Heat and Hydration

Across the Northwest summer is finally peeking above the once cloudy skies. With this glorious respite from winter come days of sunshine and warmer weather. Increased heat and humidity make hydration, a vital part of living your healthiest life, even more important.

Between 60 to 70 percent of human body weight is composed of water, an essential element in most body functions and especially for your kidneys. Proper hydration helps remove waste from your blood and keeps blood vessels healthy and functioning so nutrients can be delivered to the kidneys.

When the liquid your body gets rid of  is not properly balanced with liquid you consume dehydration can occur. This imbalance is common during diarrhea, vomiting, fever, sweating and increased urination (possibly due to uncontrolled diabetes). Typically, the first stage of dehydration does not leave lasting damage to the body. But once dehydration becomes severe or continues for an extended period of time, complications can follow. This can include heat injury, urinary and kidney problems, seizures, and low blood volume shock.

Kidney health can be affected by dehydration, leading to a buildup of waste and myoglobin that causes further damage. While kidney damage can be caused by dehydration it is also conversely true that too much liquid in the body, while on dialysis, can lead to health problems.

Many people properly associate liquid restriction with kidney disease. While each person is different and should consult with their renal dietician and their healthcare team, liquid is typically limited for people on hemodialysis. This limitation is designed to help kidneys no longer able to balance liquid levels on their own, and while dialysis helps this process, it is possible for liquid to build up in between treatments. When there is too much water in your body it is called hypervolemia. If this balance is not maintained hypervolemia, or fluid overload, can cause swelling in areas such as the feet, ankles, and face. Additional effects include, overall discomfort like cramping, high blood pressure due to blood stream disruption, liquid in the lungs causing shortness of breath and issues with heart rate and size.

There are ways to manage this delicate balance and avoid hypervolemia.
  • Track your fluid intake. This can be done using a marked water bottle and noting how many ounces you consume each day.
  • Be aware of the fluid guidelines. Most people on hemodialysis are limited to around 32 ounces of liquid a day. But make sure to check with your healthcare team to determine what is best for you.
  • Use other foods to manage thirst. During hot summer days the desire to drink more water may be all consuming. Instead of chugging water try frozen grapes and ice chips to quench your thirst. Find some more alternatives here.
  • Limit your sodium. When we use too much salt in our cooking our bodies hold more water leading to fluid overload. Not to mention, salt makes you thirstier!
While these are tips to managing your liquid intake, make sure to keep your healthcare team updated. Your dialysis treatments might need to be adjusted if fluid overload continues to be an issue despite following the guidelines.
So, while it’s important to stay hydrated, especially in this increasingly gorgeous weather, keep track of your liquid intake! Your kidneys will thank you.