Dehydration: A Concern for All Seasons

By Dr. Colleen Dittmar March 15th, 2018

Dehydration: A Concern for All Seasons

Water is an essential nutrient, meaning we have to have it to live and our bodies don’t make it on their own. We can only survive 3-5 days without it, which tells us how important it is.  Proper water balance is just as important, as water loss leads to big problems in the body if not replaced.

     Most people don’t think of dehydration as a concern during the winter months, but it is as serious as hypothermia and frost bite. Inadequate intake of water contributes to body fat, poor muscle tone, poor functioning organs, and an array of disease like symptoms.  We need water to transport nutrients, aid in the circulation of blood and oxygen, to maintain proper body temperature and blood pressure, and to reduce toxins in the system among many other biological and physiological functions.  

     During the cold weather months, we don’t feel as thirsty as we do during the hot weather months. This is because the sensation of thirst is altered in our brains since we don’t feel hot. When it’s cold, we still lose up to 8 cups of water a day during respiration and work. Sweat that is produced from the body under heavy clothing evaporates quickly in the cold air.  This makes it possible to not even feel hot or thirsty as we are losing water.  It is very important to realize that our body’s demand for water is the same no matter the season and that water replacement is absolutely necessary year round. By drinking adequate amounts of water, even when we don’t feel thirsty, we can be sure that we are doing our part to stay hydrated.  With just a 2 percent water loss, you will feel  symptoms such as dizziness, light headedness, fatigue and weakness. At 5 percent water loss, symptoms such as extreme fatigue, muscle cramps, nausea, tingling in limbs, and increased heart rate set in. It is important to recognize other signs of water loss than just thirst, since signals are altered when we don’t feel hot.

As individuals, our daily intake needs will vary.  It is recommended to start with 6-8 oz glasses of water as a minimum and adjust from there according to your activity level.  A good way to determine your probable intake needs is to take your body weight and divide it in half. Then, consume that number of ounces.