Summer is here and there is a lot to do when the weather is this beautiful outside, family picnics, enjoying the beach, endless hours on the golf course, or even spending time in your backyard enjoying a barbeque. But unfortunately, too much fun in the sun can be dangerous to your body. Excessive heat exposure can cause dehydration, which in turn can wreak havoc on your digestive system.
A common misconception is that dehydration results solely from water loss, however, it can also stem from medication, caffeine and alcohol intake, and several other factors. Paired with long periods of time in the heat, cases of dehydration can escalate into more serious health issues affecting your gastrointestinal tract.
Some of the effects dehydration can have on your digestive tract include:
- Stomach ulcers and acid reflux: lack of water, calcium, and magnesium can cause ulcers, gastritis, and acid reflux because the stomach doesn’t have enough water to produce digestive acid. Studies have shown that drinking water can help limit the serious symptoms of acid reflux by temporarily raising stomach pH.
- Constipation: the idea is simple: water is what keeps the food moving down through your intestines. If the body is dehydrated, the large intestine (colon) will soak up whatever water it can from the food you consumed, making it too hard to pass, causing pain and constipation.
- Bloating and nausea: likely related to overeating. Thirst usually occurs when people are 1-2 percent dehydrated. It can masquerade as hunger and the body doesn’t know the difference. Avoid the confusion by drinking water before it is mealtime. You’ll also feel fuller so you won’t end up eating a lot of food which can lead to bloating and nausea.
- Bad breath: dehydration leads to decreased saliva production, leading to a medical condition called halitosis (bad breath). The decrease in saliva production may also cause the sensation of “food getting stuck in your throat” (dysphagia)
Although dehydration is a leading cause of hospital visits for seniors, it affects people of all ages. The recommendation for water intake depends on a variety of factors including diet, lifestyle, and activity levels. A general rule of thumb for adults is to aim for at least half one’s body weight in ounces of water daily. Athletes and individuals managing diabetes or kidney disease, among other chronic illnesses, should consult their primary care provider to determine appropriate daily water intake.
How to stay hydrated?
drink water throughout the day to prevent dehydration or over exhaustion. Use the color of your urine to guide if you’re hydrated enough — the clearer the better.
Eat hydrating foods:
approximately 80 percent of hydration comes from liquids, while 20 percent comes from foods. Incorporating a variety of vegetables and fruits that naturally hydrate is a great way to avoid dehydration. Water-dense foods include celery, cucumbers, strawberries, and watermelon.
for some, drinking water is a tedious task. To add flavor without compromising hydration, consider infusing fruits and herbs or freezing fusions into healthy popsicles.
Avoid alcohol and caffeine while outdoors: while an ice cold cocktail might sound good on the beach, it won’t be as refreshing to your digestive tract. That’s because alcohol only dehydrates you more. Like alcohol, caffeine sucks the moisture out of you. On hot days, avoid it as much as possible, especially when combined with alcohol.
Avoid “peak dehydration times”: avoid peak hours of sunlight when the temperatures and UV rays are at their highest, normally between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. That’s the best time to head inside and let your body cool down.
So enjoy your summer full of sunshine, but remember these helpful tips so you can feel great during these next few months. For any further questions or concerns regarding this matter, please feel free to schedule an appointment at Digestive Health Specialists.
Article by Dr. Dhyan Rajan. Learn more about him here: https://digestivehealth.ws/provider/dhyan-rajan-md/
Digestive Health Specialists, PA is here to help if you, or someone you know, would like more information, or if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms and would like further evaluation. To make an appointment, feel free to give us a call at 336-768-6211.