By MARY ANN LIENHART CROSS
Extension Educator Health & Human Sciences, Purdue Extension Elkhart County
GOSHEN — It has been hot and humid for several days, but I am not going to complain because I know the weather will change – we live in the Midwest. I think it is extra hot and humid in Indiana so we all realize what it was like 200 years ago when our state was founded. I am sure there was a lot of fanning happening with whatever they were using for fanning. The hot, humid weather is a great reminder for us all to drink water, as our body needs water more than most people realize.
I am sure you know that your body is made up of a lot of water and that water is the most vital nutrient you need, and most of us don’t drink enough. So you may ask, “How much water does my body need?” Health authorities suggest that adults in comfortable temperatures should drink six to eight cups, which is 1-1/2 to 2 quarts of water daily. Yes that does mean you will be going to the bathroom. You need to drink the water to maintain water balance. Water exits via skin, lungs, feces and urine. Urine accounts for about 1 to 1-1/2 quarts of loss; the rest is divided among the other three with the amounts shifting according to temperature, humidity, physical activity, age, size, diet and disease.
Dietary minerals and their salts help maintain your water balance. Sodium, chloride, potassium and phosphate are the main mineral balancers, with sodium acting outside the cells and potassium and phosphate inside the cells. Chloride shifts easily between the two.
The body is a miracle and it has a built-in water gauge. Do you have any idea what it is? It is thirst, but it is not always reliable, especially after we have been out in the hot sun and have lost a lot of perspiration. Symptoms of dehydration are reduced elasticity in skin, dry mouth and lips, little saliva, sunken eyes, crying with few tears, lack of urination and dark, yellow urine.
Those of you who are elderly may not realize you need as much water as you do. Your sense of thirst is often blunted and even mild stresses from fever, infection, diarrhea and the practice of withholding fluids is dangerous. In addition, you should not voluntarily reduce water intake because going to the bathroom is difficult. Attention to water needs can prevent many hospitalizations.
Remember we all need at least six to eight cups of water per day. Children’s bodies are naturally high in water. A few hours of vomiting or severe diarrhea in anyone, but particularly children, requires medical attention. When compared to an adult, a feverish or overheated infant can lose more water by evaporation from their proportionately larger surface area. Because infants are much more likely to get too little rather than too much water, they should be offered water often even if they are only drinking milk.
No matter where any of you are, you need to drink your 1-1/2 to 2 quarts of water every day. Some health authorities suggest much more than the half-gallon. There is also discussion about all the other fluids that you drink being considered as a part of your water. Some authorities say they count and others say no. A lot depends on what is in the other beverages, you need to know and remember that sugar, caffeine, artificial sweetener, salt and other ingredients may dehydrate your body.
Remember, if you are thirsty, you are already somewhat dehydrated. It just makes good sense to drink more water and for this to be a part of your healthy habits. For most of you the only way to drink the water you need is to carry it with you. So here is to more water drinking.