Hydration for the Summer

By Dr Sivuyile Madikana (Herbalife NAB Southern Africa)

The days are getting warmer and a bit longer. Soon we will be feeling the heat of the African Sun daily on our skin, a much-needed break from the winter cold. With all the warmth coming up over the next few months, there are some critical things we need to remember and top of mind is hydration. 

Hydration is essentially the replacement of body fluids (particularly water) lost through various processes like sweating, exhaling & waste elimination. As you may have heard the human body is made up of mostly water, (on average 60%) so it is crucial that what is lost is replaced to keep the body functioning optimally. Water plays a role in almost all bodily functions and is carried in almost every organ with the brain and kidneys carrying the highest percentage of water and the teeth and bones carrying the least. It is also responsible for protecting organs like the spinal cord, transportation of oxygen through the body, temperature regulation and lubrication of joints, to mention a few. As we can tell, there are many benefits of drinking water that involve a multitude of systems in the body. 

With water being so important to our sustenance, we need to maintain a good balance between how much water we take in and how much leaves out bodies in order to prevent dehydration. This means when fluid loss is high, we need to ensure we are drinking more water than we would usually. This is why it is difficult to put a standard number on how much water one should drink. Many factors play a role in the daily requirements of hydration, including things like; age, sex, body fat/muscle percentages and accelerated fluid losses through disease processes, exercise, and hot climate to name a few. 

For example, during hotter days or when one exercises, water intake needs to be higher than usual. Here are some to continuously maintain adequate hydrations: 

  • Carrying a water bottle for easy access
  • Choosing water over sugar sweetened beverages
  • Choosing water when eating a meal out
  • Adding a wedge of lemon to improve taste (also aids in prevention of kidney stones)
  • Drinking water before and after exercise
  • In older adults to not wait until the feeling of thirst to drink fluids as dehydration might have set in already by the time their sense of thirst is activated

So how will you know you are drinking enough water?

  • You would be passing urine every few hours (on average 2-4 hours)
  • Your urine should be colourless or a pale yellow.
  • You rarely feel thirsty.

How will you know when your body lacks water? Well, the opposite of the above with a few more symptoms such as fatigue, dry mouth & tongue (can be white as well), feeling lightheaded, joint and muscle pain, headaches constipation and poor mental performance. In prolonged instances of poor water intake sometimes urinary tract infections, kidney stones and poor skin health can develop. It is important to remember that there are many sources of water including different foods such as fruits and vegetables and all those sources contribute to your daily intake of water. They do however carry smaller amounts of water and higher concentrations of other nutrients such as glucose and so they should be consumed in moderation.