extension assistant.



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