Nutrition Expert: Sana Saiyed, Practicing Clinical Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator, Mumbai.
The core and most essential function for the body is hydration, since it is related to so many functions.
If you don’t drink enough water, you may become dehydrated. This means your body doesn’t have enough fluid to operate properly.
Some people are at higher risk of dehydration, including people who exercise at a high intensity (or in hot weather) for too long, have certain medical conditions (kidney stones, bladder infection), are sick (fever, vomiting, diarrhea), are pregnant or breastfeeding, are trying to lose weight, or aren’t able to get enough fluids during the day. Older adults are also at higher risk. As you get older, your brain may not be able to sense dehydration. It doesn’t send signals for thirst.
High humidity can cause many problems such as hyperthermia, which can result in dehydration. It is often recommended to consume plenty of water and non-calorie containing fluids to help prevent dehydration.
Hyperthermia can lead to many problems, including dehydration, heat stroke, muscle cramps, and fainting.
Role of Sodium and potassium in dehydration management:
Potassium and sodium are electrolytes needed for the body to function normally and help maintain fluid and blood volume in the body. However, a person can get high blood pressure by consuming too much sodium and not enough potassium. Potassium is found in vegetables, fruit, seafood, and dairy products. (https://www.cdc.gov/salt/potassium.htm)
The recommended daily intake is 4.7 grams. That’s 4,700 milligrams. But most people get much less than that from their diet.The absolute minimum daily sodium intake needed to support health, assuming no losses in sweat, is a mere 180 milligrams per day.
Balanced electrolyte levels are important for:
- Maintaining alkalinity of pH levels in the blood
- Regulating fluid levels in the human body
- Transmitting signals from nerves, muscles, and cells throughout the body
- Building tissue and clotting blood
- Contracting muscles
The six main electrolytes are potassium, sodium, chloride, bicarbonate, calcium, and phosphate. These minerals direct water and fluids to where they’re needed most, helping to maintain homeostasis and fluid balance.
What Is Electrolyte Water?
Electrolyte water is different from drinking water or tap water because it’s enhanced with minerals like sodium and potassium. Plain water contains only trace amounts of electrolytes while electrolyte drinks are fortified with minerals that support healthy body functions.
This category of drinks includes things like sports drinks, coconut water, juices, and oral rehydration solutions. Not all electrolyte waters are the same. In fact, many of these beverages — particularly sports drinks and energy drinks — are less effective than other options like oral rehydration solutions. That’s because sports drinks like Gatorade, Propel, and juices contain large amounts of added sugars and sweeteners and lower amounts of sodium.
Heat and humidity are two factors that can increase the likelihood of electrolyte loss. During heat waves and when the heat index is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the risk of dehydration increases substantially.
One study published in the Journal of Occupational Health found that drinking an ORS may help prevent dehydration on job sites in high temperatures, reducing the incidence of worksite accidents. Additional research shows oral rehydration solutions help address mild dehydration in relation to heatstroke and heat exhaustion.(https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20551583/)
Oral rehydration solutions are among the most effective electrolyte waters. They’re formulated with precise amounts of minerals to help replenish electrolytes lost during strenuous exercise, in hot weather, and when you’re sick. Instead of reaching for a less effective sports drink, grab a glass of ORS to help ease dehydration.
Oral rehydration solutions are easy to use. Just take an ORS packet and pour the powder into a glass of water or your favorite water bottle. Choose from flavors ranging from watermelon and lemon to berry and orange. You can drink ORS cold or freeze it into popsicles.