Hormones, hydration and the heat of summer!Jul 01, 2022
Good grief it’s hot out! Record-breaking heat set in this week and today in particular is a scorcher in central Ohio! Sounds like a good time to talk about how our hormones impact thirst and hydration, doesn’t it?
Our hormones impact every system of our body, including our ability to feel thirst and offset heat by sweating. In perimenopause, phases of high hormones impact your hypothalamus and lower the trigger point for feeling thirst. So even though your body may be dehydrated, you might not feel thirsty.
Lack of thirst becomes even more of a problem as we age - postmenopausal women have consistently diminished sensations of thirst (rather than just during high hormone swings in perimenopause) meaning that relying on thirst for proper hydration is no longer a good idea.
So what to do?
We need to shift our hydration strategies from relying on thirst, to relying on common sense and maybe even implementing a hydration schedule if needed.
Unfortunately, there’s a ton of misinformation around hydration and hydration has also primarily been studied in men. So when it comes to knowing how to properly hydrate as a menopausal woman, our best option is to gather what science-based information we can and feel our way through.
A few common sense signs you can look for: if your urine is dark in color and has a strong odor you’re definitely dehydrated. But if it’s completely clear you’re likely over-hydrating. Aiming for a light, pale yellow should serve most of us well.
Another hydration strategy you should consider if you’re planning to spend active time in the heat is drinking an electrolyte solution. The science behind hydration goes beyond the scope of this newsletter (although it’s really fascinating) so I’ll just cut to the chase by saying that most mass market electrolyte drinks aren’t formulated to be helpful for women and can actually cause GI upset and exacerbate dehydration in both women and men.
According to researcher Dr. Stacy Sims, who has studied hydration in female athletes, a good electrolyte solution contains:
7-9.4 grams of carbohydrates per 8 ounces in the form of glucose and sucrose (avoid maltodextrin, fructose which can upset your stomach)
180-225 milligrams sodium
60-75 milligrams potassium
Also, a good rule of thumb for hydrating during outdoor activity in the heat (running, sweaty yard work, playing tennis, etc.) is to drink approximately .12 ounces per pound of body weight per hour in temps 75 degrees or cooler, and .16 ounces per pound of body weight per hour in warmer temps. So for a 150 lb. woman, that’s around 18 ounces an hour in temps lower than 75 degrees and 24 ounces an hour in warmer temperatures. But again, these are all just approximations - you may need more or less.
Hoping you all stay cool, hydrated and healthy this summer!
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