Foremost, HAPPY OFFICIAL SUMMER! (In my opinion, the best time of the year). While my family feels like we have summer all the time in Florida, we’re taking a break and currently on vacation on Long Island, where I grew up. Being back in a “normal” season environment, it’s refreshing to see how excited everyone is to be off from school, outside playing all the time, and enjoying the warmer temperatures and warmer days. With this increase in activity and exposure to higher temperatures, it’s imperative that everyone remembers to drink, drink, drink to stay hydrated (and not soda or sugar-laden beverages). While this is something we should worry about year-round, summertime is especially a great opportunity to kick-up the fluid intake a few notches. Even with the trips that some families will be taking, we often forget at times to bring fluids with us on car trips or most importantly, on airplanes (that is, after you go through security; there’s nothing more fun or entertaining than trying to chug the entire contents of beverages you forgot to NOT bring with you through line…), as flying really dehydrates you.
With our bodies being made up of 70% water, it’s no surprise that we can live days (even weeks) without food, but only a few days maximum without fluids/water. Every cell, tissue, and organ needs water to function properly. The body uses water to maintain temperature, remove wastes, balance hormones and electrolytes, provide some minerals, and keep joints lubricated for proper movement. Most importantly, the brain is made primarily of water, so for neurotransmitters to work properly, the body needs to be hydrated! Without proper hydration, the body is more prone to bladder and kidney infections and disease (and even kidney stones). It’s even more important for children to stay hydrated, as their bodies are smaller and require more frequent fluid intake. Overheating is a huge concern in warmer weather, especially with a lack of fluids (since hydration helps regulate body temperature). Thirsty Planet notes: “Children are at greater risk of dehydration than adults due to their lower body weight and smaller reserve of body fluids. Equally, while adults often have easy access to a supply of water, children tend to rely on their caregivers to provide drinks and often don’t recognize the early stages of thirst. Research suggests that just a 1% to 2% body weight loss can lead to significant reductions in concentration and mental performance. As a child’s body is around 60% water, it is important to keep them topped up with fluid during the day.”
To be honest, I feel that most humans on this planet are walking around dehydrated – we think we are taking in enough fluids during the day, but that is rarely the case either because:
- · we are too busy and lose track
- · we take in too many beverages with caffeine that actually work against hydration (caffeine is a diuretic, meaning it causes you to expel water from the body)
- · we take in too much sodium in our diets (which causes the cells to retain water, thus making it unavailable for metabolic processes that the body needs to function….plus nasty bloating and a feeling of dehydration)
- · we take in too many beverages with added sugars and/or chemicals such as artificial colorings, flavorings, and sweeteners – which all make it hard for the body to just take in the “water” portion of the drink because it’s focused more on filtering/processing/metabolizing all of the additives (and adding to the junk that your body is desperately trying to flush out)
Often, we are not aware of how easy it is for our bodies to lose water:
- You lose water each day when you go to the bathroom, sweat, and even when you breathe
- You lose water even faster when the weather is hot, when you exercise, or if you have a fever
- Vomiting and diarrhea can also lead to rapid fluid loss
- · If you don’t replace the water you lose, you can become dehydrated
Many of the clients I have worked with have been extremely dehydrated, and not even know it. This has led to:
- chronic headaches
- poor cognitive function – distraction and mental “fuzziness”
- mood swings
- feeling of fatigue
- unregulated blood pressure
- slowed metabolism
- decrease in energy levels
Easy tips to check for if you or your child is dehydrated:
- Little or no urine, or urine that is darker than usual
- Dry mouth
- Dry skin
- Sleepiness or fatigue
- Extreme thirst
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- No tears when crying
The first recommendation I make to my clients is to drink clean WATER, WATER, WATER (I am a firm believer in water… I really do not find the need to drink all of these fancy, overpriced beverages that don’t offer any benefit)….as frequently during the day as possible. Within a few days, the feedback is remarkable – headaches are gone, bloating is gone, sleep is better, energy levels have skyrocketed, and just a sense of feeling “alive” is restored. Now if that happens for adults, think what it can do for children… especially children who are active during the day! Thirsty Planet conducted some studies with hydrating children with water throughout the school day and found the water intake increase:
- Doubled school children’s interest in learning
- Significantly increased cognition
- Made children feel calmer and more alert in the classroom
So How Much Water Should We Be Drinking A Day?
Believe it or not, there are slightly different recommendations for how many fluids we should be taking in a day based on age, size, and gender. Some people are at higher risk of dehydration, including those who exercise, have certain medical conditions, are sick, or are not able to get enough fluids during the course of the day. Older adults are also at higher risk. As you age, your brain may be unable to sense dehydration and send the signals for thirst. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding need to take in more fluids daily as well to compensate for the amount of fluids required by the body. If you are concerned that you may not be drinking enough water, check your urine. If your urine is consistently colorless or light yellow, you are most likely staying well hydrated.
Check out this handy list below to keep track of how much everyone in your family should drink:
|Age||Daily Amount in Cups|
|Infants (0-6 months)||(3 cups)|
|Infants (7-12 months)||(3.5 cups)|
|Children (1-3 years of age)||(5.5 cups)|
|Children (4-8 years of age)||(6 cups)|
|9-13 years of age||(10 cups)|
|14-18 years of age||(13 cups)|
|Older than 19 years of age||(15 cups)|
|9-13 years of age||(8.5 cups)|
|14-18 years of age||(9 cups)|
|Older than 19 years of age||(11 cups)|
Recommended Beverages to Stay Hydrated
I don’t mean to offend anyone, but I have to say it (and from experience myself, as I will be the first to admit that I used to drink these things….) – sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade, sweetened juices, sweetened iced teas, and sodas drive me crazy. They are marketed to kids and parents as “healthy” in many cases, when all they consist of is a blend of sugars, artificial colors (which as you know, is a whole issue in itself), artificial flavorings, sometimes caffeine (my gosh…I could go on a rant about caffeine and kids….and it happens daily!), and chemicals. All of these things lead to weight gain, sugar imbalances in the body, more cravings for sugar/sugar sensitivity, hyperactivity followed by energy crashes, cavities, and quite simply, a lack of nutrition. While plain water may not seem exciting, here are a few tips to help keep healthier options available and of interest:
- Coconut water provides lots of electrolytes. One cup has as much potassium as a banana. You can even mix in some cut up fruits or ice cubes made with 100% juice (best is homemade).
- Homemade sports drinks can be made by mixing 50 percent juice (try to make sure it’s 100% juice or homemade juice) and 50 percent water with a pinch of salt. One pinch or 1/16 of a teaspoon of salt is all you need to replenish the salt a child normally loses during exertion. Kids over age 10 will need two pinches of salt.
- If there is no dairy sensitivity, milk does the body good, especially after physical activity. Milk is hydrating and contains protein, natural sugar, potassium and vitamin D, all of which help refuel the body with nutrients.
- Try seltzer/carbonated water. (My one piece of advice, though – try to avoid seltzer [or any beverage, for that matter] that comes in a can – cans are lined with BPA and you are ingesting that with each beverage)
- If you don’t already own one, buy a water filter and keep cool water stored in the fridge on an accessible shelf for everyone to see.
- If you already have sweetened beverages in your home (don’t worry….you’re human… I’m not going to come find you…J) slowly decrease the amount of them that you bring into your home. Gradual change will be more successful than cutting out completely one day.
- Change up the way you drink water by adding fun flavors such as:
- Fresh Cut Cucumbers
- Orange Slices
- Sliced strawberries
- Refreshing Mint
- Lemon or Lime Juice (don’t put too much in… not only will it be sour, but too much acid over time can wear down the enamel lining on teeth)
- Frozen grapes or blueberries
Make Hydrating Fun
If your family still isn’t sold on the hydration idea, try a few fun ideas to make the act of drinking more enjoyable:
- Send your children to school, camp, and sports activities with BPA-free water bottles to drink during lunch and during the school day.
- When I was a teacher, I asked for each student to have their own water bottle for their desk, and we would take “sip breaks” frequently through the day. It was amazing to see how much better the kids responded to being hydrated in class; I felt like they were new kids!
- If traveling, have water bottles for everyone in the car (or whatever you’re traveling in) handy; while bathroom breaks may be inconvenient at times, it’s worth it for preserving hydration levels!!
- A good rule of thumb… have kids carry their water bottles with them and to take a sip whenever they think of something fun.
- Have set times through the day when you can make sure a fluid break is taken – watch to make sure fluids are taken in during this time.
- Have your child wear a watch or use a watch with a timer, etc. to go off every half hour or so to remind them to drink. Maybe there is even an app for an iPad or iPhone to track fluid intake to make it fun?
- Decorate water bottles to make them unique to your child.
- Challenge everyone in the family to keep track of how much they drink by keeping a chart on the fridge; maybe use a sticker for each cup consumed, etc. Think of a fun prize or treat for the winner (and frequency)
- Take a pitcher or container and determine how much it holds. For every cup of fluid that is consumed, measure the same amount of fluid and add it to the pitcher. Continue the experiment for a 24-hour period. Tally up your total and compare it to the recommended levels: at least 6 cups of fluid for children and 8 cups of fluid for adults.
Now go out and enjoy the summer (well, every day, really!) – hydrated! Here are some helpful links to refer to as well: