Your Risk of Dehydration Increases in Winter

Hypothermia and Frostbite are not the only health hazards associated with the cold temperatures of winter. Recent cold weather studies at the University of New Hampshire showed an increased risk for dehydration over the cold winter months, a condition more commonly associated with the hot summer weather.

Thirst Response is Diminished and Urine Production is Increased in the Cold:

In cold weather, the body’s thirst response is diminished (by up to 40%) even when dehydrated.  This happens because our blood vessels constrict when we’re cold to prevent blood from flowing freely to the extremities. This enables the body to conserve heat by drawing more blood to its core.  Maintaining the body’s core temperature becomes more important than fluid balance, but because of this, the body is fooled into thinking it’s properly hydrated. Thus, in cold weather, we are less likely to drink water due to diminished thirst, and additionally, our kidneys aren’t signaled by regulating hormones like they normally are to conserve water and therefore urine production increases, a condition called cold-induced urine diuresis.

Other Causes of Dehydration During Winter Months:

Wearing extra clothing:

The added weight of boots, heavy jackets, long underwear and other pieces of warm clothing help your body conserve heat, yet make the body work harder and may lead to producing more sweat than usual, yet this increased perspiration evaporates quickly in the cold dry air, so we often do not realize we are sweating.

Increased respiratory fluid loss.

In cold weather, we lose more fluids through respiratory water loss. When it is cold enough that you can see your own breath, you are seeing water vapor that your body is losing with each exhale. The colder the temperature, the more fluids you lose when you breathe.

Winter Dehydration is Also Hard on Your Health and Your Weight:

Winter dehydration can cause exhaustion, muscle fatigue, cramps, loss of coordination and even a stroke. When dehydrated, you can also become more susceptible to winter colds and flu.

Not drinking enough water can also make it harder to keep extra pounds off during the shorter days when we tend to exercise less and eat more. When properly hydrated, your body is better able to break down fat for energy, and your appetite is under better control.  We often think we are hungry when we are really just thirsty.

Hot or Cold, Drink More Liquids Throughout the Winter Months:

As you know, being thirsty is a signal that your body is already on its way to becoming dehydrated. Another indication that you may be dehydrated is urine that is not clear or light-colored.

Latest research suggests you drink half your body weight in fluid ounces, i.e. (150 lbs = 75 ounces); which for most adults is even more than the 8 x (eight ounce) glasses of water per day than previously recommended.

Balance out diuretics with water. With the winter cold weather and Holiday parties, many people increase their consumption of coffee and/or alcoholic beverages. Caffeine and alcohol are both diuretics (they cause more water loss through urine) so when having either, drink extra water to balance the dehydrating effect. Try drinking decaffeinated coffee or tea. 

Water-based foods help with hydration :

Fruits and vegetables and even soup are a natural source of water, along with valuable vitamins and minerals.

Drink before, during and after exercise. This is harder because when it’s cold outside you may not feel as thirsty, and you may feel like you are not really sweating.

Even if you drink just one extra glass of water a day, this will help you feel and function better through these upcoming cold winter months.

If you have any questions about this article or your health in general, please feel free to contact me at:  drtomball@performancehealthcenter.com