Keep Your Family (and Your Pets) Hydrated

Photo by mconnor courtesy of morguefile.com

“Where’s Jake?” my daughter asked anxiously. She was about 10 at the time.

“He’s in the backyard. Did you look under the pine tree? How about under the deck?” I responded.

“I’ve looked everywhere, but I can’t find him!” my daughter exclaimed.

Jake and his brother, Chester, our dachshunds, are so low to the ground they can slither under lots of things. As we called for Jake, his curious brother trotted over.

We walked out on our deck and scanned the yard for signs of our auburn-colored pet. Then we heard some faint barking. We traced it to the corner of our lot by our shed, which I thought was locked.

My daughter opened the door of the shed and he jumped out, tongue hanging out.

“You need to write a column about this!” she said as she cuddled Jake happily.

“OK, I need more information. What does a dog stuck in a shed have to do with nutrition?” I asked.

“Mom, you know what I mean!” she said. She stared at me as though I had lost any knowledge or common sense I ever might have possessed.

“Mom, it’s hot outside and he was in the shed. We need to drink lots of water in the summer. Dogs do, too,” she said as she brought a bowl of ice water to our wagging hound.

Yes, she had a good idea for a column. I think Jake grinned at me.

The human body is made up of at least 60 percent water, depending on our age and other factors. Water has multiple roles in our body, from protecting body tissue to helping regulate body temperature. Water is part of all cells and helps transport nutrients and carries out waste products.

Water is critical for our survival. We can survive without food for longer than we can survive without water.

Dehydration is a special concern for young children and the elderly because their thirst mechanisms may not operate as efficiently. In fact, dehydration is a major cause of hospitalization among the elderly.

Some of the first signs of dehydration are fatigue and headache. As we become increasingly dehydrated, symptoms worsen. Our body temperature increases, as does our pulse and breathing rate. Soon, dizziness and muscle spasms can result. If the dehydration is severe and not treated, the kidneys may fail.

Contrary to popular advice, however, we do not necessarily need to drink eight glasses of “plain” water a day to remain hydrated, according to nutrition and medical experts. Water is found in most foods and all beverages. All sources of water contribute to our hydration needs.

The good news for coffee drinkers: Coffee is not “dehydrating,” according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. The researchers reported that drinking caffeine-containing beverages, such as coffee and caffeinated soft drinks, did not lead to significant water losses among participants.

The researchers did, however, find a net loss of water when participants drank alcohol-containing beverages. In other words, drinking cold beer on a hot day may taste refreshing, but it isn’t necessarily hydrating.

These are some tips to consider during the warmth of summer:

  • Take regular beverage breaks, especially when you are working outside or in a warm environment.
  • Enjoy more hydrating, summertime seasonal produce, such as watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries and other fruits and vegetables.  Many fruits and vegetables are 85 percent water by weight and it all counts toward our fluid needs. You’ll get a nutrition boost, too.
  • Order water as your beverage in restaurants more often. While all beverages are hydrating, water has the advantage of being calorie-free and cost-free if you drink municipal water. If you don’t like plain water, ask for a lemon or lime slice.

Enjoy a glass of this refreshing favorite. You can adjust the amount of sugar to add based on your preferences. Or try making “infused water” by adding lemon slices, cucumber slices or other types of fruit.

Old-fashioned Lemonade

6 lemons (to make about 1 cup lemon juice)
6 cups cold water
1 cup sugar (or substitute noncaloric sweetener)

Juice lemons. Mix juice, water and sugar in pitcher. Stir well. Serve over ice.

Makes eight servings. Each serving has 105 calories, no fat, 28 grams (g) of carbohydrate and 23 percent of the daily recommendation for vitamin C.

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