HAVE YOU EVER WONDERED WHY WATER AND ELECTROLYTE BALANCE IS SO IMPORTANT?
Have you ever wondered how much water you need to drink daily? How much water do you need to lose before you start feeling uneasy? Generally, one should drink about 8 glasses or about 2 litres of water daily on normal activity. You need to increase your water intake to 3-4 litres when doing exercise, sports or going out in hot weather.
You can get dehydrated on a normal day at home or at work simply if you do not replace the water you lose through sweating, breathing, urine output and the secretion of digestive juices in the stomach and intestines. Your kidneys will produce concentrated, less urine when you are dehydrated, that can cause damage to kidney function.
Water is crucial for life, as well as normal functioning of our body organs. Water forms the building block of every cell in the body, is an insulator and regulates body temperature, and carries nutrition and oxygen to our body tissues. Two-thirds of the body water is in the cells- intracellular, and one-third outside the cells.
How does our water, electrolyte and nutrition balance work?
How much of our body is water?
The Total body water in an average human being, weighing about 70 kg is 40 litres to 45 litres. In human beings it is about 65% of the body weight in males and about 10% less in females. It is important to note that these values vary with the relative degrees of leanness (Vata person) and heaviness (Kapha person) of the individual. In a lean person, the value is higher than that of an obese person.
In adults, about 1 % (400-500ml) water loss can cause a feeling of unwellness, and reduced functioning of the brain, heart and kidneys. Up to 2 % loss of water (800ml to 1 litre) loss causes symptoms of severe dehydration, low blood pressure, brain fogginess and lack of coordination, which can lead to feeling faint and dizzy. In children smaller volumes of water loss can cause dehydration. Equally it is important not to give too much water to children.
The daily loss of water from the body from respiration, skin, gut and kidney (urine) is about 2.6 litres, that is why we are advised to drink at least 2-2.5 litres of fluids daily.
We lose water on a daily basis. The maintenance of a correct water balance is essential to good health as there is no real water storage in the body: the water we lose needs be replaced.
Humans cannot survive more than a few days without water.
Fuelling our body
Salt balance- our body needs Sodium and potassium as essential minerals for cell function, particularly our muscles and nerves. That’s why its important to ensure that we drink a variety of fluids including soups and fruit juices which provide these minerals. Salt depletion can cause muscle weakness, lethargy, and brain fog.
Glucose /fructose- is also essential for the energy within the brain and muscle cells. So, it is advisable to make sure we have enough carbohydrate. Drinking glucose with vitamin C , electrolytes and water is a well balanced nutrition that revives and protects you from dehydration.
Now that hot weather and Summer is here, and the Lockdown is lifting, we are all keen to spend more time outdoors. The beaches are packed with people, and so many of us are going on long walks in the sun, and we are spending more time outdoors.
Going for walks in nature and outdoor activity is essential for your mind and physical health. Many people, especially children, suffer from dehydration and heat exhaustion if they are not careful with the level of activity outdoors in the hot weather, and the amount of water they drink, even at home.
When we are dehydrated we don’t feel good in ourselves we start feeling restless, lethargic sometimes irritable and can get headaches. Our brain function and physical coordination starts reducing even when we lose 1% of our body water, even before we feel thirsty. That is why it is so important to drink enough water during the day and sometimes in the night too.
Feeling thirsty and passing concentrated dark yellow urine is a sign of dehydration.
How can we prevent dehydration?
The principles of Ayurveda can help you in preventing dehydration and heat exhaustion can lead you to maintain good water and electrolyte nutrition.
Vata and Pitta -Walking in nature, under and by the sea and riverside is specially recommended for high Pitta or fiery body types to cool the body heat.
However exposing to high temperature can cause high Pitta imbalance leading to Vata people who tend to get anxious and stressed also benefit from walks in the open air, warm sunshine and near wood and water.
have you thought about the actual heat or environmental temperature and how it can affect you even if you are sitting or walking, in a shade, or even sitting indoors in a hot room? The overall high temperature of the air around us can also cause heat exhaustion and dehydration of our skin and body tissues.
Kapha- People who generally feel more cold, are over weight and have a sluggish metabolism , may be able to stand the heat for longer. However, the same precautions for skin protection and heat exhaustion apply for all body types.
Pittaja Jvar (Heat fever) - Fever due to Pitta excess - Heat stroke and dehydration causes symptoms of thirst, burning in skin and body, burning eyes and mouth, diarrhoea and vomiting, headaches, migraines, high temperature. Heat affects your brain cells, your body tissues swell up and the fluid collects around the tissues causing oedema. The effect on the brain makes you feel foggy, faint and nauseous, some people faint in the sun, feel very drowsy and sleepy, can be sick, and can get an extremely high temperature called heat stroke which can be serious.
That is why it is important to prevent heat stroke by making sure you do not get dehydrated or burnt in the sun. Pitta people need to stay in a cool shade, cover the body with thin clothing, avoid Mid-day sun and keep drinking lots of cold fluids.
Pitta people can tolerate moderate activity but are averse to heat.
Vataja Jvar-Fever due to Vata excess-Walking in dry wind and dry environment can cause dryness and dehydration causing thirst, dry mouth , stiff limbs, lassitude, fatigue, headaches, blurred vision and faintness.
Vata people who are lean and thin need to reduce their activity and rest more in the shade between short excursions, stay in warm shade.
According to Ayurveda “Vata dries, and Pitta burns”!
If we remember this simple slogan, excessive uncontrolled exposure to heat and dry air can cause dehydration due to loss of water and salt from increased perspiration and faster breathing.
Exposure to heat which increases the body temperature aggravates the Pitta and burns or “cooks” the body tissues. It can lead to sunburn, fever, headaches, vomiting and fainting due to dehydration and heat stroke.
As we walk, our muscles get fatigued more easily due to dehydration and loss of electrolytes like sodium and potassium, the Vata Dosha gets aggravated causing muscle stiffness, cramp pain ,dry scaling of skin, weakness, fatigue and blurring of vision.
Here are 6 tips on how we can prevent dehydration and heat exhaustion?
How to stay hydrated
Before you go out in the heat, cool your body with a cool shower and drink at least a glass or two of water, a glass of fruit juice or cold milk – this is good to reduce the Pitta in the body before you start, and nourish the Vata energy.
When you plan to go out, make sure you take with you sun cream at least Factor 50, to prevent the UV light damage, and plenty of cool water in a cool bag. An ice bag can be especially useful in case of heat stroke. and if the head and scalp get very hot.
Moisturise the skin with plenty of cool moisturiser cream. Specially the face and outer aspect of forearms and lower legs which are exposed to the sun and hot air directly.
The most important thing is to drink plenty of cool water frequently. But also remember your body needs electrolytes and glucose as well.
Natural Fruit juices provide natural sodium potassium and bicarbonate salts and fructose along with the water content. The salts maintain the electrolyte balance which is vital for the functioning of our brain and heart. Vitamin C in fruits and juices protects the skin, cell membranes and the inner organs, cooling the inner body due to its Kapha effect.
Cold milk, ice creams, milk shakes, fruity drinks and yogurt are the best nutrition and are all Satvik Kapha foods- wholesome. Traditionally, in hot countries like India, people drink cool coconut water, mango juice, or lassi – a sweet yogurt drink. We recommend Chaas – Indian yogurt drink (see recipe below) or Gur water- raw jaggery water which you can take in a flask with you. It is one of the best cooling and hydrating drinks in Summer.
Fruits and vegetables like water melon, oranges and cucumber have around 90 % water content so are good to prevent dehydration.
What to avoid
Stimulating drinks like hot tea and coffee are best avoided during the mid-day heat as they can increase the body heat, increase water loss and dehydration by perspiration and increased urine output. They can also dilate the blood vessels in the body, causing flushing, red eyes and nose bleed.
Avoid eating heavily fried and dry foods like burgers and meat. Small amounts of food with lot of salads, rice and fruits are best rehydrating nutrition in the hot weather.
Infants and young children
Infants and young children have very delicate skin and body, and a smaller body surface than adults, so they can be affected by dehydration and heat exhaustion more easily.
Therefore, hydration is particularly important in children, as they have a higher water requirement and are less heat tolerant. It is therefore vital to give infants and children small amounts of water and fluids more frequently. Particularly in hot weather and during activity. Keep them under cool shade, keep their heads covered with an appropriate hat at all the times and give them frequent drinks of water, fruit juice and cold milk.
Children often do not recognise the early stages of thirst, so they are at risk of becoming dehydrated. Even mild dehydration can make children irritable, cause tiredness, headaches, lack of concentration, reduced mental performance and dry skin.
Rest and sleep
Resting in the shade, in a supine position, and taking deep slow breaths of moist air under a tree near water can rehydrate the lungs and the body.
Practice doing Shavasan (resting pose) – at intervals during and after exposure to sun and heat. It helps to calm down the circulatory system and rest the brain.
Herbal teas that can help you revive
Iced teas are a great way to cool yourself down. We recommend Pitta balancing herbal teas like Mint and Cinnamon, Chamomile and lemon balm, or Tridosha balance tea. You can cool the herbal tea in the fridge or with ice and drink it in the morning or evening to cool and revive the body, mind and skin.
Ayurvedic oil massage to revive skin
As the skin dries during the day from exposure to the elements, a cool body massage with Pitta balance oil or Tridosha balance oil will help to restore the vitality of the skin and prevent damage from the sun. Make sure you do the massage in the cool evening time, not during the exposure to the sun as it can burn the skin.
Here is a simple recipe for Chaas or Lassi
The rehydrating nutritious Indian yogurt drink which also works as a probiotic:
How to make Chaas/Lassi yogurt drink...
One large glass:
Take one cup of live yogurt in a small jug.
Add one glass of cool water.
Add a dash of rock salt.
Add quarter teaspoon of coriander and cumin powder (optional).
Add a quarter teaspoon of maple or rose syrup ( Optional).
Blend using a hand blender.
Add a couple of ice cubes.
Now you can Enjoy your delicious Chaas or Lassi and most importantly stay hydrated!.
If you follow our tips above, we hope you will remain well hydrated, maintain your wellbeing and enjoy the hot weather.
In summary, in the summer heat in order to prevent dehydration and heat stroke, it is important to drink at least 2-3 litres of water (adults), with a variety of cold fluids and succulent fruits rich in water content.
You also need to avoid prolonged exposure to direct sun and a hot environment, and use the shade more often. Drinking nutritious drinks like our Lassi/chaas and cold milk are greatly beneficial to our wellbeing.