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To treat dehydration you have to rehydrate the body. Once you have become dehydrated however, just drinking plain water may not be enough, because you will have lost sugars and essential salts as well as water.
For mild or moderate dehydration you will need to increase your fluid intake and the level of salt in your body. One way to do this is to drink a commercial rehydration solution. However, it can be as effective to drink water or a flat cola drink and eat a salty snack such as a packet of crisps. If this doesn’t help, or you find you keep feeling dehydrated, talk to your doctor. They may suggest that you make up and drink an Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) to a recipe like that given below.
For more serious dehydration, or if you have a high output ileostomy or short bowel after surgery, you are more likely to need more salt than most commercial rehydration solutions provide. So, your doctor or IBD team may recommend drinking an Oral Rehydration Solution with a higher sodium (salt) level.
One recipe for a homemade version of this type of ORS is as follows:
Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS)
3.5g (approx one level 5ml teaspoon) table salt
2.5g (one heaped 2.5ml teaspoon) sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)
20g (6 level 5ml teaspoons) glucose or sugar
Make up to 1 liter with water. If preferred, use carbonated water and/or flavor with low sugar fruit squash. Refrigerate and drink chilled.
This ORS tastes both salty and sweet and some people find it unpalatable unless they add quite a lot of flavoring. The usual recommendation is to drink the full liter in one day, sipping it slowly to maximize the rehydrating effect.
It was developed for people with a short bowel, and may not be as useful for people with diarrhea caused by other forms of IBD.
A similar rehydration solution can be made by dissolving eight sachets of Dioralyte in one liter of water (instead of one per 200ml). This solution then also contains potassium (an essential mineral), unlike the ORS above.
It is particularly important to check with your doctor before taking an ORS if you are diabetic. This is because both of these solutions have a high sugar content and can increase blood sugar levels if drunk very rapidly or in large amounts (more than one liter a day). Your doctor may suggest you see a dietician. You should also talk to your doctor before taking an ORS if:
Your ankles are swollen
You are taking diuretic tablets (encouraging urine production)
You are known to have kidney problems
You are taking tablets for heart or blood pressure problems.
The easiest way to avoid dehydration is to make sure that you drink enough water. In Canada, to keep well hydrated, most people need to drink about two liters (about eight to ten average size glasses) of water a day. You will need more in hot weather or hotter climates, or when exercising or playing sports, when you lose more salt and water through your skin.
Drinks such as tea, coffee and cola will also help, but because these contain caffeine they are mild diuretics and will make you urinate more. So, such drinks are slightly less effective at rehydration.
Be aware of situations when you may be more likely to be susceptible to dehydration - for example when it is very hot, or you are active. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty before you start drinking extra water.
Sip your drinks rather than gulping them down. This will help you to avoid getting too much air into your system, which can cause discomfort.
A balanced diet that includes foods rich in essential body salts (potassium and sodium), such as avocado and bananas, can also help to maintain the electrolyte balance in your body.
Avoid drinking alcohol, which can make you dehydrated.
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