Back in June, I talked to you about dehydration and how even a mild case of it can affect your thinking and a lot of other bodily functions.
When most of us think of becoming dehydrated, we think of it happening during the summer. Being outdoors, sweating more, exercising … naturally, we need to drink a lot more water.
Winter is not a season many of us would associate with the risk of dehydration. After all, there’s not much sweating going on. We’re indoors, drinking plenty of tea and coffee. Why would we become dehydrated?
You’ll be surprised to learn, perhaps, that many experts consider the risk of dehydration even higher in winter than in the hot summer months.
Your body operates differently in the colder months, and its priorities may not be focused on keeping you hydrated. For this and other reasons, it’s actually easier to become dehydrated in winter than in summer.
How winter dehydration happens
In cold weather, the body’s “thirst response” is diminished by about 40 percent. In other words, your body doesn’t pay as much attention to letting you know it needs fluids. It’s much too busy keeping you warm.
In order to keep your internal core heated, your body focuses on pulling blood supply away from the extremities (causing those cold winter hands and feet!) instead of focusing on balancing your internal fluids.
As a result, you may not feel thirsty, even if you are on the verge of dehydration.
Two other things happen in the winter that allow dehydration to sneak up on you:
Cold-induced diuresis. The term diuresis simply means an increased or excessive production of urine.
We’ve all had that sensation where being out in the cold makes us need to urinate. Well, there’s an explanation for that, and it’s one of the causes of winter dehydration.
As your body works hard to keep things warm inside, a kidney full of liquid is just something else to heat. So, your kidneys flush out that extra fluid by making you run to the bathroom more than usual.
Seeing your breath. When you can see your own breath in cold weather, you’re seeing water your body is losing in the form of water vapor. The colder the temperature and the more vigorously you are moving, the more fluid you lose with every breath.
How to prevent winter dehydration
Drink more water. Although logic may tell you otherwise, you should be drinking more water during the winter than during the summer. A minimum of six to eight 8-ounce glasses is recommended if you are sedentary. Increase that to 8-12 glasses if you are active.
Eat water-based foods. We’re talking about fruits and veggies like watermelon, apples, grapes, strawberries, cucumber, zucchini and celery. All have a high water content and tons of vitamins and minerals.
Make soup. Obviously, soups and broths are full of water, and with vegetables added, are a nutritious meal choice. Commercial canned soups are often high in sodium, but it’s not hard to make your own nutritious and delicious pot of soup. Here are a few recipes to get you started:
Match alcohol with water. Those holiday parties are full of drinks. Just know that alcohol is a diuretic. It causes you to urinate more, so drink at least as much water as alcohol to prevent dehydration.
Get a humidifier. Although we’re not drinking this water, exactly, our bodies are soaking it in. Using a humidifier during the winter months prevents dry, cracked skin, especially on the hands and lips, as well as those dry-heat bloody noses that happen when we breathe warm, dry air all day long.
- Impaired cognitive function and mental performance in mild dehydration — European Journal of Clinical Nutrition
- Thirst sensations and AVP responses at rest and during exercise-cold exposure — Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (MSSE)
- Winter Hydration: Can You Get Dehydrated in Cold Weather? — DripDrop Hydration, PBC