Water, Water Everywhere, but I Think I’ll Have a Latte

It is truly summer.  Today it is supposed to be 115 degrees here in Phoenix!  I’ve already had quite a few patients stop by the pharmacy with signs of dehydration so I think it is important to talk about how to keep ourselves hydrated correctly.

The correct way to keep yourself hydrated is to drink water.  This seems obvious right?  Considering what I see people drinking in this heat… maybe not.  Quite a bit of our bodies are made up of water (55-60%).  It is needed to keep the chemical balances working in perfect order in our bodies.  The body’s chemical balance effects your brain, your heart, your kidneys… every organ in your body including your skin!  If you become dehydrated the chemicals in your body become imbalanced and your whole body can go haywire.  When dehydrated you may experience weight loss (not the good kind), decreased skin turgor (your skin doesn’t bounce back, it hangs), dry mucous membranes (that feeling of being thirsty, sometimes leading to sores in your mouth), tachycardia (increased heart rate), orthostatic hypotension (that feeling of being dizzy when you stand up, sit up, or move too fast), and in the worst case scenario obtundation, stupor, coma, and seizures.  Here is the problem: if you are already having these symptoms (including being thirsty) you are already dehydrated.

Lots of things can lead to dehydration:

1.  Drugs:  hydrochlorothiazide and furosemide (Lasix) are both used for high blood pressure and to take down excess water weight.  Lots of people call them their “water pill.”  If it makes you pee it can make you dehydrated.  If a drug gives you dry mouth it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re dehydrated.  I hear a lot of people talk about how benadryl makes them dehydrated.  If you don’t have water coming from your body it isn’t dehydrating you.  We call this dry mouth effect an “anticholinergic” reaction.  It’s normal, but if you’re thirsty, drink!

2.  Exercise:  If you are doing any sort of exercise it is important to drink lots of water.  If you are sweating you are losing water.

3.  Caffeine:  Okay I love my green tea.  I do.  I have a major weakness for green tea lemonades with no classic pump.  I have one a day.  But I don’t count them towards my water intake.  Same things go for red bulls, lattes, coke, mountain dew, coffee, pick your poison.  These things all contain caffeine.  Caffeine is a natural diuretic.  If you drink caffeine you are going to have to pee and that means you’re forcing yourself to lose water.  This means you are increasing your chance for dehydration.

4.  Diarrhea and Vomiting:  When you get sick, have an upset stomach, get a migraine, and have diarrhea or vomiting your body evacuates water at a rapid pace.

So what to do?  Very simple:  Drink lots of water.  Get a container with a straw if you have to.  What does lots of water mean?  I have met some people who think that two 8 oz glasses of water are enough.  Here is your goal:  Whatever you weigh in pounds, divide it in half and that is what you need to drink in ounces.  For example:  I weigh 140 lbs.  That means I need to drink 70 oz or 1.2 L of water.

Being dehydrated and feeling sick is awful.  So just remember that your water bottle takes priority this season.  It will keep your body working, your skin supple, and (even better) fill up your stomach.

Drink up and good luck!

PS:  I have found sometimes when I think I’m hungry that I’m just dead thirsty.  If you get hungry soon after a meal try drinking some water.  You may be craving water more than you think!

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