Summer is a season for vacations, activities, long days and a wedding or two may creep up. This is the time when you have to take extra care to keep yourself hydrated as perspiration causes us to lose more body water. Exposure to sun and heat not only causes dehydration and heat exhaustion but also damages the skin. Being hydrated during the hot weather is not just for health purposes but for overall comfort as well.

Our body loses water in different ways, i.e., when you go to the toilet, when you sweat and even when you breathe. You lose water even faster when you are physically active in hot weather. If you don’t replace the water you lose you can get dehydrated easily.

Since the Met Office has already predicted that this year the intensity of heat will increase, we need to be conscious of staying hydrated.

Drinking water can help avoid many health-related issues

Dr Nadeem Ullah Khan, associate professor of Emergency and Acute Care at the Agha Khan Hospital, says that we should be mindful of the symptoms of heat stroke and take precautions to avoid a situation that makes us vulnerable to one. “Water and salt intake should be increased during summer. Be sure to drink water frequently even if you are not feeling thirsty. Going outside during 11 am to 4 pm must be avoided if possible.”

It is generally said that drinking eight glasses of water every day is required to keep oneself hydrated, especially in the summer and one should have more if one is exercising. In order to keep our bodies properly hydrated we need to drink approximately half of our bodyweight (in pounds) in ounces of water, i.e., if one weighs 120 pounds one should have 60 ounces of water every day, to function properly.

No other fluid can replace the benefits and importance of water. Water is essential for life; every cell, tissue and organ needs water to work properly. Water comprises about 50-65 percent of the average adult human body, varying with gender and fitness levels.

Besides keeping us hydrated, water is also a powerful solvent that cleans our body, maintains our temperature, removes wastes and lubricates our joints. Drinking water first thing in the morning has many benefits.

Fruit and vegetable juices, green salads, melon and cucumbers that are summertime staples also provide hydration. Milk and herbal teas also add to your daily intake of fluids.

Soft drinks and energy drinks are rich in sugar and caffeine. Moreover, instead of hydrating, they act as diuretics which means that they take away water from your body instead of adding to it.

According to a recent research pu­­b­­lished in The Journal of General Dentistry,Dr Anita Sturnham a general prac­titioner, is of the opinion that, “The effect of fizzy drinks goes beyond just your waistline; they affect both the mental health and the cognitive function. Over-consumption of sugar has been linked to depression, poor memory formation and learning disorders.” Sturnham further explains that fizzy drinks can cause premature ageing as the sugar content damages our skin cells and collagen bonds.

Dr Farheen, a physician says that soft drinks cause loss in calcium, weight gain, heart diseases, backbone and joint pain in women, and depletes your body’s Vitamin D levels. Dr Warda Zahid, Jinnah Medical and Dental College and Hospital, Karachi , says that excessive consumption of soft drinks causes tooth decay, overall weight gain, loss of energy leading to lethargy and weakness, liver- related problems, kidney stones, peptic ulcer and diabetes.

On the other hand, milkshakes, smoothies, slushes, watermelon juice, cocktails, coconut water, cucumber lemonade and orange juice are hydrating and refreshing. Sattu is a powder made by grinding roasted barley grains. When mixed in water and sweetened, the popular summer drink is known as sattu ka sharbat, sold off carts standing on the roadsides. It can easily be made at home with readily-available ground barley for instant cooling and hydration. Chilled water, a full tablespoon of sattu and some sugar, is a drink that children might enjoy.

Watermelon juice can also be easily prepared at home with a blender. Falsa juice requires a bit of work while sugarcane juice and kairi (raw mango) juice, available in several restaurants now, are other favourite refreshments for summer.

“Another traditional drink chaach (a very thin salty lassi) is less fattening than the basic lassi and is very refreshing,” says Tooba Azeem, a housewife. Lassi is cooling and hydrating for the body and can be taken salted or sweetened.

Basil seeds or tukhm-i-balanga is a superfood that our grannies swore by. A powerhouse of nutrients as well as hydrating, the tiny seeds are soaked in water. They develop a jelly-like consistency by absorbing water. When consumed, they slowly release water and the body stays hydrated.

Water is truly the elixir of life. As you enjoy the wonderful things that summer brings with it, remember to drink plenty of water and eat a diet rich in hydrating fruits and vegetables to keep you going strong all summer long.

TIPS FOR STAYING HYDRATED

Keep a bottle of water with you at all times.

Many people find plain water boring to consume, try adding a slice of lemon to your drink.

Drink before, during and after a workout.

When you are hungry, drink water, it makes you feel full, which contributes to healthy weight loss.

If you have trouble remembering to drink water, make a schedule.

It is best to have a glass of water 30 minutes before each meal and at least an hour later.

Drink water first thing in the morning.

Published in Dawn, EOS, May 6th, 2018