Tall Drink of Water on a Hot Summer Day

In the Pacific Northwest, water is a luxury we tend to take for granted. It hosts summer activities like kayaking, beach games, and barbecues. Our long scenic drives are only made more opulent by winding rivers engulfed in lavish treescapes. Fall and winter rains overwhelmed the lakes and rivers, but summer has finally arrived, and with it comes the opportunity to enjoy them. As we leave our homes to welcome the sun, it’s more important than ever to ensure that we’re meeting our daily water intake. Ironically, it’s easy to forget to stop for a water break even when we’re surrounded by it.

When you think about the fact that the human body is made up of approximately 60% water, it stands to reason that it might be responsible for a thing or two. In fact, water does not simply hydrate us but is heavily relied upon for all bodily processes.

On hot days, water plays an important role in thermoregulation, the process in which the body expels excess heat. Neglecting to pause for a drink of water affects our concentration and quality of performance, but that’s just the beginning. As our body temperature rises, we begin to sweat. The sweat then evaporates, and the body cools down. Sweat is made up of 99% water and 1% salt so, while we’re exploring all that the earth promises this summer, dehydration and heat exhaustion become looming concerns.

The primary signs of dehydration are:

  • dizziness
  • headache
  • muscle cramping
  • fatigue
  • dry mouth
  • cracked lips
  • passing small, infrequent amounts of urine

The rule of thumb for urine is that it should be clear or pale yellow. Anything darker and it’s time to pick up your water bottle. Ignoring these symptoms can also result in constipation and other gastrointestinal issues.

The more dehydrated we become the more likely we are to develop heat exhaustion. The presentation of heat exhaustion mirrors that of dehydration with one exception – an increased body temperature. As a result of being overheated for a prolonged period, the body begins to produce excessive amounts of sweat. Without the replenishment of water and electrolytes, the body is unable to properly cool off resulting in a fever. To alleviate heat exhaustion, we can rest in a cool place, drink cool water, and loosen tight clothing – simple enough. However, if this issue goes untreated, heat stroke, a serious medical emergency, is inevitable. Heat stroke can quickly damage vital organs including the brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles and if treatment isn’t sought out fast enough, can even result in death. There’s a good reason why water is referred to as the “elixir of life.” It would be unwise to ignore its restorative properties.

Let’s break down why dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke affect our organs.

When water enters our system, it is immediately sent to work. In our mouth, it creates the saliva that produces digestive enzymes. In our stomach, it prevents constipation and increases nutrient absorption. Our kidneys rely upon water to flush out toxins and create urine so we’re able to expel them. When we don’t consume enough water, we’re more likely to develop illnesses like kidney stones and UTIs because those toxins accumulate and have no efficient way to leave the body. Water carries oxygen molecules from the lungs to the bloodstream and aids the heart by improving blood flow. This increased oxygenation and circulation – in turn – improves energy levels, cognitive function, and overall mood. Water even aids in maintaining bright and youthful skin. Because it protects your spinal cord, lubricates the joints, and provides nutrients to the musculoskeletal system, dehydration decreases physical performance and increases the likelihood of achiness and muscle cramping. Over time, chronic dehydration can result in exercise-induced asthma, hypertension, kidney failure, seizures, and brain swelling. Simply drinking cool, refreshing water can prevent any of these issues from affecting your life!

Though its healing powers are undeniable, water does not appeal to everyone and that’s okay! To ensure you’re meeting your hydration goals, the body needs about half your body weight in ounces of hydrating liquid each day, but there are many ways to meet that need. Consuming foods with a high-water content such as watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes, celery, and brothy soups is an excellent substitute. Drinks such as iced tea, sparkling water, and natural – no sugar added – fruit juices are delicious and flavorful alternatives as well. Worried about dehydration? Add coconut water to your smoothies for an electrolyte boost!

If you’re ever concerned that you might be suffering from dehydration, nip it in the bud. Pause for a moment and allow your body to cool down with a refreshing, hydrating beverage in the shade. You won’t regret it.

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