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Saturday, June 30, 2018

In hot weather, should we drink copious amounts of water even if we're not thirsty?

Even without considering the scientific evidence related to this essential question, one would have to believe it remarkable that the human species would exist if thirst were inadequate to guide drinking during exercise. Martin D. Hoffman M.D., et al.

It may seem like a small matter: who cares if one drinks too much water to avoid dehydration? No one ever died from too much water, right? Wrong. But there's more going on here: if drinking a lot of water during hot weather is not a good idea, if it can, in some cases be dangerous, why are so many reporters getting the story wrong?

I read newspapers and watch television news to learn. And I expect the stuff that I learn to be right, to be checked for accuracy by professional reporters, professional fact-gatherer. When I discover a reporter did little more than unquestioningly repeat what he or she had been told, possibly because it was a good story, I feel cheated. Information in newspapers should be vetted; it should be accurate; it should be right.

There are lots of myths out there. There's even a successful television program based on questioning these stories. It's amazing how many stories are revealed by MythBusters to be just that: stories.

Which bring us to the question of how much and of what should we be drinking during hot spells. Do you believe the news stories? Do you drink a lot of water without waiting until you feel thirsty. Do you try to belt back eight glasses of water a day?

If you question the accepted story, a reporter might respond by sending you a link to Oregon Occupational Safety and Health. The OOSH claims in a hot environment one should drink water frequently, even when not thirsty.

It may seem straight forward but wait. In response, you can site the Loyola Stritch School of Medicine:

In recent years, at least 14 deaths of marathon runners, football players and other athletes have been attributed to exercise-associated hyponatremia, a condition that results from drinking too much water or sports drinks.

But there’s an easy way to prevent hyponatremia, according to Loyola University Medical Center sports medicine physician James Winger, MD. Drink only when you’re thirsty.

Whom do you believe? And why should you even have to ask? Some years ago, I got very ill during a trip to the Sahara desert in southern Tunisia. I followed all the hydration advice. I made sure I drank even when not thirsty. And I got damn sick. When I got home my doctors told me I may well have had hyponatremia or water intoxication.

Since then, the doctors I have talked to have told me much of the advice surrounding the drinking of fluids during heatwaves is wrong. The media reports are often urban myths, I'm told. My doctors have warned me, excessive water intake can be dangerous for folk like, folk with a heart condition.

They remind me that I get water from many sources. Vegetables are often mostly water. For instance, cauliflower is about 92% water. If you drink coffee, I like a brew made from a mix of caffeinated and
decaffeinated, then each cup of coffee is equal to a eight ounces of water. And yes, the warning about not drinking coffee during hot weather is another myth but I'll leave that for another post.

Drinking to quell thirst is the correct way to go in almost all situations. A conference in California found there was an overemphasis on high fluid consumption. Athletes should be advised of the risks associated with over drinking. Decreasing the number of fluid stations at long distance running events might be counter intuitive but it might be necessary to reduce the number of incidences of exercise associated hyponatremia (EAH).

And here is where it gets interesting: dissemination of appropriate drinking advice alone has been shown to reduce the incidence of EAH. It's time journalists spent some time getting this story right. It should not be that hard for a professional fact-gatherer, professional story detective, a finder, a discerner and teller of truths.

And then these journalists can employ these investigative methods, honed tracking down the truth when it comes to water consumption during heatwaves, to uncovering the truths going unrevealed in other, more important, stories. Look out Donald Trump question-asking journalists could soon be on your trail.
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Would you like to read more? Try this article:  Is Drinking to Thirst Adequate to Appropriately Maintain Hydration Status During Prolonged Endurance Exercise? Yes.

Do you need to drink 8 glasses of water a day?