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Nutritionist warns of dehydration dangers amid drought

Published:Monday | July 6, 2015 | 12:00 AMAnastasia Cunningham

With the scorching heat beating down on the island, one nutritionist is warning Jamaicans not to allow themselves to become dehydrated, as it could lead to serious complications, including death.

"The body is made up of approximately 50 to 70 per cent of water to keep it working effectively. It acts like a thermostat in regulating the body's temperature, as well as keeps the cells and organs working properly, eliminates waste, and transports nutrients," registered dietitian and nutritionist, Marsha N. Woolery, told The Gleaner

"Practically every aspect of our body needs water for proper functioning, so it is very important to keep adequately hydrated."

"Allowing the body to become dehydrated can lead to very serious problems, including death. Dehydration can cause minor to severe symptoms, such as dizziness, cracked lips, dry mouth, weakness, fainting, heart palpitation, no tears, no saliva, confusion and disorientation, decreased skin turgor, even hallucination."

Woolery cautioned that if persons do not drink fluids throughout the day, dehydration symptoms can develop rapidly amid the sweltering conditions.

She said the body needed approximately 64 ounces of water and other fluids per day, which translates to on average eight to 10 eight-ounce glasses for the typical person, and more for an active individual.

"Too many persons don't realise that water is extremely essential to the body and that nearly all of the major systems in our body depend on water to function properly. They take it for granted and only drink water when they feel thirsty, but that is a very wrong approach. We have to develop a habit of drinking the adequate amount of fluids for the day, keeping a drinking container with us and sipping throughout the day," said Woolerly.


Other sources of fluid


The practising dietitian and nutritionist for close to 20 years said pure water was not the only source of fluid, as other liquids, fruit juices, fruits and vegetables are very good sources of water.

"Coconut water is very good at not only keeping you hydrated, but providing essential nutrients such as potassium, electrolytes. Persons can also drink other liquids like milk, iced tea and fruit juices," she said.

"Also, eat more fruits high in water concentration, such as watermelons, pineapples, oranges and papayas. Tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers also have high water content. Use up our natural resources, which will not only keep you hydrated and but provide the body with essential nutrients."

Woolerly also recommend adding lime and other fruits to water to enhance the flavour, as well as making fruit ice cubes that they can suck on during the day.

“Pure water does come first, but mixing it up with those mentioned is good. The important thing is to keep hydrated, especially for children and the elderly, because children and the elderly become dehydrated more easily,” she noted.

“Persons with kidney disease and heart disease should pay even closer attention to their body’s hydration, and keep in touch with their doctor especially during severe heat conditions.”


* Sense of thirst diminishes between ages 27 and 30, so it is important to form a natural habit of drinking water regularly.

* Never wait until you feel thirsty or parched, when your throat is dry and your lips start cracking.

* Never rely solely on thirst, because as soon as you put water on your tongue the feeling of thirst will go away

* Practice drinking eight to ten eight-ounce glasses of water per day.

* Travel with a water decanter and sip on the liquid throughout the day.

* Drink more water if you are quite active. Before, during and after an exercise session, especially if it’s strenuous, keep well hydrated.

* You can also get water from other sources, like natural organic water from fruits and vegetables, and, of course, other liquids.

* Coconut water is a great source, because it not only keeps you hydrated but provide essential nutrients

* Add lime and other fruits to water to enhance the flavour.

* Take note of how often you are urinating and its colour. Urine colour should be just a light shade of yellow. If it’s bright yellow, almost concentrated, you need more water in your system. If it’s colourless, cut down on the fluids.

* Choose rehydrated sports drink with low sugar content. Five grams per eight-ounce is the recommendation.

* Aim to wake feeling hydrated. If you are thirsty when you get up in the mornings you may not be consuming enough during the day. You can also keep a glass of water near your bedside for the times you may wake in the middle of the night feeling thirsty.

* Weighing yourself daily can help check hydration. Your weight should not fluctuate too much. Compensate for any weight loss plan you’re on.

* Do not drink while eating. This will disrupt the digestive process and affect the effectiveness of the alkaline breakdown that begins in the mouth.

* Do not mistake thirst for hunger. Too often people allow themselves to get too thirsty and mistake it for hunger, which leads to overeating.