Floods Of The Past Remind Us Of Internal And External Water Balance

photo by dodgertonskillhause courtesy of morguefile.com

“Water! Water! Who wants some water?” the young man called out.

At first, I thought he was making a joke. I looked up from tying a sandbag among the millions of sandbags being used to fight rising floodwater a few years ago in our area.

“We have too much water already!” I thought to myself.

Then I saw the case of small bottles of water he was carrying. I gratefully grabbed a bottle of water and took a little break. I was getting thirsty.

Drinking a bottle of water in the midst of a flood made me think of the delicate balance that must be maintained in our bodies and environment.

We need a safe source of water for survival, but we need boundaries on water in the environment and our bodies. The human body is made up of about 60 percent water, with some variability based on age and other factors.

In the human body, water helps regulate body temperature, protects tissues, transports nutrients and carries out wastes. We can survive without food longer than without water.

The recommendation that we need eight glasses of “plain” water a day to stay hydrated has changed. All beverages and most foods contain water and it all counts toward keeping us hydrated.

We actually can “flood” our bodies with too much water. Although rare, drinking too much water in a short time can result in water intoxication and “hyponatremia” (literally, low sodium level in the blood).

The resulting electrolyte (sodium and potassium) imbalance from water intoxication can lead to disorientation and dizziness. It can progress to seizures, coma and, potentially, death.

According to research, healthy people usually can use thirst to gauge their needs. The fluid intake of athletes, the elderly, young children and people with medical conditions may need to be monitored more closely.

The good news for coffee drinkers: Caffeinated beverages are not dehydrating as was once believed. They count toward our fluid needs, too, although the special coffee drinks may contribute lots of excess calories. Enjoy 100 percent juice and milk to get your nutrients.

For nutrition and hydration, enjoy more fruits and vegetables. They are about 85 percent water by weight.

To save some money, drink municipal water at home and restaurants. It has a cost advantage over bottled water: It’s free.

In times of disaster, however, municipal water and water from private wells can become contaminated with sewage, chemicals and other substances. If that ever is the case, listen to local authorities to find out if the tap water is safe. Flooded private wells need to be tested.

You may have to use bottled water, or you may need to boil the water or treat it with chemicals before using it for cooking, cleaning and bathing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bringing water to a rolling boil for 1 minute kills most organisms. Chemical contamination, however, is not removed by boiling, so you will need an alternate water source.

Visit www.ndsu.edu/boomers for more information about nutrition and health. Sign up for the free monthly e-newsletter.

All this information about water has made me thirsty. We all could use a little more sunshine this spring, so here’s a refreshing calcium-rich beverage recipe courtesy of the Midwest Dairy Association at www.midwestdairy.com.

Sunshine Smoothie

2 c. fat-free milk
2 c. low-fat or nonfat lemon yogurt
1/2 c. ice cubes
3 Tbsp. sugar-sweetened, powdered lemonade drink mix
lemon wedge or zest (optional)

In a blender, combine all ingredients and blend until mixture is smooth and creamy. Pour into glasses and garnish each glass with lemon wedge or zest, if desired.

Makes four servings. Each serving has 180 calories, 2 grams (g) of fat, 10 g protein, 32 g of carbohydrate, 140 milligrams (mg) of sodium and 300 mg of calcium.