Ask the Doctors: Diet Sodas Are Not a Good Choice for Hydration | Various


Hello, once again dear readers, and welcome to the letter column. We hope that 2022 has been treating you well so far, and that getting back to “normal” life after the holidays has been painless. You’ve been filling our inboxes with questions and comments, so let’s get to work.

— In response to an article about dehydration in the elderly, a reader asked about diet sodas. “You said diet sodas weren’t a good choice for staying hydrated, but you didn’t say why,” she wrote. “I drink on average one diet cola a day. Why would that affect hydration, since I also drink coffee, herbal teas and water?” The caution about diet sodas is based on the growing body of evidence linking them to certain adverse health effects. These include poor blood sugar control, increased risk of heart disease, and disruption of the gut microbiome. With that in mind, even occasional drinkers might consider cutting back or switching to sparkling water instead.

— A reader from Virginia Beach, Va., also had a question about hydration. “We regularly read that we should drink at least eight glasses of water a day. Do other drinks count towards this total if they contain water, such as soda, iced tea, coffee and fruit juices ?” The answer is yes, all beverages add to your daily fluid intake. It’s important to be aware of the sugar in soft drinks and fruit juices, as well as the sweeteners you can add to coffee and tea. Although the “eight glasses” rule is easy to remember, individual needs vary. Pale yellow or colorless urine is a good sign that you are well hydrated.

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— We heard from a reader in California who asked for clarification regarding the advice to take medication with food. “Although you explained why we have to take medicine with food, you never explained how,” he wrote. “Do we take medicine halfway through the meal, after the meal, before eating?” That’s a great question, and the answer depends on the drug involved. In the majority of cases, the idea is to eat something immediately before taking the medication. This is so as not to take medicine on an empty stomach. Food aids absorption and helps prevent stomach irritation. However, liquid preparations, such as those used to treat oral thrush or canker sores, should be used after eating or drinking. This is so that they are not carried away. It’s also important to be aware of potential food-drug interactions. This includes calcium-rich foods and many antibiotics; pickled, dried and fermented foods when taking certain antidepressants; and grapefruit and its juice and statins. This is by no means a complete list. Whenever you get a prescription filled, it’s a good idea to ask the pharmacist for specific instructions on how to take the medication and information about potential interactions with foods, supplements, and other medications.

Thank you, as always, for taking the time to write to us. We love to hear from you. Remember to maintain your coronavirus precautions and, if you haven’t already, get vaccinated.

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