Yvonne Brault, M.D, contributing editor, American Rose, May/June 2019
JUST AS WATER is the most crucial substance needed for your roses, so it is with the gardener. We need to maintain proper hydration to keep ourselves functioning at peak performance. Water accounts for up to 60 percent of the composition of the human body, and it is the main component of most major organs and essential to bodily function. Proper hydration contributes to adequate blood pressure with circulating blood volume and plays a major role keeping a healthy vascular system. Water insulates our core body temperature, eliminates bodily waste through the kidneys, transports nutrients from digestion in the bloodstream, lubricates our joints, acts as a shock absorber for the nervous system, etc. It is the main component of the basic unit of life, the cell. Water is life.
We consume water by drinking it, and in the food we eat. Most adult humans require 2-3 liters of water daily, depending on our size, gender and activity level, and the environment we occupy. If we are sweating or working in the sun, our water needs rise accordingly. If the wind is blowing or the sun is evaporating our sweat, we may not even realize we are losing water. We need to replenish what we are losing to keep hydrated.
We have all heard the saying that advises drinking eight glasses of water daily. Your exact needs depend on YOU. As with all medical conditions, check with your doctor for individual recommendations. If you have any restrictions regarding fluid intake, your requirements may differ. If you have congestive heart failure, edema in your feet or legs, problems with water in your lungs, suboptimal kidney function, hypertension or are on diuretics, etc., you need to find out your fluid requirements from your physician. Check with your doctor.
For those of you without health considerations or fluid restrictions, plenty of fluid to drink is usually a good thing, especially when working outside in the garden. Drink a couple glasses of water before you go out to work and stop regularly to have a non-caffeinated, non- alcoholic beverage to drink. Eat regular meals and take regular breaks. Better hydration resuIts from beverages without caffeine; coffee and soda with caffeine (and alcohol) make you urinate out what you just drank. Water is the fluid of choice for hydration. And speaking of alcohol, if you consumed last night, you may be dehydrated, so drink some extra water before heading out to the garden.
When dehydration occurs, there is a net loss of water compared to what you are consuming. (Losses from other causes like vomiting or diarrhea are common and will not be discussed here. Check with your doctor.) A mere two percent fluid deficit results in thirst. If you are thirsty, stop gardening and drink fluids! Increasing dehydration results in worsening thirst and loss of appetite, exhaustion and decreased urination with dark or concentrated urine. Conversely, if you are otherwise healthy, having urine that is light colored and of normal amount is generally a good sign that you are hydrating well. If that is not the case, drink up. Watch for signs of dehydration like weakness, no sweat or loss of it, concentrated urine with decreased volume, light headed ness, or exhaustion. Beware of dehydration as a result of overheating, and remove yourself from sun and heat, and drink fluids. Continued dehydration of more than five percent can lead to headache, confusion, seizures, kidney failure with no urine production, and may be eventually fatal. If you’re ever dehydrated to the point of confusion, weakness, or lightheadedness, but are unable to adequately drink fluids, you need intravenous fluids in the ER. Have someone drive you or call 911. Stay hydrated and healthy in the garden!