By Reina Hasting
July is one of the hottest months of the year. During summer months, we need to remember to stay hydrated.
Most of us will only drink water when we are thirsty. However, according to a study published in the Nutrition Reviews journal, older persons are less thirsty and drink less fluid after water deprivation, compared to younger persons.
I noticed this when an older family member became ill. We saw a dietitian for his illness, and I helped monitor what he ate and drank and encouraged him to be active every day. When I would ask him if he drank water, he would tell me no because he wasn’t thirsty. I told him it made sense that he didn’t feel thirsty because as we age, we lose the urge for thirst, but it’s still important we stay hydrated because too much water loss from the body interferes with body function, which can make us feel weak.
Water is an essential nutrient, it helps:
• Regulate our body temperature
• Moisten our tissue
• Protect our body organs and tissue
• Prevent constipation
• Dissolve minerals and other nutrients
• Lubricate our joints
• Lessen the burden on the kidney and liver
• Carry nutrients and oxygen to cells
Water is important for our bodies. Keeping in mind what to look for if we think we are dehydrated, can help us decide to reach for that glass of water. Some signs and symptoms to look for dehydration are the following:
• A darker urine
• Skin not bouncing back when pinched
• Upper body weakness
• Speech difficulty
• Dry mucous membranes in the nose and mouth
• Dry tongue
• Sunken appearance of eyes
Also when looking to get hydrated, it’s important to reach for the right drink and or food. Caffeine and alcohol increase water loss in our bodies, so beverages such as tea, coffee, liquor and soft drinks should be consumed in moderation. Consume high fluid foods such as fruits, vegetables, smoothies, fruits and gelatins. Water constitutes 90 percent of fruits and vegetables.
A good way to stay hydrated is to form a habit of drinking water every day throughout the day. Make it a point to at least drink a glass of water with every meal and in between meals. Avoid drinking it all at once and late in the day. And if you are starting a new habit of drinking more water, your body will need time to adjust, just like with any sudden change in the diet, but don’t give up. The worst case is you’ll just be using the bathroom a lot more in the beginning but with time that will slow down. We need water for pretty much every organ in our body so drink up!
If you think you are not getting enough water, here are some tips provided from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
• Carry a water bottle for easy access when you are at work of running errands.
• Freeze some freezer-safe water bottles. Take one with you for ice-cold water all day long.
• Choose water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages. This can also help with weight management. Substituting water for one 20-ounce sugar-sweetened soda will save you about 240 calories. For example, during the school day students should have access to drinking water, which gives them a healthy alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages.
• Choose water when eating out. Generally, you will save money and reduce calories.
• Add a wedge of lime or lemon to your water. This can help improve the taste and help you drink more water than you usually do.
Also check out some of these great infused water recipes from West Virginia University Extension Service at http://bit.ly/2KJq1my.
Reina Hasting is a coordinator with Extension’s Family Nutrition Program, which is administered by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For questions, she can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 907-474-2437 tel/(907)474-7930