When the summer sun bears down on you relentlessly, and the atmosphere gets humid too, you run the greatest risk of getting dehydrated due to copious perspiration. Sweating is necessary to eliminate heat from your body, but it dehydrates you. Dry heat too dehydrates you visibly. Extreme heat can be enervating, thereby making it nearly impossible to work or play. It can cause severe health issues like kidney dysfunction, cramps, diarrhea, severe headaches, even fever. In such a situation, the first thing you must do is to cool down. For many people reaching out for a cold drink or an ice is a natural instinct under such circumstances. However, you must rehydrate first to give your body a chance to cool down.
Extreme thirst, fatigue, vomiting, feeling lightheaded, and loss of appetite are indications of dehydration. It is mother nature’s way of telling you that your body needs water which is the most important nutrient for you at any given age, and in any weather. You need to drink adequate water throughout the day. Ideally, you should drink a glass of water (at least 250-300 ml) immediately after awakening, especially in the summer. If you have to spend long hours in the kitchen, in the field, or simply outdoors, you must drink at least eight glasses of water, apart from drinking other fluids. You should drink water even before you start feeling thirsty. The bottom line is that drinking plain, cool water is the best way to hydrate. Ironically, drinking chilled water, especially when you have come in from the sun, will only make you feel thirstier.
Water is the medium through which your body receives nutrients, and eliminates waste through urine and sweat. It is the basis of blood, lymph, and other bodily fluids. But most importantly, when you drink cool water, it cools your internal organs to prevent your suffering heat exhaustion, even heat stroke. It is the primary constituent of summer fruits and vegetables like plums, tomatoes, apricots, watermelon, cantaloupe, grapefruits, peaches, cucumber, different kinds of berries and gourds, papaya, lettuce, and water cress to name a few. When you make these fruits and vegetables part of your daily diet, you ensure that your body stays hydrated.
Fruits like watermelon, papaya, green mangoes, and cucumber, and vegetables like gourd and lettuce go a long way towards cooling your body. Apricots ― both fresh and dried ― help your body to retain moisture, which makes them such an invaluable food in hot desert climes. Snack off fresh fruits and vegetables. Stuff yourself with raw salads which are garnished with lemon juice, salt, and grated ginger. To add to the taste and flavor, sprinkle some chaat masala. Add finely ground poppy seeds to curries, or use as a base when cooking ridge gourd, pointed gourd, and/or potatoes. If different kinds of meats are part of your daily diet, add poppy seed paste to the gravy to cool your body. Put green mangoes into your dals, or make chutney out of them to beat the heat.
Yes, staying in a room cooled by a desert cooler or an air conditioner does cool you down ― but only externally. It is what you eat and drink which helps to cool your body internally. Freshly crushed fruit juices and smoothies are a great way to hydrate and cool down. Make a point of keeping the pulp when you make a fruit juice, or a vegetable juice. However, packaged fruit juices should be drunk warily. Read the label carefully before opting for it, especially if you are feeling dehydrated. While drinking milk, especially shakes, is a nutritious way to stay hydrated; eating curds and raita, or drinking buttermilk (chhaachh) spiced with fine ground dry roasted cumin seeds, lassi which may or may not have been laced with rose syrup, or whey (matthhaa) help in beating the heat as few other kinds of food and drink do. Slightly oversweet iced lemon tea served with black salt also cools while hydrating you. Of course, there is the ever popular aam panna ― the juice of dry roasted green mangoes, flavored with sugar, salt (ideally rock salt or black salt), and a tiny pinch of black pepper powder. Use mint chutney as a dip. It will titillate your taste buds while cooling you.
India has a long history of sherbets and sorbets which keep in mind the need to literally keep cool, and to hydrate properly. From the khus sherbat and rose syrup to the bel phool ka sherbet, you can choose from several kinds of branded sherbets, or make them at home. There really is no substitute for a cold drink like fresh nimbu paani ― fresh lemon juice mixed with cold water, and spiced up with sugar, black salt, a hint of black pepper powder or grated ginger, and garnished with mint leaves. Green coconut water is a gift of the gods as it not only hydrates you, but it also replenishes electrolytes naturally.
The body absorbs water through the skin too. Therefore, soaking in the tub for a while will rehydrate your body if you have major health issues which preclude you from drinking water generously. The water should not be hot, or too cold. Dissolving bath salts will serve to soothe your nerves rather than to cool you. But, if the overbearing heat is jangling your nerves; then adding some bath salts are a good idea. However, do not overdo the soaking in the bathtub act.
Aerated drinks, energy drinks, alcohol, several cups of tea and coffee, and ice creams seem an alluring proposition when you are looking for options to cool down quickly. Unfortunately, ice creams leave you feeling thirstier than before, while the others are counterproductive as they dehydrate you. You should also avoid fried foods, and starchy foods as these tend to use up your body fluids.