Beating the Heat!

There are many ways to beat the heat, taking a dip in the pool or ocean, sitting directly in front of a fan or air conditioning, or more drastically moving to a colder climate. However, often reaching for a cold drink is the easiest and most flavorful way drop the temperature a few degrees and prevent dehydration.

Hot, humid weather makes people perspire more heavily, creating a possible fluid deficit.  Prolonged fluid deficits can lead to dehydration and heat stroke, but even mild dehydration can cause your blood glucose level to rise. This is why it is good to make sure you are well hydrated this summer.

This is especially true if you are exercising vigorously. Some types of exercise, such as resistance training or weight lifting can cause your blood glucose to initially spike; coupled with a mild dehydration you may find yourself behind the eight ball.  The elevated glucose level can exacerbate the dehydration as the kidneys try to increase urine output to jettison the excess glucose.

Now young and healthy people have an advantage—their thirst mechanism is intact. When the body senses a decline in blood volume (the amount of blood coursing through the  veins and arteries), it sets in motion a series of factors that restore the equilibrium. It sends messages to the kidneys to recycle more of the fluid it would normally send into the urine back into the body and it stimulates the thirst mechanism.  The thirst sensation in older individuals is often blunted, so they need to make a conscious effect to stay well hydrated.  Severe dehydration in older, debilitated people can lead to a condition known as hyperglycemic hyperosmolar non-ketotic syndrome (HNKS). When the body becomes very dehydrated, the osmolarity (concentration of glucose, sodium and other electrolytes in the blood) is higher than that of the surrounding tissue. Fluid is drawn out the organs, including the brain, into the blood stream escalating the tissue and organ dehydration.  As the brain dehydrates, coma and eventually death can ensue.

But things never need to get to such dire straits. Water is your best refresher. It is calorie free and, depending on where you get it, low in sodium and additives. Served cold it is always invigorating

If you like a bit more pizazz in your beverages, add a few slices of cucumber, a spritz of juice, or fruit-encrusted ice cubes to your pitcher of water.  Or try filling an ice cube tray with your favorite juice and add them to low calorie beverages for a change of pace.

Diet sodas and other calorie free tonics, although not as good as water, won’t raise your blood glucose and will hydrate you whether they are caffeinated or not. (Scientists used to think that caffeine caused excessive fluid excretion, but this was found to be false except when large amounts of caffeine are ingested (over 500mg, the amount in about 4 cups of coffee).

The same can’t be said for alcohol. Although a cold beer on a hot day may seem heavenly, alcohol isn’t the best way to replenish your body’s fluid balance. So, if you are thirsty or have been out in the hot sun go for non-alcoholic beverages first and then enjoy the beer. And remember, alcoholic beverages should be limited to no more than one serving for women and two for men.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.