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Summer! (Is It Over Yet? LOL)

Oh my, but the heat of summer has set in and it's no fun. Our daily highs are in the mid-90s (35°C) and the humidity has been high with false promises of rain. It isn't so bad if it cools down to the upper 60s at night (20°C), but once summer kicks into high gear with its nightly low of around 75°F (24°C), it's difficult to cool down the house. Using window fans at night to vent the heat and pull in cooler air helps. So does keeping curtains closed on the sunny side of the house. So does venting the attic with our solar attic fan. And so does keeping our ceiling fans going all the time. So does using my summer kitchen or solar oven instead of cooking inside. Needless to say, it's still hot.

Living without air conditioning (why? here) has both negative and positive sides. The negative is obvious; the house gets hot! It's cooler than outdoors, but by the end of the day the inside temp is around 85°F (30°C). The positive side is that there isn't as great a temperature difference when we go in and out, so no shock to the system. It's warmer outside, but not as wilting as on errand day, when I'm in and out of the frigidly air conditioned stores.

I do most of my outdoor work in the morning when it's coolest. Afternoons are for house projects or at least things I can do in the shade. If the humidity is low and there's a breeze, even those low 90s aren't too bad. When the humidity goes up and the air is still, it's horrible. I work up a sweat just hanging laundry on the line!

We pace ourselves, take frequent breaks, and drink lots of water. Although I have to say that by later in the day I'm tired of drinking water. It just doesn't seem to quench well anymore. I often get a craving for something carbonated then, although I'm not sure why. Does anyone else experience that? Something about the CO2 bubbles that satisfies. Instead, though, we drink switchel. It's an old fashioned homemade electrolyte replacer that really does satisfy thirst and keeps us going. There are lots of recipes for it, but I thought I'd share mine, along with options for ingredient substitutions.

Switchel

Ingredients for two quarts:
  • Ginger - 1/4 cup shredded fresh or 1 tbsp dry powder
  • Raw organic apple cider vinegar (with the mother) - 1/2 cup
  • Honey or maple syrup - 1/2 cup
  • Himalayan pink salt - 1 teaspoon
  • Water to make 2 quarts

To make:
  • Simmer ginger in about a pint of water. Cool and squeeze out the ginger water.
  • Mix ginger water, vinegar, honey, and salt in a 2-quart container.  Mix well. 
  • Add water to fill container.

Ingredient notes:
  • Adjust ingredients to taste
  • May substitute:
    • lemon juice for vinegar
    • Celtic or sea for salt 
    • coconut palm sugar for honey or maple syrup
  • Sodium chloride content in salt varies:
    • Sea salt (like table salt) is 97 to 99% sodium chloride
    • Himalayan salt is roughly 87% sodium chloride
    • Celtic sea salt is about 85% sodium chloride
    • The remaining percentage is minerals.
  • Table salt isn't recommended because it contains sugar as dextrose and sometimes aluminum as either sodium aluminosilicate or calcium aluminosilicate. 

Drink freely while sweating. Dan and I take water with us when we work outside, then drink a glass of switchel when we get back to the house.

The primary electrolytes lost in sweat are sodium and chloride. Others include potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Carbohydrates help the digestive system absorb sodium and chloride. That's one reason for the sweetener, but it also increases palatability which encourages drinking more. This is important because when one is sweating a lot, it is imperative to replace the water lost through sweat. That means drinking more than the recommended 8 ounces 8 times a day. The test of good hydration is producing clear to pale yellow urine. Darker urine indicates progressive levels of dehydration.

Why is switchel better than commercial sports drinks? For me, the issues are the kinds of sweeteners they use (often high-fructose corn syrup or sucrose from bleached beet sugar. The problem there is that commercially grown beets are GMO). They also can contain brominated vegetable oil. Apparently, this acts as an emulsifier and keeps the citrus flavor from floating to the top of the drink. (However, it's banned in most countries except the U.S.)

So here's the list of my switchel ingredients and what the electrolytes they help replace. I also included the vitamins that help for energy.

Electrolyte replacement:
  • apple cider vinegar - potassium, magnesium
  • or lemon juice - potassium, magnesium, calcium, vitamin C
  • honey - calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, carbohydrates (for energy and to help assimilate sodium and chloride)  
  • or maple syrup - riboflavin, calcium, magnesium, carbohydrates
  • or coconut sugar - calcium, potassium, carbohydrates
  • ginger
    • fresh - B vitamins, magnesium, potassium
    • dried, ground - B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, calcium
  • Himalayan or Celtic salt - sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, calcium.

A lot of claims are made about the Himalayan and Celtic salts, but I found little actual research on them. I did find a study which indicates that Himalayan pink salt increases hydration as opposed to white sea salt (which increases dehydration). You can read that study here. One study does not a scientific fact make, but to me, it recommends it as a good choice for sodium and chloride replacement.

As far as summer being over, we still have a way to go. July and August are usually our hottest months, although September can be pretty toasty as well. We certainly could do with more rain. While we wait for fall, we'll take it slow and stick with our summer routine. It's not too bad now that we're used to it.

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