Health tipsMarch 2018

Bottoms up! Keeping hydrated is as important in winter as in summer

When the days are warm and balmy, it’s second nature for many of us to keep our water bottles handy. But who thinks about proper hydration in winter? Well, it turns out it’s crucial to stay hydrated when we’re being hit with arctic winds and a dumping of snow.

According to Patricia Urrico, a Dietitian-Nutritionist at the JGH Cardiovascular Prevention Centre, we tend to be less aware of our hydration needs in winter. So it’s essential that we make more of a conscious effort to drink up.

In colder temperatures, says Ms. Urrico, we don’t usually feel ourselves perspiring, since sweat tends to evaporate through our multiple layers of clothing. But sweat warns us that we need to replenish our lost fluids, which is why we need to make a point of drinking.

However, we’ve got more options than water. “The key is to increase total fluids,” Ms. Urrico explains. “That could mean having soups or fruit and vegetables. You don’t have to limit yourself to water to get the fluids you need over the course of a day.”

A good rule to follow is to consume roughly eight glasses per day. And on a frigid winter afternoon, if you’d rather curl up with a hot drink instead of a chilly glass of water, feel free to indulge, Ms. Urrico adds.

To determine if you’re dehydrated, just look at the colour of your urine, she says. The darker it is, the more dehydrated you are. Other signs of dehydration include increased thirst, dry skin, dizziness, headaches, muscle cramping and, in some cases, a high fever.

If you’re involved in an activity such as hockey, skating or shoveling snow for an extended period of time, your need to replenish lost fluids is even greater.

“Water helps to regulate our body temperature, so keeping hydrated in winter can actually help prevent hypothermia,” says Ms. Urrico.

If drinking all that water—or tea or cocoa or other beverages—is a struggle, you can build the habit gradually. Start with small goals, like drinking a glass of water when you wake up, or keeping a glass of water at your bedside. And whenever you feel thirsty, don’t ignore that signal—have a sip!

“Fluids are good for your bowels, and they carry nutrients to your cells in your body,” Ms. Urrico says. “Water is essential for healthy living.”

For more information, visit the page on water at Dietitians of Canada.

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