Homemade Whey - How to Make It And What Is It For?

Homemade whey is a water, salt and sugar solution that can be made at home and is used for the treatment and prevention of dehydration in patients with diarrhea and/or vomiting.

Homemade whey
Homemade whey

Dehydration caused by gastroenteritis is still a leading cause of death, especially in poorer countries. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around the world, about 3 million children still die from complications caused by diarrhea. But not only children who are at risk, diarrhea also causes complications in elderly patients, being one of the main causes of hospitalization in this age group.

In this article we will explain what homemade whey is for when it should be used and how it is prepared. We will also explain why currently the WHO and the Ministries of Health of several countries in the world indicate the use of oral rehydration solutions instead of homemade serum.

What is homemade whey used for?

For many years, homemade whey has been the most suitable solution for the treatment of dehydration caused by acute diarrhea.

But if the goal is to moisturize, why homemade whey and not just water?

When a patient has diarrhea and/or vomiting, he dehydrates because he loses a large volume of water. But this loss is not pure water, along with water there is loss of various electrolytes (minerals), such as potassium, sodium and bicarbonate. Therefore, optimal replacement should be done with water and electrolytes to prevent the patient from developing severe hydrolithitic changes, such as hyponatremia (low sodium in the blood), hypokalemia (low potassium in the blood) or metabolic acidosis (blood acidity).

For this reason, homemade whey, which contains sodium chloride (salt) and glucose (sugar), is a more adequate formula than pure water to replace the losses caused by diarrhea.

Despite diarrhea, the intestinal ability to absorb glucose and minerals, especially sodium, is usually intact in patients. Therefore, even if the patient continues to have episodes of diarrhea, the components of the homemade serum continue to be absorbed by the intestine.

About 95% of diarrhea cases can be treated with oral hydration alone. Only 5% of patients require hospital admission for intravenous intravenous administration.

How to make homemade whey?

Homemade whey is a solution consisting of 3.5 grams of salt + 20 grams of sugar diluted in 1 liter of filtered or pre-boiled water. In practice, this means 1 teaspoon of salt + 1 tablespoon of sugar.

The problem with this form of homemade whey preparation is the frequency at which the solution is prepared with the wrong amounts, either salt or sugar. When using common kitchen spoons, the amount of salt and sugar ends up varying a lot, depending on who will prepare the whey.

To avoid such errors of preparation, there are standard tablespoons recommended by UNICEF, as exemplified in the image below. This spoon with the right measures can be purchased at popular pharmacies or health clinics. In this case, it is enough to mix 1 shallow measure of salt and two shallow measures of sugar in 200 mL of water so that the serum stays with the concentrations closer to the one recommended by the Ministry of Health and the WHO.

It is important to be aware of the amount of water. If you are going to use the common kitchen spoons, the amount of water is 1 liter. If you have the standard scoop to prepare the serum, the amount of water is 200 mL.

The validity of the homemade serum is 24 hours.

How to take homemade whey?

Serum should be taken throughout the day in small, but frequent, doses to prevent rapid swelling of the stomach stimulating the vomiting reflex. There are several ways to calculate the rate of administration of homemade whey. Let's suggest some options:
  • 150 to 300 mL per hour.
  • 1 tablespoon of dessert every 2 minutes, so as to consume one glass per hour.
  • 10 mL per pound of weight each time the patient experiences an episode of diarrhea.
  • 2 mL per pound of weight each time the patient experiences an episode of vomiting.
  • In children, the recommended amount is 50 mL per pound of weight every 4 hours. Ex: a 10 kg child should consume 500 ml of serum in the period of 4 hours.

Depending on the severity of diarrhea, these values can be adapted. The goal is to try to ingest at least the same amount of fluid that has been lost in diarrhea and vomiting. This is not always easily estimated. So the thirsty feeling can be a good tip. The patient should hydrate himself so that he does not have thirst, nor does his mouth dry.

Another way to indirectly control the state of hydration is through the urine. Dehydrated patients have more concentrated urine of color, with a stronger odor and with little volume. If you have multiple episodes of diarrhea and noticed that you have almost no urination, fluid replacement should be increased.

Why are oral rehydration solutions better than homemade whey?

Homemade whey is a solution that contains only sodium chloride and glucose. In addition, since it is prepared at home, dosage errors are common. Therefore, in recent years, WHO has indicated the use of oral rehydration solutions, which are small sachets containing sodium chloride, glucose, potassium and citrate powder in more adequate quantities.

In addition to being a more complete formulation in terms of mineral salts, the oral rehydration solution comes in packages with an already determined amount, simply diluting the contents of the sachets in 1 liter of clean water (boiled or filtered). In this way, the risk of the solution containing the wrong amounts of mineral salts is minimized.

The oral rehydration solution is provided free of charge at health clinics and at popular pharmacies. There are also commercial formulas that can be purchased at pharmacies, such as Rehidrat, Hidrafix or Pedialyte.

Sodas and fruit juices

Soft drinks and fruit juices, mainly industrialized ones, are beverages with high sugar content. Too much sugar can aggravate diarrhea. In addition, these drinks have low sodium content, which can cause hyponatremia if consumed in large quantity.

In cases of mild diarrhea, no clear signs of dehydration, natural juices (no added sugar) and teas (which do not have diuretic action) may be a valid option to hydrate the patient.

Isotonic or sports drinks, such as Gatorade, are also not the most suitable type of fluid for rehydration in case of more severe diarrhea, but may be used in mild diarrhea in which the patient is in good general condition.

And the water?

The patient with diarrhea can maintain pure water intake, especially in milder cases. However, in cases of more severe diarrhea in which the patient shows signs of dehydration (thirst, dry mouth, tiredness, cramps, low blood pressure...), hydration should not be done with water alone, as there is a risk of hyponatremia.
Gastrointestinal drugs
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