Dehydration and Nutrient Losses in Summer Heat Waves in India

Dehydration and Nutrient Losses in Summer Heat Waves in India


Every year during the peak summer months, day time temperatures cross over 40 degrees Celsius in most cities in India and we are exposed to extreme environmental conditions like heat waves. Now the normal human body temperature ranges between 36.1 C and 37.2 C. While our bodies can function well enough in mild to moderate heat conditions, it's these extra few weeks during the summer months when heat waves are prevalent that can potentially lead to a host of health issues.


Depending on the time of the day, our physical activity levels, our hydration and nutrient intake we may experience a myriad of symptoms like: 

  • Feeling thirsty
  • Dry mouth, lips
  • Loss of appetite
  • Decreased urination
  • Dark colored urine
  • Reduced physical performance
  • Muscle spasms
  • Muscle Cramps
  • Increased pulse rate
  • Dizziness, Lightheaded, Confusion
  • Impaired temperature regulation
  • Increased respiration


Dehydration is attributed to as having the most impact on our health during these harsh summer months. Dehydration is a state in which the body has already lost water, fluids, electrolytes and certain nutrients due to either sweating, vomiting, diarrhoea, urination, etc. and is currently in a state where the normal metabolic processes have been disrupted. Dehydration is a serious health condition and may even require hospitalisation, if not controlled.


When we sweat, we are not only losing water but minerals like sodium, chloride, iodine, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chromium, copper, zinc and iron also. When we rehydrate with water, replenishment of the minerals is usually ignored. Ideally these minerals can be easily replenished throughout the day by consuming a well-balanced and varied diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.


Some people might be at a higher risk than others for nutrients losses during the summer heat and should pay close attention to nutrients like folate, vitamin C, L-Tyrosine, Magnesium, Sodium. While other nutrients like zinc, chloride, potassium can also be easily lost in sweat.


As the digestion is usually slower during summer months, many people especially women tend to skip meals, which can further accelerate nutrient deficiency. Keeping our body well hydrated helps to ease digestion and manage hunger better.


In clinical practice I see a lot of older adults who stop consuming water after 5 or 6 pm in the evening, mainly due to the fear of getting up during the night to urinate. While this practice can be understood for certain patients with say kidney disease for whom water intake is already limited, others are not recommended to do so.


Here is a link for the list of different food options based on the nutrients they contain which might be helpful for you in planning out your meals. Vitamins & Minerals


A good starting point for adults to plan out their water intake would be to consider a range of 3 – 5 L/d. Some might need a little more while some might need a little less. Starting the day with drinking a glass or two of water first thing in the morning and spreading out the water intake either evenly throughout the day or as desired, can prove to be a beneficial strategy in keeping the body hydrated during the harsh summer heat wave months. Usually, the younger the individual, the higher their requirement for water would be per unit of their body weight.


The requirement for water intake can also be increased due to exercise, living in higher altitudes and consuming a high fiber or high protein diet. Consuming a glass of water with meals higher in protein and fiber is generally recommended as an effective way for nutrient transportation and delivery within the body post eating.


Additionally, here are some options that can be helpful in getting in not only water but electrolytes as well:

  • Coconut water (not recommended for kidney disease patients)
  • Lemon Water (nimbu pani)
  • Watermelon juice (not recommended for people with headache/migraines)
  • Buttermilk
  • Lassi
  • Jal Jeera
  • Freshly squeesed orange juice


Oral rehydration therapy (mixture of water, salt & sugar) can be used in special cases for faster and easy replenishment of water, electrolytes and sugar levels. This can be a life saver in extreme situations when faster replenishment is required. Premixed oral rehydration solutions having sugar, salt and electrolytes can also be purchased from chemist stores. 


Clinical Dietitian Keshav || MSc Dietetics (DFSM), PGND, CNCC

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