Water, water, everywhere … And why should we drink it?
We live in the desert. For those of us who are not native to desert living, the way in which our bodies react to dry, baking heat is new. We hear from those around us: “Is this your first summer? Oh wow, drink lots of water!”
What does that mean? And how much water? What happens to us in this weather?
Our bodies, by weight, are about two-thirds water. We need water to complete almost every cycle that our body needs to function. Muscles are almost 75 percent water. Even our fat is about 10 percent water. To stay healthy, we need to replenish our fluid supply continuously. When our bodies do not get enough water we begin to dehydrate, which is when the body is using more water than it is taking in.
How do we know that we are dehydrated? We begin to notice a number of things. We will begin to feel tired, sensing a lack of energy. Our skin becomes dry and flaky. Our brain doesn’t function correctly and we can be distracted, groggy and slow.
When there is severe dehydration, especially in the elderly, the symptoms can mirror symptoms of psychosis. Also, if we become too dehydrated, our body will stop sweating because it cannot regulate itself.
Among the symptoms attributed to dehydration are headache, irritability, weakness, cravings for sugar and salt, dizziness, dark urine, dry mouth, nausea and vomiting. Many of these symptoms can be the signs of other illnesses as well.
Because we live in the desert, we should know the basic way of avoiding dehydration. It is water. Women should be drinking at least nine cups of water a day and men should attempt to drink 13 cups a day. Our body is pretty efficient in being able to utilize the water in any beverage, but during bouts of high-energy activities in the dry heat the most recommended beverage is water.
Research about water and the desert has generated interest since the number of people living in the desert has increased since World War II. There had been speculation that “water discipline,” or being able to conserve water intake in the desert, was a science. But trying to survive on less water without taking into consideration the amount of physical activity you do and the actual air temperature is not using all of the science available. When trying to discipline the intake of water in the desert, researchers found that there was a considerable increase in heat-related illnesses.
While the desert has beautiful weather three-quarters of the year, we need to be aware and attentive to those three long, hot months when we most know our bodies and its reaction to a lack of water. It’s June. It’s hot. Drink up!
To Your Health is written by the staff of Boulder City Hospital. For more information, call 702-293-4111, ext. 576, or visit bouldercityhospital.org.