Consuming alcoholic beverages in search of well-being during heat waves may not be a good idea. What many consider a relief from high temperatures can, in fact, cause even more intense dehydration.
Experts say that drinking alcohol can also worsen the situation of those with cardiovascular, neurological or psychiatric problems. The recommendation during high temperatures is to take it easy on alcohol consumption, not drink or moderate it, reinforcing every round with good doses of water to compensate for losses.
Biochemical pharmacist Rafael Appel Flores, scientific director of the company Dr. Fisiologia and post-doctorate in neuroendocrinology from the University of São Paulo (USP), highlights that in the heat it is essential to think about the metabolism of substances before ingesting them.
Alcohol consumed on hot days inhibits the production of an antidiuretic hormone called vasopressin (or ADH), which amplifies dehydration and puts the body already damaged by temperature at risk.
“This is a hormone produced in a region of the brain called the hypothalamus and which is secreted by the pituitary gland. Alcohol inhibits the action of this hormone and one of the actions of ADH is precisely in the kidneys, increasing water reabsorption at the time when the blood filtration and urine formation”, says Flores.
In practice, this means that we urinate more often than we need to just because we drink alcohol. “The kidney starts to eliminate more water in the urine. This is where the diuretic effect that alcohol has comes from, which is why people tend to go to the bathroom more, for example, when drinking beer”, says the researcher.
And the loss of liquid, which would be easy to replace on a mild day, is compounded by the need to balance the temperature.
“In the heat, the body naturally loses water through sweat to maintain body temperature. So, we already dehydrate when we are in very hot periods”, says Flores.
People who have cardiovascular problems also need to be aware of a tendency for more variations in blood pressure due to high temperatures. “If a person drinks alcohol, this can increase the load on the cardiovascular system and further impair blood pressure control”, he assesses.
The expert says that alcohol, in general, is not beneficial for human health, but that this does not mean stopping consuming the substance completely. “It is recommended to always consume in moderation and, between a glass of beer or another, for example, you drink water so that, consequently, it does not have such a harmful effect on your body.”
Dehydration, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), is a major concern in the face of global warming, since water makes up 70% of the human body. Fundamental for metabolic reactions, our body’s water contains electrolytes and mineral salts that make the body function and emit important information for survival.
A body dysregulated due to lack of water can present symptoms such as hyperthermia (overheated body), exhaustion, mental confusion, retching and vomiting, cramps, cardiovascular changes and even kidney and organ failure, with increased chances of patient mortality.
“Patients who do not have kidney function can induce kidney function due to dehydration, it is a serious problem”, says Natan Chehter, a geriatrician who is a member of the Brazilian Society of Geriatrics and Gerontology (SBGG) and the Hospital Estadual Mário Covas.
The doctor reinforces that the elderly are a group particularly sensitive to the lack of water in the body and that alcohol consumption worsens a condition already aggravated by intense heat.
“Dehydration has very serious consequences. An elderly person may have a change in mental state, may experience confusion, excessive drowsiness, or on the contrary, may experience a period of agitation. Patients who already have an illness, whether neurological or psychiatric, may have decompensation for these problems”, says Chehter.