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Editor in Chief Mohamed Wadie

Combat Thirst in Ramadan


Sat 25 Mar 2023 | 09:14 PM
Dr.Magdy Badran
Dr.Magdy Badran
Dr Magdy Badran

Thirst has become a usual companion throughout the long fasting days of Ramadan, especially on the hotter ones. Thirst is a sign of dehydration, so if you are feeling thirsty, you are already dehydrated. 

Thirst is the sensation of wanting to drink and dehydration is the physiological fact of having lost fluids. 

Thirst Mechanism

The regulation of water output involves complex communication between the kidneys, hypothalamus and endocrine glands. The thirst mechanism is activated in response to changes in water volume in the blood but is even more sensitive to changes in blood osmolality. The urge to drink results from a complex interplay of hormones and neuronal responses that coordinate to increase water input and contribute toward fluid balance and composition in the body. The thirst center is contained within the hypothalamus, a portion of the brain that lies just above the brain stem.

Thirst decreases with age. As we age, the amount of fluid in our bodies begins to decrease. This means there are fewer water reserves available for your body to use as you get older. In older people the thirst mechanism is not as responsive and as we age there is a higher risk for dehydration.

A homeostatic goal for a cell, tissue, organ, and entire organism is to balance water output with water input. The amount of water a person should consume every day is variable and should be based on the climate a person lives in, as well as their age, physical activity level, and kidney function.

Other mechanisms by which body water balance is maintained are aimed at controlling the water volume of urine. The amount of water filtered from the blood and excreted as urine is dependent upon the amount of water in blood and the electrolyte composition of blood.

Dehydration 

The basic causes of dehydration are not taking in enough water, losing too much water, or a combination of both. Even low levels of dehydration can cause headaches, lethargy and constipation. A mere 2% reduction in body water can decrease performance, affect short-term memory, focus and increase fatigue. Severe dehydration causes depression, high blood pressure, weakness and loss of energy.

Diarrhea is the most common cause of dehydration. Vomiting leads to a loss of fluids and makes it difficult to replace water by drinking it. Sweating - the body's cooling mechanism releases a significant amount of water. Hot and humid weather and vigorous physical activity can increase fluid loss from sweating. Fever can cause an increase in sweating and may dehydrate the patient, especially if there is also diarrhea and vomiting. High blood sugar levels cause increased urination and fluid loss. 

Risk Factors for Dehydration

Anyone can become dehydrated, but certain people are at greater risk. People who work or exercise outside in hot and humid conditions are vulnerable to dehydration.

Older adults are especially vulnerable to dehydration. As you age, your body's fluid reserve becomes smaller, your ability to conserve water is reduced and your thirst sense becomes less acute. These problems are compounded by chronic illnesses such as diabetes and dementia and by the use of certain medications. Older adults also may have mobility problems that limit their ability to obtain water for themselves.

People with chronic illnesses are vulnerable to dehydration. Having uncontrolled or untreated diabetes puts you at high risk of dehydration. Kidney disease also increases your risk, as do medications that increase urination. Even having a cold or sore throat makes you more susceptible to dehydration because you're less likely to feel like eating or drinking when you're sick.

Water and Immunity

Fat storage cells in our body (adipocytes) shrink in size during a fast, as their contents provide energy for the body. Some types of toxins accumulate in the fat cells because many problematic toxins are fat-soluble and our fat storage is our largest depot to dilute these contaminants. The body slowly eliminates toxins during the normal cell turnover. One of the benefits of drinking water is that adequate hydration has a huge impact on your immune system. Drinking plenty of water flushes toxins and ensures that your cells get all of the oxygen they need to function. Water allows your kidneys to remove toxins from your body. If you don't drink enough water, toxins will build up, weakening your immune system.

Water helps in the production of lymph. Lymph carries water, nutrients and immune cells throughout the body. Water keeps your tissues clean. Water keeps your digestive system strong so that you can properly digest your food and ensures that your cells will get adequate nutrition.

Tips to Avoid Thirst in Ramadan

Dehydration is one of the most common preventable medical conditions in the world.

Drink at least eight glasses of water during non-fasting hours, taking frequent sips. One way to make sure you are properly hydrated is to check your urine. If it’s clear, pale or straw-colored, it’s okay. If it’s darker than that, keep drinking.

Eating healthy foods that naturally contain water can help keep you hydrated. Eat water-rich, juicy fruits like watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes, apples, oranges, kiwis, strawberries, or citrus fruits. You can also opt for vegetables that contain high amounts of water like green leafy vegetables, cucumbers, tomato salad, celery, cauliflower, cabbage, bell peppers and zucchini to help keep you hydrated.

Coconut milk helps with dehydration. Coconut milk calories are a great source of energy for both your brain and body. This is thanks to the high amounts of healthy fats in coconut milk. It can also help to keep you hydrated, which keeps your energy up.

Avoid drinking coffee, tea and soft drinks that contain caffeine due to their diuretic properties that cause the body to lose water quickly. It’s best to remember that soft drinks are no substitute for water. Although they contain water, they also contain ingredients which are dehydrating. So-called ‘energy drinks’ contain caffeine or other stimulants and are not an appropriate rehydration fluid. If in doubt, water is the preferred option in most cases.

What it takes to keep one person hydrated may not be enough for another. A person’s weight can sometimes determine the amount of water they need per day. Water content is a percent of your total body weight, so the higher the weight of a person, there is an increase in water needs in most cases.

Try to delay the Sohour. Reduce the intake of Ramadan sweets as they can cause a higher degree of thirst because they contain a large proportion of sugars.

Avoid high temperatures. Exercise or do outdoor activities early in the morning or evening instead; wear thin, loose clothing — this allows good airflow, which helps sweat evaporate; and avoid dark clothing, as this absorbs more heat than light clothing.

Don’t skip eating yoghurt for Sohour. Drink Ramadan juices like hibiscus, carob or liquorice. Tamarind Juice is rich in antioxidants. Avoid salty and spicy food such as pickles, olives and salted fish, as well as those that contain large quantities of spices. These can increase the chances of stomach acidity and thus increase the need for the body to process liquids, also increasing the feeling of thirst.

Quit smoking, vaping and nicotine gum. Nicotine – as well as various other chemicals found in cigarettes and e-cigarettes – causes dehydration and affects your body's ability to regulate hydration.