I know what you may be thinking. Isn’t drinking water a good “homemade” cure for dehydration?
For moderate dehydration, that’s true. But for more serious cases of dehydration, cases where the body has been significantly starved of the precious fluid or when the dehydration is brought about by vomiting or diarrhea, simply drinking water may not be enough. You’ve got to help the body absorb the fluid.
Spoiler alert: the cure is not a sports drink.
A Dehydration Refresher
Severe dehydration can be life-threatening. I wrote about recognizing the signs of dehydration in a prior post. To briefly recap, moderate dehydration can cause dizziness, dry mouth, headaches, and lethargy. More serious dehydration is marked by sunken eyes, little to no urine output, a lack of sweating in hot environments, irritability, and even coma or death.
In either case of dehydration, it’s critically important to get the much needed fluids back into the system.
Getting Water into Your System
As we consume water, it’s absorbed in the intestines. Under normal circumstances, this process works well. However, in cases of severe dehydration, particularly cases caused by diarrhea, the intestines cannot absorb water as effectively or as quickly as the body needs it.
Water absorption rates can be increased when it contains small amounts of salts, making it osmotically compatible with that of the body’s blood. Additionally, the intestines have a “sodium-glucose cotransporter” protein. This protein helps the body absorb salts more effectively when in the presence of sugar.
The appropriate mixture of salt, sugar, and water increases the body’s ability to absorb water and rehydrate itself. This is vitally important in cases of dehydration that stems from diarrhea, when the water is moving through the system too quickly to be effectively absorbed.
A Rehydration Solution Recipe
Many people falsely believe that sports drinks contain a good mixture of the salts and minerals needed to absorb water. That’s not true. While the drinks can help replenish the body of electrolytes and other nutrients needed after a period physical activities, they are not designed to increase water absorption.
Most sports drinks are designed less for athletes and more for the marketplace where people have a proclivity for sweets. The drinks are far too high in sugar content to make for a good rehydration solution. According to some calculations, sports drinks can actually worsen dehydration due to their sugar content.
It’s better to turn to a couple of common household items for rehydration – salt and sugar.
Here’s a recipe for a good rehydration solution:
- 1 liter of clean, potable water
- 6 teaspoons of sugar
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt
Stir the solution until the salt and sugar are dissolved in the water.
Taking the Rehydration Solution
The rehydration solution should be sipped regularly by the person suffering from dehydration. Don’t gulp it down; take a couple of sips every few minutes until the symptoms are no longer present.
For someone with diarrhea or who is vomiting, continue drinking the solution as described above. The solution will not increase diarrhea. For the person vomiting, some of the solution will stay in the system despite the vomiting.
Seek Medical Help If Possible
The solution described above is not a substitute for seeking medical help. For people with severe dehydration, fluids can be more effectively reintroduced into the system intravenously. Seek medical help if possible.
Here are a couple of additional resources: