On these hot and humid summer days in Vero Beach Florida, nothing beats a nice cool glass of water!
Most of us know that we need to stay hydrated, especially when we are working outdoors during the heat of the day. What a lot of people are not aware of is, that drinking a lot of water is good but water can push electrolytes out of our systems through perspiration and urination. Deficient electrolytes in our bodies can result in fatigue, cramping, nausea, dizziness, irregular heartbeat and eventually convulsions and coma. In Traditional Chinese Medicine these symptoms all fall under the disease category of “Summer Heat Syndrome”.
Electrolyte is a scientific term for salts, specifically ions. Electrolytes are important because they are what your cells (especially nerve, heart, muscle) use to maintain voltages across their cell membranes and to carry electrical impulses (nerve impulses, muscle contractions) across themselves and to other cells. Your kidneys work to keep the electrolyte concentrations in your blood constant despite changes in your body. When you exercise heavily, you lose electrolytes through perspiration and drinking plain water, though refreshing, does not replace them. The major electrolytes in your body are: sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, bicarbonate, phosphate and sulfate.
These electrolytes must be replaced to keep the electrolyte concentrations of your body fluids constant. So, many sports drinks have sodium chloride or potassium chloride added to them. They also have sugar and flavorings to provide your body with extra energy and to make the drink taste better but many people find sports drinks too sugary and instead use the various forms of Pedialyte. Another alternative to sports drinks and Pedialyte are electrolyte replacement packets that you can find in camping supply or army surplus stores. One electrolyte replacements found in most drug stores is Emergen-C.
The traditional Chinese approach to Summer Heat Syndrome is simple, tasty and good for you. Rich in electrolytes, fiber and refreshing goodness, watermelon (xi gua) is the first choice of Chinese herbal medicine to treat and prevent Summer Heat Syndrome.
Whatever your choice of electrolyte replenishment, be sure to recharge every day and more often if you are engaged in outdoor activities of any kind.
Yours in good health,
Robert Kienitz, D.Ac.