HEALTHY LIVING: Topping up your fluids in summer’s heat

Summer’s here and living in the Alberni Valley, the hotspot of Vancouver Island brings a multitude of outdoor activity and recreational fun. Our amazing land and water trails provide ample opportunity to get out and play with friends and family. So it's even more important to stay hydrated in the summer heat.

Summer’s here and living in the Alberni Valley, the hotspot of Vancouver Island brings a multitude of outdoor activity and recreational fun. Our amazing land and water trails provide ample opportunity to get out and play with friends and family.

As the temperature rises, our bodies perspire more to cool off. Consumption of enough fluids to keep hydrated is essential for maintaining health while enjoying our fun summer activities.

Since human bodies are 60-70 percent water, and living in a dry climate will increase our fluid requirements, many people will have to start drinking more water to prevent dehydration.

Signs and symptoms of mild dehydration may include: chronic pain in joints and muscles, lower back ache, headaches, and constipation.

As we age, our thirst receptors in the brain do not function as well and elderly folks become more at risk for higher levels of dehydration, which may lead to dizziness and fainting. An easy way to monitor yourself for adequate fluid consumption, includes watching for strong, odorous, yellow or amber urine, plus having recurrent urinary tract and/or bladder infections.

Often, when we reach for food, we really are thirsty, and therefore, should be filling our cup with water instead of grabbing a snack.

With the amount of beverages available to purchase, it can be a maze to make the nutritionally best choice. Look no further than your tap. Water is the best fluid you can drink.

Many drinks contain ridiculous amounts of sugars and sweeteners. One can of regular cola has the equivalent of nine teaspoons of sugar added. It seems easy to reach for a pop, but before you do, think of how much added sugar that you are drinking.

Sugarfree soda and other drinks have artificial sweeteners that may not be healthy if chronically consumed over the long term.

Slurpies, refillable Big Gulps and even ‘healthier-disguised’ juice all contribute significant amounts of empty calories that lead to our growing waistlines and increases our risk of developing an assortment of chronic diseases.

If you are concerned about your own weight and watching your child’s health, one big step to take in the right direction would be to make water the main drink for yourself and others. Also, this will help your pocketbook. Since sugary drinks are not essential to our health they cost money and may be harmful over time. Whereas, tap water is readily and cheaply available.

A good proportion of the hidden sugars in our diet come from drinks. The BC Pediatric Society’s SipSmart program proclaims that “sugary drinks are everywhere and too much sugar is not good for a child’s health”.

This is also true for adults. Too many sugary drinks over time may contribute to the development of chronic diseases, such as obesity, and diabetes.

Some examples of fluids that are healthy to include in your daily diet in addition to water, are milk, soy and rice milk, along with soup, tea and a small amount of juice (1 cup (250 ml) daily).

Studies have shown that our appetite is not satisfied by sugary drinks. This will mean that even though you are consuming all the extra empty sugar calories through drinking pop, juice and/or other sweetened beverages, your body doesn’t recognize that you have “eaten” anything, and you will still be hungry for food.

As you eat your regular meals and snacks in addition to the drinks, this will add extra pounds over time to your waistline.

Fluids that contain caffeine are also common choices for summer activities. If consuming more than four cups of coffee daily, the caffeine can have a dehydrating and stimulating effect on the body and you will require extra fluid, such as water, to compensate.

In addition to coffee and tea, many pops and energy drinks may also have caffeine. Health Canada states that healthy adults can safely consume up to 400 mg of caffeine daily, but since it does have effects in the body, limitations are recommended on the amounts.

A healthy diet for children and teens does not include caffeine.

Information about how caffeine acts in our body and safe levels in our diet can be found at www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/addit/caf/food-caf-aliments-eng.php.

Energy drinks are popular choices in the marketplace. Due to the excessive caffeine content in these highly marketed drinks, children should not drink these beverages and teens should be warned of the negative side effects.

Sports drinks are marketed for athletes and have some benefit for those that are engaged in strenuous exercise over a long duration. In other circumstances, if there is a medical situation where an individual is dehydrated, sports drinks, such as Gatorade or Powerade may be warranted with the advice of a health care professional.

In general, most people would benefit more from drinking water, than using these sugary drinks that are supplemented with electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium.

As we play in the heat of the summer in the valley, the best way to ensure we maintain good health is to include lots of water to help keep our bodies well hydrated and prevent unwanted weight gain from empty calories.

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