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Natural Awakenings Northwest Florida

STAY COOL A Nutritionist’s Tips for Hydrating to Beat the Heat

Jul 30, 2021 09:54AM ● By Ramona Shires

Everyone loves Florida for our sunshine and warm weather. However, enjoying the Florida summers with our heat and humidity can take a toll on your body. Here are some tips to help keep cool and hydrated this summer.  

Watch for Warning Signs

As your body heats up, you sweat to cool down. The sweat evaporates in the heat cooling the body. This is called evaporative cooling and is how air-conditioning works. If you sweat heavily on high temperature, high humidity days like we have in the summer in Florida, it can be dangerous. Losing water through sweat puts your body in a dehydrated state. The loss of fluids and key electrolytes (or body salts) such as sodium and potassium can lead to severe dehydration. Mild dehydration can drain our energy leaving us feeling tired. More severe dehydration states can lead to heat exhaustion or heatstroke.  

Heat exhaustion can develop rapidly or over time. One minute you’re fine and then suddenly you feel light-headed, chilled, and sick. Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion include cool, moist skin with goose bumps (feels like the chills from a fever), increased thirst, dizziness, headache, nausea, muscle cramps, rapid pulse, and even fainting. Treat mild heat exhaustion immediately by resting in a cool place (air-conditioned building, shady spot, or sit in front of a fan), drink cool water or sports drinks that contain electrolytes, eat something salty like salted nuts or potato chips, and put cool wet towels on the back of your neck or head. You should start feeling better quickly, usually within 15-30 minutes.

Heatstroke is life threatening and requires emergency treatment.  If not treated, heatstroke can damage your brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles. One of the first signs to know is being overheated but not sweating. If you aren’t sweating when you know you should be, or you were sweating and then stopped, seek help immediately. Other signs and symptoms include high body temperature (104 F or higher), nausea and vomiting, throbbing headache, rapid breathing, and racing heart rate. These symptoms can lead to altered mental states such as confusion, slurred speech, delirium, seizures, and coma.

Don’t Overdo It

During June through August, activities like mowing the lawn, heavy gardening, and strenuous exercise should be avoided during the hottest part of the day, usually 12pm to 4pm. Early mornings and late afternoons are much better options for most people. If you must be outside during the heat, maybe enjoying one of our beautiful beaches, be sure to drink plenty of cold water and eat snacks frequently to help keep your body cool and hydrated. Remember alcoholic beverages are dehydrating, so mix in water with your fruity, tropical drinks!

Enjoy Seasonal Foods

Mother Nature knows our body needs more water and electrolytes in the summer and has provided us with a tasty option – ripe and juicy summer fruits and vegetables! It makes sense that so many summer BBQs and picnics include fruit trays and salads. Watermelon is primarily water (the name definitely gives it away) and gives you potassium, a key electrolyte. Cantaloupe and honeydew melons are also good choices. Other high potassium/high water content fruits include apples, citrus (oranges, tangerines, grapefruit), avocados (guacamole and chips… ole!), guavas, mangos, kiwifruit, strawberries, and cherries.  Summer vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes, celery, lettuce, yellow squash, and zucchini are high water content options. One of my favorite summer salads is chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, and feta marinated in Italian dressing. It's so refreshing and chocked full of electrolytes.

Stay Away From Sugar

Sweets like icees/slurpees, sodas, popsicles, frozen freezer pops, and sugary juice drinks are very appealing to both kids and adults during the summertime but be careful with your sugar intake during the hot summer months. High amounts of sugary foods and drinks causes increased urination resulting in fluid loss. Basically, your body is trying to flush out the excess sugar and needs more water to accomplish it, stealing it from the cells which leads to dehydration. More sugar in your blood triggers the body to compensate again by pulling water from your cells and skin into the blood to keep the blood balanced. Beach and pool days will be no fun if kids get an upset stomach, headache, and cranky from too much sugar in the heat!  Better off giving them lots of watermelon and other high-water fruits instead.  

Using these tips during the hot summer months will help you stay healthy and enjoy all that Florida summers have to offer.  Remember… drink your water!

Ramona Shires is a naturopathic doctor and a registered dietician nutritionist and the owner of White Sands Natural Health, in Pensacola. For appointments or information, call 850-739-1000 or 850-361-8995.

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