Too hot? Eat this, don't eat that to cool off

ice cream

elana's pantry/Flickr Creative Commons

Temperatures in Los Feliz hit 100 degrees this week, sending neighborhood residents scrambling to find ways to cool down. Their search kept workers at Gelato Bar busy scooping out servings of frozen dairy goodness.

"I think we've served the entire town of Los Feliz in the last couple days," said David Competello, an employee at the store. 

Southern California continues to swelter under abnormally high temperatures for this time of year. Los Angeles County public health officials issued multiple heat alerts earlier this week for the Santa Clarita, San Fernando and East San Gabriel Valleys. They urged residents in those areas to remain indoors as much as possible and take steps to keep cool. 

Another important factor in keeping cool?  Nutrition. Foods with higher sodium or sugar content could make people more susceptible to dehydration.

“Any kind of protein is going to require a lot of water, as well as any kind of concentrated foods that you might have," said Dr. David Heber, director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition. "Salted processed foods, high salt foods are going to require water as they’re digested.”

Heber said it's important to drink not only the recommended six-to-eight cups of water each day but also additional water that salty and protein-heavy meals will require for digestion. 

Doctors say people should also avoid having too many sugary drinks as they seek relief from the heat.

“What that does is it pulls fluid into your body, and that makes you urinate more," said Dr. Sean Nordt, an emergency physician at Los Angeles County USC Hospital. "Caffeine also makes you urinate more frequently, so that can make you more prone to dehydration.” 

People taking medicine may also be at higher risk of dehydration. Many drugs have side effects that limit the body's ability to regulate its temperature. Nordt said many antihistamines, cold medicines, anti-depressants and muscle relaxers will keep users from sweating or turning red, natural processes the body takes to dissipate heat. Some drugs for high blood pressure also purposefully increase urine production.

"If you are on those medications, I would really probably avoid going outside unless you absolutely had to," Nordt said. 

He said it's important that patients continue taking their medications but that they should contact their pharmacists to learn how their prescriptions may impact them during the heat wave. 

 

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