Understanding The Deadly Salmonella Bacteria

Understanding The Deadly Salmonella Bacteria

What a gift it is to have pure, clean water!

Not just for drinking and cooking, but to wash produce, scrub hands, brush teeth, and bathe.

Clean water is a basic human need, yet the UN’s Institute for Water, Environment and Health reports that 663 million people still lack ‘improved’ drinking water. That’s despite efforts being made each year to supply more people with better quality water.

One side of this reality is the diseases that routinely accompany contaminated water. A salmonella infection, or salmonellosis, is one common bacterial infection. It can happen anywhere, but this disease plagues developing countries with contaminated water supplies.

What are salmonella, salmonella infection, and salmonellosis?

These three terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but salmonella is the name of the bacteria, while salmonellosis and salmonella infection are the resulting illness.

This genus of bacteria is responsible for one of the most common forms of food poisoning worldwide. Globally, millions of cases of salmonellosis are reported every year. Many more go unreported.

Discovered by a doctor in the 1870’s, the bacteria became known as salmonella when a veterinary pathologist involved in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s microorganism research program found salmonella in hogs that were dying. The genus “salmonella” was named for this researcher, Daniel Salmon.

Most salmonella infections can be classified as stomach flu or gastroenteritis. The infection strikes the intestinal tract. The bacteria typically live in human and animal intestines, including birds, and then are shed through their feces. Even someone with no symptoms can be a carrier and infect others.

The way most humans become infected is through ingesting water that’s been contaminated with the bacteria, or tainted food – in particular raw/undercooked meat, poultry, eggs or egg products. Salmonella infections are more common in the summer than winter.

Where is Salmonella bacteria found?

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The bacteria itself is found worldwide. Humans carry certain types of salmonella. It’s found in wild and domestic animals. Poultry, swine, cattle, wild birds, and rodents can carry it, but so can reptiles – iguanas, turtles, and others. Even dogs and cats may harbor the bacteria.

What are the symptoms of salmonella infection?

Sometimes people with salmonella infection have no symptoms. Others develop diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fevers within a few hours to 3 days.

A complete list of symptoms may include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Blood in the stool

The salmonella infection generally lasts from four to ten days. It’s normally not life-threatening, and without treatment, most healthy people recover within two weeks.

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Infants, young children, the elderly, transplant recipients, pregnant women and unborn babies, and those with compromised immune systems are more likely to have an acute form of the illness or be in danger if complications occur.

Diarrhea linked to salmonella can be dehydrating. Dehydration occurs when you aren’t able to drink enough liquids to replace fluid lost from diarrhea. Even after abdominal pain and diarrhea subside, it may be months before bowels are back to normal.

You may be dehydrated if you’re experiencing these or other signs:

  • Dry mouth and or tongue
  • Little urine output
  • Producing few to no tears
  • Sunken eyes

How does salmonella cause diarrhea?

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It’s insidious! Here’s Science Daily’s description of this cunning invader:

Salmonella is a pathogenic bacteria which penetrates intestinal epithelium cells which form the topmost layer of the intestinal tissue. Although the pathogens are killed in these cells, they succeed in provoking inflammation that destroys the intestinal flora and nullifies their protective function. Their comrades of the same species that remained in the intestine exploit this, and proliferate, and the affected person develops violent diarrhea.

Sometimes dehydration is severe enough to require medical attention or hospitalization. In those cases, blood or stool samples help medical personnel distinguish salmonella infection from other illnesses with the same symptoms.

How is a salmonella infection treated?

As noted before, some cases clear up on their own. Severe cases may require hospitalization to receive fluids intravenously. Anti-diarrhea meds may be prescribed or medications to relieve cramping, although the latter may prolong diarrhea that comes with the infection.

Antibiotics don’t help with uncomplicated cases of salmonella. They’re usually used for treatment when it appears salmonella bacteria have entered the bloodstream, and sometimes for severe cases or patients with a compromised immune system. Antibiotics could increase a risk of relapse.

Salmonella infections become life-threatening when complications develop. especially when the infection spreads beyond the intestines to the bloodstream. Once present in the bloodstream it’s called bacteremia. Bacteremia can lead to infection of any organ, like the brain, spinal cord, heart valves, lining of the heart, or bone marrow.

What is typhoid fever?

One variety of salmonella bacteria leads to typhoid fever, a bacterial infection of the intestinal tract and sometimes the bloodstream. It is caused by the Salmonella Typhi bacteria. It can be a deadly disease.

Typhoid is much more common in developing countries than in the U.S. where it is now considered very rare. In the 1800’s there were numerous outbreaks in New York traced back to one immigrant later identified as a carrier.

She herself was healthy, but she was the cause of many others becoming ill, some of whom died. Because there was no antibiotic salmonella treatment and no immunization for typhoid, she eventually ended up in isolation until her death. She was known as “Typhoid Mary.”

One other possible outcome of salmonella is reactive arthritis (Reiter’s syndrome), although only in a small number of cases. It causes joint pain, eye irritation, and pain when urinating, and can lead to chronic arthritis, a condition that’s difficult to treat.

What are the causes of salmonella infection?

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Most people become infected by eating foods or drinking water that’s been contaminated by feces. Some think this should be easy to avoid, but areas with poor sanitation and a lack of clean water are incredibly vulnerable. A home water filter can make the difference between illness and good health.

Consider just some of the situations that produce unsanitary conditions in the global south. They may drink contaminated water. People can’t clean their hands effectively after using the toilet or changing a diaper.

Raw produce brought in from fields may not be washed free of bacteria. Fish or other seafood could be harvested from contaminated water. Butchered meat might not be processed using safe methods. Food handlers may not have cleaned their hands thoroughly so feces could be left on food.

Cross-contamination during food preparation is likely if surfaces can’t be cleaned sufficiently. Lack of clean water unquestionably makes everything much more complicated.

What are commonly infected foods?

Raw meat, poultry, and seafood often are infected with salmonella bacteria if feces are present. Raw or undercooked eggs are often a culprit, even though eggs have a shell. Sometimes infected chickens produce eggs containing salmonella before the shell has even been formed.

If raw meats or eggs come into contact with foods that are eaten without cooking, like salads, bacteria will be ingested. Unpasteurized milk and milk products like raw milk cheese can be infected. The FDA has even found some salmonella outbreaks traced to contaminated spices.

Any foods can become contaminated if you touch animals (especially birds and reptiles) and then transfer bacteria by touching inside your mouth or eating without properly cleaning your hands.

Salmonella can even spread from person-to-person. Medicine.net explains that The organisms can be transferred from person-to-person by both direct (via saliva, fecal/oral spread, kissing) and indirect contact (for example, using contaminated eating utensils).

It’s easy to understand why sanitary practices such as safe food handling and hand washing are crucial, yet the difficulty of accomplishing them without clean water.

What are risk factors for salmonella infection?

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International travel in areas with poor sanitation raise your risk. Salmonella infection, including the varieties that cause typhoid fever, are more common in developing countries.

Owning a pet bird or reptile that may carry salmonella bacteria. Reptiles (which includes turtles) are not considered appropriate pets for kids.

Stomach or bowel disorders may leave you at higher risk.

The human body has natural defenses against salmonella infection, but certain medications or physical problems lower those defenses. Here are examples:

  1. Stomach acid can kill many types of salmonella bacteria. Taking antacids lowers the stomach’s acidity allowing more bacteria to survive.
  2. Anti-rejection drugs after an organ transplant
  3. Corticosteroids
  4. Inflammatory bowel disease makes your intestinal lining more vulnerable to salmonella bacteria taking hold.
  5. Recent antibiotic treatment may reduce “good” bacteria in your intestines, making it harder to battle salmonella.
  6. Immune problems, AIDS, Sickle cell disease, and malaria.

How Can You Prevent Salmonellosis?

Can you imagine the dilemma of those in developing countries who must function with no clean water? Keep their plight in mind as you consider a list of best practices to avoid salmonella infections.

Common sense dictates that avoidance of sources is the best defense against the infection. Beyond that, there are rules to steer clear of the spread of salmonella:

  • Wash hands thoroughly after using the toilet, changing a diaper, cleaning up after pets, before, during and after food preparation.
  • Cook food thoroughly, then refrigerate or freeze food without delay.
  • Those with diarrhea shouldn’t prepare food, care for hospitalized patients, the elderly or children.
  • Cook ground poultry and poultry pieces to a minimum temperature of 74°C (165°F), whole poultry to 82°C (180°F), other ground meats to 71°C (160°F). A probe thermometer is the way to verify cooking temperatures.
  • Place cooked foods on clean surfaces only, not where food was prepped, and not onto a plate which was used for the item before cooking.
  • Don’t leave food at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • Use pasteurized milk and milk products.
  • Thoroughly cook eggs. Don’t use eggs with cracked or damaged shells.
  • Avoid homemade ice cream, eggnog, or unbaked cookie dough made with raw eggs. Products made commercially like eggnog and ice cream are made with pasteurized eggs, not raw.)
  • Thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables in clean water before eating them.
  • When buying, bagging, prepping or storing food under refrigeration, keep raw meat separate from fruits, vegetables, already-cooked foods or ready-to-eat items.
  • Use separate cutting boards for meats versus fruit and veggies.
Is Alkaline Water Good for You? It’s a Hard Question to Answer

Is Alkaline Water Good for You? It’s a Hard Question to Answer

How you ever stopped to think about the water you drink?

If you’re like most Americans, the answer is probably no.

Yet, between coffee, tea, a host of other foods and liquids, and, of course, plain old drinking water we consume plenty of H2O. Based on our daily needs, many of us probably don’t drink enough.

But that is merely the surface. Water comes in many forms, both natural and artificial. One such type that straddles this line is alkaline water.

When people speak of alkaline water, it is often followed by claims of fantastic health benefits including the prevention of diseases and possession of anti-aging qualities.

The enriched water even has a celebrity following that includes Beyonce and Tom Brady.

In fact, the alkaline diet continues to be a popular choice in the US, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

First, we need to understand the science of water and that starts with understanding pH.

What is pH?

Certainly, you know that water is two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen.

You also probably know that our bodies are about 60% water and the earth is roughly 70%. Even with our thirst and need for water and its prevalence, how much more do you really know about it?

Is your water too acidic?

Not acidic enough?

Does it even matter?

That’s where pH comes in.

pH actually measures the overall acidity of water. Working on a scale that runs from 0 to 14, where 7 represents neutral, if the pH measures less than 7 that reflects acidity. pH greater than 7 is basic or alkaline.

To better understand the pH scale we can relate it to everyday liquids or products we are most familiar with:

  • 0 – Battery Acid
  • 1 – Stomach Acid
  • 2 – Lemon Juice, Vinegar
  • 3 – Orange Juice, Soft Drinks
  • 4 – Tomato Juice
  • 5 – Black Coffee, Acid Rain
  • 6 – Milk, Urine
  • 7 – Tap Water, Blood
  • 8 – Sea Water
  • 9 – Baking Soda, Toothpaste
  • 10 – Milk of Magnesia
  • 11 – Household Ammonia
  • 12 – Soapy Water
  • 13 – Bleach
  • 14 – Liquid Drain Cleaner

As you can see from the chart, too much pH in either direction is not a good thing.

When it comes to measuring water in nature – streams, ponds, or lakes, for example – the pH measurement works as an indicator that environmental conditions are changing.

For instance, factories or mines that are near water sources could dramatically lower than water’s pH level, indicating pollution is present.

Even the oceans are not immune. pH levels have dropped from 8.2 to 8.1 since the industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries. Oceans are forecasted to drop another 0.3 to 0.4 pH units by the end of this century.

That may not seem like much, but considering the pH scale is logarithmic (5 pH is 10x the acidity of 6 pH and 100x the acidity of 7 pH), even the slightest changes can create havoc in ecosystems that are highly sensitive to the most minuscule of changes.

At home, fluctuation in pH levels results in a completely different set of issues.

Problems could include the corrosion of pipes when pH levels are low. If pH is high, which means it contains too many bases, you could end up with bitter tap water or a buildup of deposits in pipes or appliances that use water.

When it comes to pH levels in our body, if they are thrown too far off balance, it can be catastrophic.

The normal pH level for blood in humans measures 7.4 on the pH scale, just above tap water.

For most individuals, pH levels remain in the healthy zone – 7.35 to 7.45. However, when your pH levels get too high, it can lead to a condition called alkalosis. With too many bases, untreated alkalosis can lead to arrhythmia or coma.

When your pH drops too low and becomes too acidic, the resulting condition is acidosis. There are several different types of acidosis, and without treatment they could lead to issues in organ function including respiratory failure, chronic kidney problems, kidney failure, bone disease or in severe cases shock or death.

Considering the potential health issues that could arise from unbalanced pH levels, it’s little wonder individuals look for ways to avoid complications – in particular, acidosis.

Which brings us back to alkaline water.

What is Alkaline Water?

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Alkaline water possesses elevated pH levels. In most cases, the pH levels top out at either 8 or 9. The water is full of alkalizing minerals including calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium.

The thinking is that higher pH (along with the high mineral content) negates the acidity within an individual’s body. Proponents for alkaline water claim it possesses plenty of other benefits as well.

One study in particular showed that alkaline water shuts down the enzyme that creates acid reflux. Another reported a reduction in blood pressure.

Other, non-scientific claims state that alkaline water improves your metabolism, slows aging, and can also decrease bone loss. Though there is a limited number of studies on the subject, some suggest there could be potential.

The key word, however, is “could” as the vast majority of studies remain inconclusive.

Skeptics tend to cite those unproven reports and the lack of further concrete research as proof that alkaline water does not carry any more benefits beyond that of tap water.

They also point to the possibility that over-consumption of alkaline water may lead to alkalosis, confusion, nausea, and vomiting, as well as hindering the body’s ability to break down proteins properly.

There is also the potential to create an imbalance in an individual’s pH level.

In reality, though, there isn’t much available to prove or disprove the benefits or shortcomings of alkaline water.

According to Malina Malkani, a registered dietician nutritionist who also serves as the spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

“There’s really not a lot of evidence either supporting of the health claims that are made about alkaline water or refuting the claims.” Malkani went on to say, “It’s one of those fads that people are making all kinds of claims about, you know, ‘It’s a miracle cure, and it’s a curative for so many different things, and it can boost your metabolism and prevent cancer,’ and there’s just a lot we don’t know.”

Is the Alkaline Diet a Better Alternative?

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With that information in mind, for those looking to improve their health by turning away from the acidity of a lot of popular food and beverages, the alkaline diet – also known as the alkaline ash or alkaline acid diet –  proves a good alternative.

However, if you’re looking for alkaline foods to change your blood’s pH level, it won’t happen. It will though affect the pH level in urine.

The real reason to subscribe to the alkaline diet is that it’s just plain healthy. It’s hard to go wrong with consumption of fruits and vegetables and a lot of leafy items like lettuce, celery, and kale.

Plus, it restricts plenty of junk and processed foods and reduces your intake of high-fat, high-calorie options.

Research and the menu of options do back up the alkaline diet theory of better health through lower acidity, even though it does not achieve it in the primary form that supporters of alkaline water would have you believe.

According to Katherine Brooking, who is a registered dietitian:

“There is some good news for fans of alkaline eating. The Alkaline Diet is plant-based and discourages added sugar, so it may help your weight and health, although not because of the pH,” she said. “People who eat balanced, plant-based diets tend to have lower risks of chronic diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes.”  

She does go on to note though, there are some key factors you’ll want to follow, just like any other diet:

“However, you’ll still need to pay attention to portion sizes, total calorie intake and exercise regularly.”

Is There Any Benefit to Alkaline Water?

Alkaline water is perfectly fine to drink, although it’s a zero-sum game. There isn’t enough research to declare Alkaline water as a substantial health benefit or significant factor in preventing diseases such as cancer or heart disease.

And it is not a fountain of youth.

While it is also prudent to be mindful of what goes into your body, the risk of complications from improper consumption of alkaline water should, at this point, be meet with its own skepticism.

That said, some research does show that the broader Alkaline diet does possess some positive attributes simply through the increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, an increase of growth hormone, and the improved function of enzyme and apocrine/exocrine systems.

As with anything health or diet related, moderation and balance are crucial. It’s also necessary to seek advice from a health professional prior to starting any new diet or regimen – food or exercise.

Of course, few things in this world are better and better for you than a tall glass of pure water. And there’s no need to wait on the latest research or a doctor to confirm it.

Nature’s Bounty: What You Need To Know About Harvesting Rainwater

Nature’s Bounty: What You Need To Know About Harvesting Rainwater

At one time, no one could have imagined arguments over who owns the rains that soak the earth. But that’s part of what’s been happening with the universal, natural resource of rainwater.

Rainwater is free and eco-friendly. Utilizing it helps owners cut the cost of utility bills. It’s hard to imagine anything worth arguing about.

What is rainwater “harvesting”?

Harvesting is simply another name for capturing and collecting rainwater so the water ends up in some type of storage container, either large or small. Most commonly, rain is collected from the rooftop of a building or other surface runoff. The area from which water is collected is called the “catchment.”

Rain then moves downward through gutters or pipes to a holding area. The water is used for specific objectives, rather than allowing rain to just slip away, evaporate, or seep into the ground.

What are the advantages of rainwater harvesting?

There are many advantages to harvesting rainwater! Since it’s eco-friendly, environmentalists advocate for responsible methods in collecting rainwater to lessen the impact humans take on the natural world. Water conservation efficiencies such as recently improved low-flow toilets, faucets, and showerheads have helped, but have probably reached their limits.

The practice of rainwater harvesting conserves groundwater, cuts down on the amount of stormwater runoff which contributes to water pollution, reduces soil erosion, and can help decrease flooding in low-lying areas. Better control gained over the natural water supply can be especially helpful where water is restricted.

Finding ways to use rainwater in California, for example, would greatly help the predicaments of that drought-prone area. One climatologist estimates that more than 80% of the region’s rainfall ends up literally going down the drain from urban areas in Southern California into the Pacific. Trillions of gallons of fresh rainwater end up in the ocean.

Unfortunately, a great deal of time and a lot of money are needed to save significant amounts of rainwater on that scale. But, for average homeowners and homesteaders, rainwater collection is generally economical. Just one inch of rainfall on a 2,000 square foot area yields about 1200 gallons of water.

Most home rainwater collection systems are simple, easy to maintain, and the upfront expense involved pays for itself over time. Because using rainwater cuts down on utility bills, homeowners find rainwater to be of particular benefit.

The uses of rainwater vary, but it’s especially well-suited to applications other than drinking. For example, water used to wash clothes and vehicles, operate toilets, or water gardens needs no filtering or disinfecting. Harnessing rainwater is a perfect solution!

Water collected from rain is actually healthier for landscape plant life than water you get from a faucet because there’s no chlorine in it. Rainwater is often less “hard” than publicly treated water, so less soap or detergent is needed, and there’s no need for a water softener.

Some people do opt to use rainwater for human or animal consumption. When that’s the case, the safety of rainwater for drinking requires more careful preparation and monitoring. Extra filtering and regular testing are necessary to ensure there’s nothing harmful in the water.

Are there disadvantages to harvesting rainwater?

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It requires some effort and routine maintenance. There are initial costs involved to set up a system that’s effective. Costs will be significantly higher if the water is going to be used for drinking since filtering and disinfecting after collection is crucial. Anyone with immune issues should be especially careful.

Contamination and pathogens can be ongoing concerns. The water needs to be stored in appropriate opaque containers using methods that prevent algae.  Rodents could find their way into storage areas. Insects, particularly mosquitoes, could potentially use the stored water as a breeding ground.

There are possible issues with using a roof to collect rainwater. Asbestos roofs and lead flashing shouldn’t be used for harvesting water. Some roofing materials seep chemicals, or may have had chemical treatments to prevent moss from growing. Bird droppings, insects, and leaves can also potentially wash along with the rain into the containment system.

There are ways to minimize these problems with careful research done ahead of time. It’s not quite as important if the water is never going to be consumed by humans or animals, but all aspects should be considered ahead of time in case stored water might ever be needed as a backup for drinking. Having a low-cost home filtration system like this one that quickly connects to a tap and removes all bacteria from water is an easy way to have peace of mind when you plan on drinking harvested rainwater.

Unpredictable rainfall can be a disadvantage, too. Some areas simply don’t get enough rain to make installing a system practical. Areas that experience sudden high amounts of rainfall will only benefit if adequate storage space is provided. If containment is small and lots of rain appears all at once, storage runs out quickly and the opportunity is missed.

What are the methods of collecting rain?

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Harvesting systems for rainwater are plentiful. It can be as simple as installing a rain barrel at the bottom of a downspout or as complicated as installation of underground tanks with high-efficiency filters and pumps.

All types of rainwater harvesting system design have certain components in common. One group of engineers (Enduraplas.com) lists the 5 “must have” components this way:

  1. Collection Area – Your roof is an obvious component as you can’t harvest rainwater without a roof. This is the first point of contact for rainfall. The volume of water you harvest will depend on the surface area of your roof.
  2. Conveyance System – A Conveyance system is a fancy word for downspouts and gutters. The right piping and gutters means the water will run off the roof and into your tank without collecting unneeded debris. Other necessary components include mount hardware, brackets, and straps to fasten the gutters and downspout to the fascia and the wall.
  3. First Flush Diverter – When the first lot of rain hits your roof and runs into your gutters, the water often contains a lot of pollutants from the air and debris on the roof. The first flush diverter is a popular system that includes a valve that ensures the runoff from the first spell of rain is flushed out and doesn’t enter the system.
  4. Leaf Screens – Having the right filtration system in place is critical, especially if you are harvesting potable water that you’ll be drinking or using for your laundry. A sophisticated filtering system ensures harmful contaminants are removed. Leaf screens are installed along the gutter, in the downspouts and at the entrance of the water storage tank.
  5. Water Storage Tank – This is a key component. Your storage system may be above ground or below ground and include more than one tank. Some of the common materials used for rain harvesting tanks are poly, galvanized steel, and concrete.

Can I build a home rainwater harvesting system for myself?

Yes! Loads of ideas are available online. You can choose whatever method suits your budget and your needs.

Take a look at 23 awesome ideas one self-sufficiency group has put together. They share all kinds of details about harvesting rain, including the types and composition of barrels for rainwater collection – ranging from very basic (and cheap) to very sophisticated, larger systems.

Does legislation make it illegal to collect rainwater in some places?

In a few locations, the government has begun to question ownership rights over rainwater. Although individual states can impose regulations, the Federal government doesn’t restrict rainwater harvesting. Most US citizens are able to collect rainwater without problems. Some states even offer incentives for doing it!

Rainwater harvesting restrictions have been implemented in places like Colorado. Citizens there who harvest rain must use it on the property where it is collected, and then only for outdoor purposes such as lawn irrigation and gardening. State by state regulations are essential to research prior to implementing a system, so make sure to read up beforehand.

For one Oregon man, rainwater became a legal issue in 2012. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined, due to three reservoirs on his property where he collected and used rainwater.

State water managers referred to “three illegal reservoirs” on his property that he would fill with rainwater and snow runoff. Oregon water laws state that all water is publicly owned. If someone wants to store any type of water on their property, they have to first get a permit from state water managers.

In this man’s case, he claims he had the appropriate rainwater collection permit, but an Oregon administrative official maintains this landowner was actually diverting water (that should have ended up in streams) by building dams to make the ponds.

What’s the future of rain harvesting?

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Populations continue to grow, and incidents of drought and low water levels are on the increase. It’s natural to contemplate offsetting those dilemmas by utilizing our resource from the sky. As more people recognize how much water can be easily captured and consider the savings involved, we’re likely to see the practice increase.

Demands for clean water will keep increasing. Aquifers and groundwater are precious and need to be preserved whenever possible. Hopefully, state officials and individuals can come to an agreement on the highest priorities, and work together toward partnerships that benefit everyone.

Just How Much Water Do You Really Need To Drink? More Than You Realize

Just How Much Water Do You Really Need To Drink? More Than You Realize

It seems like a new fad diet emerges every day. Weight Watchers, South Beach, Keto, Carnivore, Mediterranean, Paleo, and the Raw Foods diet all claim the ability to deliver good health, weight loss, and that body you’ve always dreamed of.

Each diet promotes and vilifies different foods. “Eat this, but don’t touch these.” The vilified foods of one diet are the promoted foods of the other. With so many conflicting ideas out there it’s hard to know what works and what doesn’t.

But one thing that’s consistent across the board no matter what diet you’re looking into is the importance of water. The exact numbers aren’t always the same, but the idea that you should drink plenty of water every day is a universal idea.

Some diets say you need at least 64oz a day, some say you need to drink your body weight in ounces in water every day, others say you only need half of your body weight. You’ll also obviously need to drink more water if you’re physically active and sweat a lot throughout the day.

So what’s the reasoning behind this? Why is water an essential part of any diet?

The short answer is to avoid dehydration. But there’s more to it than that.

Let’s take a closer look at dehydration, why it should be avoided at all costs, and the role water plays in it.

What is dehydration?

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Dehydration happens when your body doesn’t get all the water it needs. This occurs when your body loses more water than it takes in. If you aren’t replacing your lost fluids, you will become dehydrated.

When you’re deficient in water, you become dehydrated, and your body loses its ability to function correctly. Dehydration can be mild, moderate or severe, depending on how much fluid is missing from your body.

Anyone can become dehydrated, but young children and the elderly are at the greatest risk of dehydration, and it’s side effects.

Symptoms of dehydration

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So how do you know if you’re dehydrated? What are the symptoms? The symptoms vary based on the severity of the dehydration. And young children can have slightly different symptoms as well.

Mild or moderate dehydration symptoms:

  • Thirst
  • Dry or sticky mouth
  • Infrequent urination
  • Dark yellow urine
  • Dry, cool skin
  • Headaches
  • Muscle cramps

Symptoms of severe dehydration:

  • No urination
  • Extremely dark yellow urine
  • Extreme dry skin
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing
  • Sunken eyes
  • Sleepiness, lack of energy, confusion or irritability
  • Fainting

While all of those symptoms can be found in anyone suffering from dehydration, there are a few symptoms unique to young children. They are:

  • Dry mouth and tongue
  • No tears when crying
  • Dry diapers for 3 or more hours
  • Sunken eyes, cheeks, or a soft spot on the top of the skull

If you have any symptoms of severe dehydration listed above, you need to stop reading this and see a doctor. Severe dehydration is considered a medical emergency and needs to be treated immediately.

How dehydration alters mood

One of the most overlooked symptoms of dehydration is the impact it has on your mood. In a new study of 25 healthy women, along with increased fatigue, and headaches, mild dehydration dampened moods. The women weren’t athletes or couch potatoes, but somewhere in between.

The women were given tests measuring their concentration, memory, and mood when they were dehydrated and when they were not. Overall, women’s mental ability was not affected by mild dehydration, but they did have an increase in the perception of task difficulty and lower concentration.

Causes of dehydration

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Now that we know if we’re dehydrated or not, let’s figure out what causes us to get dehydrated in the first place.

The first, most obvious causes of dehydration is not drinking enough water, losing too much water, or a combination of both. Most people simply don’t drink enough water, no matter what the reason.

Other causes of dehydration include:

Diarrhea – Diarrhea is one of the most common causes of dehydration and dehydration-related deaths. This is a major problem in developing countries whose citizens don’t have regular access to clean drinking water. Diarrhea prevents the large intestine from extracting water from food, leading to dehydration.

Vomiting – Most people suffering from the flu and related sicknesses are also suffering from dehydration without realizing it. Vomiting leads to a loss of fluids and makes it harder for you to replace them by drinking water because your body can’t keep it down.

Sweat – Dogs pant to cool themselves, humans sweat. When we sweat, our bodies release a significant amount of fluid in order to cool us off. Hot and Humid weather, vigorous physical activity, or even a fever that induces sweating can further increase fluid loss due to sweating.

Diabetes – High blood sugar levels related to diabetes cause increased urination and fluid loss.

Burns – Even though this is unlikely to happen to most of us (thankfully), severe burns can also cause dehydration. When you sustain severe burns, blood vessels can become damaged, causing fluid to leak into the surrounding tissues.

When to see a doctor

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There are several instances when you should seek medical attention for your dehydration. Most of the time we can correct our dehydration by drinking more water, but if you start noticing these symptoms, you need to see a doctor:

  • Increased or constant vomiting for more than a day
  • Fever over 101 F but less than 103 F
  • Constant diarrhea for more than 2 days
  • Noticeable weight loss
  • Decreased urine production
  • Weakness

If you notice the following symptoms in yourself or a loved one, you need to go directly to the emergency room:

  • Fever higher than 103 F
  • Confusion and dizziness
  • Lethargy
  • Severe headaches
  • Seizures
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest or abdominal pain
  • Fainting
  • No urine in the last 12 hours

Severe dehydration is nothing to joke about and needs to be treated immediately. In extreme situations, your doctor will give you an IV to start replacing your lost fluids. They also treat the symptoms you were suffering from when you arrived.

Best ways to avoid dehydration

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The best way to cure dehydration is to avoid it altogether. When you become dehydrated, your body loses its ability to function properly, so we should do everything in our power to prevent dehydration from occurring.

The first and easiest step to prevent dehydration is to drink water. Drink water before you feel thirsty. If you wait to drink until you’re thirsty, it’s often too late. If you’re wondering how much water you should be drinking, the best thing to do is ask your doctor.

There are several factors that will influence how much water you need to drink on a daily basis, and your doctor will be best prepared to give you a figure to shoot for.

Other ways to avoid becoming dehydrated are:

  1. Eat foods with high amounts of water like fruits and vegetables. If you don’t like drinking bottle after bottle of water, watermelon, cucumbers, and pineapples are great sources of water.
  2. Avoid or limit drinks with caffeine like coffee, teas, and soft drinks. Common ingredients in these drinks, like sugars, will actually dehydrate you instead of replenishing you. If you’re thirsty, the last thing you want to do is grab a sugary drink. You need a bottle of water.
  3. Avoid or limit drinks with alcohol. Alcohol actually increases your urine output, accelerating your chances of becoming dehydrated.

Dehydration during pregnancy

We mentioned earlier that young children and the elderly are at a higher risk of dehydration. Pregnant women also need to be very aware of their water levels and the symptoms of dehydration.

Pregnant women need even more fluids than your average person because water plays a critical role in the development of their unborn baby. Water helps form the placenta, which is what the baby depends on to receive the nutrients it needs. Water is also used to form the amniotic sac later on in the pregnancy.

So if you or your wife is pregnant, it is especially important to drink enough water during the pregnancy. Again, if you aren’t sure how much to drink, check with your doctor. It’s always a good rule of thumb to drink more than you think you need.

Drink your water

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Dehydration is nothing to laugh at. It seems like something that is easily avoidable and curable but left untreated, it can cause severe issues, including death. Look out for the warning signs, and drink water as the first sign of feeling thirsty. Don’t wait that long, drink before you’re thirsty. When you first start feeling thirsty, you’ve already begun the descent to dehydration.

Drink as much water as possible. Teas, coffees, sodas, and alcohol don’t treat dehydration, they actually accelerate it. There’s nothing better than an old-fashioned glass of water.

And please, see a doctor if necessary. Dehydration can cause permanent damage and death. Drink your water. Don’t jeopardize your life because you should’ve drunk a little more water.

Cholera Is Becoming A Serious Problem. Here’s Why

Cholera Is Becoming A Serious Problem. Here’s Why

Cholera is a familiar name for an ailment that is not well understood in modern western society. It was eradicated in many developed nations years ago, though cholera has recently made a comeback across the globe due to changing weather patterns, increased globalism, and other factors that are not well understood.

Cholera is caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with a bacterium called Vibrio cholerae.

Cholera was last common in the U.S. in the 19th Century, before modern water and sewage treatment systems prevented its spread via contaminated water. Today, only 5-10 cases of cholera are reported annually in the U.S., and half of those are contracted abroad. Due to its waterborne nature, rare cases of cholera outbreaks can occur in the U.S. due to contaminated seafood.

In spite of its extreme rarity in the U.S. and Western Europe, cholera outbreaks are still a serious health problem in other parts of the world. The World Health Organization documents over 150,000 cases each year.

Cholera is most common in places with poor sanitation systems, overcrowding, active war zones, and famine. Cholera is still considered an epidemic in parts of Africa, South Asia, and Latin America.

Tropical climates that never get cold enough to kill bacteria combine with wet soil and unsanitary groundwater to mix with most drinking water supplies, allowing a single case of cholera to spread to entire communities and preventing the bacteria from ever being truly eradicated from regions with overcrowded, rapidly developing cities.

In recent years, storms and political turmoil have interfered with local water supplies and created sanitation crises and cholera outbreaks in countries across the globe.

Global Disease Transmission

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A recent cholera outbreak in Haiti claimed tens of thousands of lives, and the country has repeatedly claimed that it had the disease completely under control before visitors from foreign countries brought it back into its borders.

After deliberations dating back to 2010, it was determined that the outbreak began near a United Nations peacekeepers’ camp, where nearly 500 people freshly arrived from Nepal, where an ongoing cholera outbreak was occurring at the time.

The disease has killed over ten thousand people and infected hundreds of thousands more in Haiti since its reintroduction, and since its recent natural disaster woes critically damaged infrastructure, the nation is now struggling to manage cholera once again.

This story is tragically familiar across the globe–developing nations manage to radically reduce the infection rate of cholera and other sanitation-related diseases, only to suffer a setback in the form of natural disaster or war that damages infrastructure and leads to high-risk transmission behaviors like obtaining water from unverified sources.

In a nation like Haiti, where civil progress effectively eradicated the disease, its reintroduction shortly after a devastating earthquake has had sobering consequences. In nations with underdeveloped medical systems that are no longer actively treating cholera, keeping up with the medical load of fast-spreading epidemics can prove daunting if not impossible.

In nations that still struggle with cholera, like Bangladesh, vaccines have been created and programs implemented in an effort to curtail cholera’s devastating effects. Nations which recognize their ineffective infrastructure or climates that make eliminating the disease nearly impossible are combating its spread by immunizing humans to its effects. But in regions where cholera is no longer common, an outbreak can have devastating consequences before medical professionals ever realize what’s happening.

Transmission and Treatment

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Part of what makes cholera so devastating is that it kills so quickly and can be transmitted rapidly. Within hours of becoming symptomatic, patients often lose so much fluid through acute gastrointestinal distress that they are critically dehydrated. While specialized blends of fluids and antibiotics can rapidly restore health, missing the treatment window renders patients incapacitated and further increases the risk of transmission.

Many tropical countries with underdeveloped water and sanitation infrastructure harbor massive amounts of cholera bacteria in groundwater and sewage systems, which often manage to contaminate public water supplies. Once an outbreak begins, the contamination worsens through infected individuals’ diarrhea and vomit, which are both constant presences in cholera patients. Those tending to the ill often fall ill, and classic epidemic conditions rapidly occur.

Thanks to the rapid travel and warmer climate of the 21st Century, infected individuals can now bring the disease to areas which have not seen it in over a century, which then creates new epidemics as those regions struggle to treat the infected and contain its spread. Recent civil wars and unrest across the globe have worsened these issues as disruptions to civil utility services and violent threats to hospitals prevent people from accessing clean water or proper treatment.

War and Cholera

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In Yemen, a brutal civil war has created even worse epidemic conditions, as the already highly-contagious disease is transmitted faster by resource shortages caused by military blockades. Without guaranteed access to water or food, people are forced to compromise on food and sanitation, which leads to infection. And with war causing crowded hospitals and blocking transport of medical supplies, hospitals cannot keep up with the mounting demand for treatment.

The World Health Organization has identified the situation in Yemen as one of the worst outbreaks of cholera in modern times. Combined with restricted access to basic resources like food and roadways, the rapid deterioration and transmission associated with cholera are proving even more damaging than usual. The correlation between survival rate and rapid access to medical care means that war-torn nations are hit particularly hard.

As The Guardian noted:

Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children’s country director for Yemen, said an outbreak of this scale and speed is “what you get when a country is brought to its knees by conflict, when a healthcare system is on the brink of collapse, when its children are starving, and when its people are blocked from getting the medical treatment they need”.

Kirolos said: “There’s no doubt this is a man-made crisis. Cholera only rears its head when there’s a complete and total breakdown in sanitation. All parties to the conflict must take responsibility for the health emergency we find ourselves in.”

Cholera In the 21st Century

Yemen and Haiti are two tragically current case studies in the epidemiology of cholera. Whether reintroduced through international travel or exacerbated by civil war, the disease still has the potential to be as devastating as it was when the first outbreaks swept across the world in the 19th Century.

This is held in tragic contrast with nations which can effectively treat patients who appear to be on the brink of death and release them from the hospital the same day they are admitted.

Modern antibiotics and rehydrating solutions are largely effective treatments, and nations like Vietnam and Bangladesh have decided to preempt rapid strains on vulnerable infrastructure by implementing vaccination programs that prevent humans from acting as transmission vectors in crowded cities.

The dichotomy between modern medicine and the strains of population growth, global travel, and human conflict combine to create situations where cholera outbreaks are still imminently possible and always tragic; but, thanks to our understanding of sanitation, disease transmission, and treatment, most outbreaks are much less catastrophic than those of the past.

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