'Beer in summer causes kidney stones'

 As the mercury starts inching towards the 40 degree C mark, nephrologists here warn against reaching out for that ice-cold glass of frothy beer that may seem like the most refreshing thing on a hot day.

While most beer guzzlers console themselves with the misconception that beer, made mostly of water and malted cereals, contains nutritive and re-hydrating properties, experts say that the hoppy beverage could actually raise the risk for kidney stones.

"It is a popular myth, and one that has led to people here drinking beer instead of water, when thirsty. Beer, like any other alcoholic beverage, acts as a diuretic and removes water from the body. Regular beer drinkers are at higher risk of developing oxalate kidney stones," says nephrologist Shital Lengade.

Ideally, patients with painful kidney stones start trooping into hospitals between July and October, he says. "The stones develop during the summer months, when dehydration levels are high. The symptoms - usually excruciating pain in the abdomen or back-- show up during the monsoon. Many of them admit to drinking beer and alcohol to quench thirst," he explains.

Even beer-lovers can avoid the painful ailment by compensating for liquid lost. "While a minimum water intake of 3 litres per day is advisable during the summer, people who drink alcohol should always drink equal amounts of water as well,' Lengade adds.

The thirst that accompanies the humid Goan summer also keeps other doctors on their toes, with people reaching out to drink any questionable fluid, and ending up with gastro-intestinal diseases.

"We have started receiving a stream of patients with water-borne infections like typhoid and gastroenteritis; in a majority of cases, caused by drinking unboiled water or fruit juices sold on the roadside. The diarrhea leads to further de-hydration, especially in smaller children, who have to be hospitalized and given intravenous fluids," laments Sanjay Altekar, a general physician from Panaji.

Altekar also reports a spike in food poisoning cases, characterized by vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain and dizziness -- mostly in patients who consume meat and shellfish. Cheryl D'Souza, professor of food and nutrition at Goa's college of home science calls for extra caution while handling food during the hot months. "As the rate of spoilage is very high in this humid weather, people should shop for meat and fish early in the morning. With every passing minute that the protein is left out on the hawker's slab, more micro-organisms grow," she says. "Cooked food should be consumed immediately, and left-overs should be refrigerated - even a few hours of sitting outside could cause it to spoil. When eating out, one should avoid salads and raw, cold foods," she warns.