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Well-watered in Winter

by Lynne Brown

BSC Hons HDE, Dip Clin Nutr

This article appeared in The Waiting Room magazine Winter 2011 edition

If you thought you could cut back on or forego the water drinking during the Winter months you have been gravely misinformed. Although in Winter we do not perspire as much or get as thirsty as we do in Summer, there are many other reasons why we still need to take in adequate amounts of water no matter the season. Read on to learn why we are actually at great risk of becoming dehydrated in cold weather.

Water is critical to health

You probably have heard that two-thirds of your body is water. This is why humans can go for forty days without food but cannot survive more than a week without water. Three quarters of your brain is water. Your blood is 82% water and your muscles are 70% water. Water is an important structural component of skin, cartilage, tissues and organs and is used by the body to carry out almost all bodily processes. Water improves oxygen delivery to the cells, transports nutrients, cushions bones and joints, lubricates and absorbs shocks to joints, regulates body temperature, removes waste and flushes out toxins, and much more.

So what happens if we don’t get enough?

The first sign that you’re not drinking enough water is thirst but did you know that by the time you experience thirst, or a dry mouth, you are already underhydrated? Taking in too little water can also result in headaches, dizziness, lethargy, muscle weakness and cramps, loss of appetite, constipation, depression, and brain fog. Waking up not feeling refreshed and with aches and pains in your legs may also be a sign. Little or no urination or dark yellow urine is a sign of more serious levels of dehydration. If your urine is clear you know you are hydrating your body sufficiently.

Dangers of dehydration

Continuous water loss over time will speed up aging as well as increase risks of some serious health conditions. Symptoms of the body's deterioration begins to appear when the body loses 5% of its total water volume. In a healthy adult, this is seen as fatigue and general discomfort, whereas for an infant, it can be serious. Reductions of 15% below our healthy hydration levels could be fatal. In an elderly person, a 5% water loss causes the body chemistry to become abnormal, especially if the percentage of electrolytes is overbalanced with sodium. High blood pressure, rapid ageing and disorientation may result.

Even moderate dehydration can result in nasty conditions such as urinary tract infections, kidney stones, eczema, acne, sinusitis, gout and arthritis. In Winter, lack of water and the dry air will dry out the mucous membranes of your lungs, nasal passages and gut, Since these are protective barriers against bacteria, viruses and pollutants, allowing them to dry out leaves the body susceptible to colds, coughs, flu and sinusitis. The reason allergies abound in Winter is probably due to increased dehydration. Water is essential to the functioning of the digestive tract and the removal of toxic waste. If your intestinal transit time (the time it takes for food to enter and leave your body) slows down, then more toxins are retained. Higher levels of toxic waste products in the bowel, lymph, and bloodstream is a proven contributing factor to many illnesses such as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and psoriasis.

How do we become dehydrated in Winter?

The average adult loses about 2.5 litres water daily through perspiration, breathing and elimination. One may argue that water loss should then be less in Winter because we do not perspire much. But have you noticed that we urinate more frequently in cold weather? As a temperature control mechanism our bodies have to get rid of the excess fluid and since we don’t perspire much our kidneys take over and get rid of this excess through increased urination. The breathing process uses water to moisten the oxygen we breathe in and breathing in cold, dry air actually takes up more water.

But there are more factors which come into play in Winter and can leave one considerably dehydrated.

In cold weather, most of us will increase our consumption of warming drinks such as coffee and that glass of sherry or red wine in front of the fireplace is exceptionally comforting and warming. However caffeine and alcohol act like a diuretic causing us to urinate more frequently.

Fireplaces and heaters dry the air in the room and as such draw moisture from our bodies too. Being outdoors in the cold, dry air will also dry out your skin causing overall water loss from your body.

Our change in diet in Winter is also a factor. Raw fruit and veggies such as cucumber and lettuce contain as much as 95% water. So if you eat these you can drink less water. However in Winter we ditch the cold raw salads for more warming foods which have lost their water in the cooking process.

How do we stay hydrated?

The unfortunate fact is that we just don’t feel as thirsty when the weather is cold. That is why we need to make a conscious effort to ensure we stay hydrated.

  • Start your morning with a large glass of water before breakfast.
  • Your day’s supply of 2 litres water needs to be within easy reach so you can sip at it all day. Take it to work with you in a glass bottle and keep it on your desk or wherever you spend most of your time – not in the fridge where it will be out of sight out of mind.
  • Take water with you on your travels – preferably in glass bottles or a flask.
  • Make an effort to eat some raw foods with your meals. Salads and fruits are very hydrating as are fresh vegetable and fruit juices made in your home juicer.
  • Reduce your intake of caffeinated drinks and alcoholic beverages or at least have a glass of water with each drink.
  • In a heated room keep the air humidified by placing bowls of water here and there.
  • If you have to be spend a lot of time outdoors in the cold, dry air, drinking more fluids will help as long as they do not contain additions such as sugar, caffeine and carbonation. The infamous fizzy drinks contain all of these so stick to the best source of hydration for your body, water.

What water is best?

Drinking 2 litres a day of poor quality water could cause more harm than good. Remember water is only needed for hydration of our cells and to flush our organs of excess minerals and toxins and for this reason it needs to be as pure as possible. Do not look to water to supply your mineral needs and do not add inorganic minerals to pure water. Your body can only assimilate minerals delivered to us in organic form which we can only obtain from plants and whole-foods.

Of course rain water was always a good option in the past but unfortunately is less safe now what with all the atmospheric pollutants in the air. Tap water presents a variety of inorganic minerals which our body has difficulty absorbing and may also contain a variety of metal and other contaminants suspect in a wide array of degenerative diseases. To turn this into safe drinking water a filtering system or counter top distiller could be the best investment you make in your health. Contrary to what some people believe, while pure water helps to remove harmful minerals from the body that cells have eliminated or not used, it does not "leach" out minerals that have become part of your body's cell structure.

Stay well-watered this Winter and enjoy good health.


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