Question of the Week

August 18, 2003


"When someone gets dehydrated, it means the amount of water in his body has dropped below the proper level (our bodies are about two-thirds water). Small decreases don't cause problems, and in most cases, they go
completely unnoticed...."

Summer heat, sports, and illness can all lead to dehydration, but that's not all...

"Dieting can sap your reserves of water as well because you're changing the balance of what you eat and drink. Beware of diets that emphasize shedding 'water weight' as a quick way to lose weight."

"Most of the time, dehydration doesn't reach the danger level. 'While it's still mild, your body detects dehydration and leads you to behaviors that correct the problem,' Dr. Shmerling says. 'Either you get thirsty and replenish lost fluids (by drinking water) or you reduce fluid loss (by cooling off and resting).' However, mild dehydration can become more severe if fluid isn't restored. As you lose more water from your body, you may experience symptoms such as dry mouth, flushed skin, fatigue, headache and impaired physical performance. With severe dehydration you may not feel thirsty.

Our bodies can let us know when they are beginning to detect a problem, but we are responsible for listening to them, doing something when we notice a possible problem, and being aware of the need so that action can be taken before there is a problem.

"Water is an essential nutrient required for life. To be well hydrated, the average sedentary adult man must consume at least 2,900 mL (12 c) fluid per day, and the average sedentary adult woman at least 2,200 mL (9 c) fluid per day, in the form of noncaffeinated, nonalcoholic beverages, soups, and foods. Solid foods contribute approximately 1,000 mL (4 c) water, with an additional 250 mL (1 c) coming from the water of oxidation. The Nationwide Food Consumption Surveys indicate that a portion of the population may be chronically mildly dehydrated. Several factors may increase the likelihood of chronic, mild dehydration, including a poor thirst mechanism, dissatisfaction with the taste of water, common consumption of the natural diuretics caffeine and alcohol, participation in exercise, and environmental conditions. Dehydration of as little as 2% loss of body weight results in impaired physiological and performance responses."

We all want to be able to function at our best. While we may not always treat our bodies as well as we could, one thing we can do is keep them hydrated.

Questions of the Week:
What if you don't like the taste of water? What if you drink a lot of coffee and soda? What if drinking a lot during the day really doesn't work with your busy schedule? What fluids are best to use for dehydration prevention and/or re-hydration? What can you do to assure that your body has the fluids it needs to function at its best?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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