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Don't dry out in summer!

August 2020

Group of people drinking outside

We all know we should drink enough during warm summer weather to keep ourselves hydrated. Most of us also know that alcohol can cause dehydration; this is when the body loses more fluid than it is taking up.

Put the two together, and dehydration can become a real problem. Drinking lots of long alcoholic drinks like beer might sound the perfect solution, but sadly that doesn’t work. While the non-alcoholic fluids in most longer drinks are hydrating, they are not usually hydrating enough to offset the effects of the dehydration caused by alcohol.

It doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy alcohol during the warm days of summer, but knowing a little about the dehydration aspects can make drinking a lot safer – and more enjoyable too.

The problem with alcohol is that it acts as a diuretic. This means it acts on the kidneys and makes us urinate out more liquid than we take in. Alcohol also reduces the production of a special hormone called vasopressin. This tells the kidneys to reabsorb water than flush it out through the bladder, but when this signal is switched off, then instead of reabsorbing water, the fluid goes into the bladder and is urinated out.

Sad but true, the more alcohol we drink, the more dehydrated we can get. Generally for every 10 mg of pure alcohol we drink, we are likely to urinate an additional 100ml of liquid.

When you get deyhydrated by alcohol, it can affect many aspects of your body including your liver, kidneys, brain and skin. Severe dehydration can be dangerous, and even life-threating.

As we get older, evidently it can become more difficult to recognise the fact that we are getting dehydrated. Obviously a clear sign of dehydration is when you feel thirsty or you don’t need to urinate for long periods; but other indications can include feeling dizzy or lightheaded; feeling more tired than usual; or having a dry mouth, lips or eyes.

Some people for various reasons never recognise the fact that they are dehydrated so a urine colour check can be a good thing to bear in mind. In Australia, known for its hot weather as well as its residents enjoying alcoholic beverages, there is a colour code for urine to help remind people to keep hydrated:

Clear coloured urine:  you’ve been drinking too much water. Best to reduce it a little.
Yellowish to light amber: this indicates typical, healthy urine.
Red or pink urine:this is nothing to do with hydration and is probably the effect of something you have eaten such as beetroot. If it persists, it could indicate another problem, so you need to see your doctor.
Orange or dark orange urine:a definite indication of dehydration. Drink some water and even some electrolyte-fortified water or sports drinks as these can help you rehydrate a lot more quickly.
Dark brown urine:this indicates a serious problem. It could be serious dehydration, or it could be an indication of a serious medical problem. Make sure you are fully hydrated and see your doctor.

In summer weather particularly, if you are enjoying an alcoholic drink then the obvious solution but one that is so easy to forget is to also drink plenty of water. Ensuring you have a drink with every alcoholic drink you consume is a very good tip to help you stay hydrated and also avoid hangovers.

The old tip of eating some food with an alcoholic drink can also help as it slow the absorption of alcohol.

It is all about being aware and it hot summer weather, it is important to be especially alert to the dangers of dehydration. It can be a dangerous condition that, for most people, is just so easy to avoid.

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