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Viewpoint: 5 tips to optimize hydration during the dog days of summer

Andrew Akhaphong

Andrew Akhaphong is a registered dietitian, precision nutrition sports coach and an ACTION certified personal trainer for Walker Methodist Health Center. He is a native of Farmington. He can be reached at aakhaphong@walkermethodist.org or 612-827-8354.

The Midwest is known for its long, humid summer months and its biting insects. Whether we are inside staying cool or outside doing an activity, it is important to remember to stay hydrated.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommends approximately 16 cups of fluid for men and 12 cups of fluid for women. Between 2005 and 2010 the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that 73,000 hospitalizations were due to dehydration which cost hospitals an average of $1,320,000 per year.

Dehydration is a preventable condition that can save dollars. Here are tips to help you become hydration-savvy:

Excessive sweating

As we sweat we not only lose water, but also essential electrolytes. Electrolytes are nutrients obtained from food and beverages that help with body functioning. When our body is severely low of certain electrolytes we may experience muscle spasms, dizziness, altered heart rates and other conditions.

Coconut water is a great alternative to electrolyte drinks and sports drinks as it naturally contains the five essential electrolytes. Emergen-C and some brands of water flavoring like MIO and Great Value also have electrolyte formulas that are sugar-free that may be more affordable. Drinking a cup of water and having a snack of mixed nuts and a fruit alone can also rehydrate and replenish electrolytes.

Skip the sports drinks

Unless you are doing strenuous activity that requires the body to sweat, choosing sports drinks may not be the best choice. Sports drinks are loaded with sugar to replenish what was lost from body sweat to refuel the body; however, they can add extra calories if you do not need it and cause you to lose your money's worth. During dehydration, blood sugar tends to be its highest and by consuming extra sugar it may result in further complications.

Don't forget food

Food also contains certain amount of fluids that help hydrate the body. Watermelon and cucumber, for examples, are refreshing and hydrating; as well, they provide antioxidants that help reduce inflammation and improve the immune system. Adding in your favorite fruit or vegetables into you water like lemon slices or basil may help with water consumption and satisfy cravings.

Understand the signs

Keep an eye out for the following symptoms: dry mouth or skin, increased thirst, fatigue, decreased urination or dark urine, headaches, dizziness, confusion, sunken eyes and irritability. Persons with infections like pneumonia, experiencing a fever, on a water pill (diuretic), or having bowel irregularities are also prone to dehydration.

Make small goals

Do not push yourself to drink 13 or 16 cups of water a day. Set a realistic goal you can achieve — start with 8 cups a day and work your way up.

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