Most people associate dehydration with hot and sweaty weather or with excessive physical activity during summers. Dehydration is not limited to summers and poses a risk even during winters.
So, how is dehydration a risk during winter?
Water is essential to life. It is required to maintain the essential functions of the body at cellular level that is the chemical reactions taking place in each cell which maintain health and proper functioning of the body, regardless of the outside conditions. Water is also required for maintenance of the body temperature. Water intake has an effect on the overall energy intake, weight, body’s performance, functioning and health.
We get water not only from beverages but also from foods and to a very small extent from the metabolism of nutrients. The amount of water that we get from beverages and foods depends on various factors. Fruits and vegetables have more water content compared to any other food. Some foods need more water for their metabolism compared to what they provide, examples are tea and coffee.
Dehydration is prevented by an exquisitely sensitive mechanism of physiological controls which maintain a balance between water and fluid intake and body’s requirement by thirst. During winters because sweat evaporates more easily and there is reduced thirst response, we generally tend to drink less water. Again, there is increased urine output during winter seasons, cold-induced diuresis. Also, we do not relate cold weather to dehydration, but as the body does not get excessively hot and as sweat evaporates more easily, we think that we are not losing water and tend to drink less.
So, diminished thirst response on one hand and increased urine out on the other hand can both contribute to dehydration during winters. Also, we wrap ourselves in layers of warm clothes and artificial heating systems, both add to winter dehydration.
However, dehydration has a significant effect on one’s health. It is important to keep hydrated in order to maintain a normal body temperature, allowing blood to carry important nutrients and oxygen to various parts of the body and to remove toxins from the body.
Drinking sufficient water and other fluids during winters is also essential for the following reasons:
- Proper hydration is essential to avoid dry cracked skin. Water is vital to keep the skin cells hydrated and nourished. The dry air during winters and also the artificial heating can cause the skin to become over dry, crack and chap.
- Drinking water makes one more energetic, as dehydration leads to fatigue. Body functions become slow, use up extra energy and leave one feeling tired and exhausted.
- Drinking sufficient water also helps to maintain weight during winters. As, in winters we often eat more oily and heavy meals with high calories. If we drink water before eating, we end up eating lesser and eat lesser calories. This will help us to maintain the weight.
- Dehydration can seriously weaken the immune system. Lack of water can dry up the protective mucous membrane in our respiratory tract and allow passage to disease causing germs without any resistance.
Dehydration can cause dry mouth, fatigue, dry skin, dizziness, dark coloured urine, headache, constipation and general malaise. To avoid dehydration, we must drink fluids at regular intervals during winter season without waiting for thirst signals.
Liquids like warm water, soups, warm milk, herbal and green tea, hot almond milk, hot chocolate, etc are good choices during winters. Include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables to diet. Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages as they cause dehydration.
So, it is important to stay hydrated during winters, especially before and after physical activity. Do not rely on thirst during winters and make it a point to drink a certain amount of water each day.