We all know it’s important to drink enough water. And while the cooler months may make it seem like it’s not an issue, it’s just as easy to become dehydrated in the winter as it is during the summer.
Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluid than it takes in and there are not enough fluids for it to function properly. Staying hydrated is important for many reasons.
For people with incontinence, it’s often tempting to limit fluids to avoid an accident, but this may not only cause dehydration, but worsen bladder leaks. Concentrated urine, due to lack of fluids, can irritate the bladder, making leaks and the risk of a bladder infection more likely. And, if you do have an accident, your urine is more likely to have an unpleasant odor than if you were fully hydrated.
Staying hydrated also helps to give the immune system a boost, regulates body temperature, increases metabolism, keeps skin looking healthy, and helps you to maintain a healthy weight.
For people with incontinence, it’s often tempting to limit fluids to avoid an accident, but this may not only cause dehydration, but worsen bladder leaks.
How do you know if you’re dehydrated?
While mild dehydration may not always be noticeable, there are several clues to look for to see if you need to up your water intake:
- Your urine is dark. This means that your urine is heavily concentrated and you need to drink more fluids. Typically, urine should be a clear to very pale yellow in color when you are well hydrated.
- You feel sluggish and tired. Your body simply functions better when it has enough water to perform all its normal functions.
- Your skin looks dry. Dehydration doesn’t just happen on the inside. If you’re not drinking enough water, it will also show in your skin.
- You’re thirsty. This may seem like a no-brainer, but when you’re thirsty - drink! And don’t forget that thirst sometimes disguises itself as hunger, so if you feel extra hungry for no reason, try drinking a glass of water before reaching for something to eat. Chances are it’s just your body’s way of telling you to drink up.
- You have bad breath. If you’re not hydrated, your body will not produce enough saliva, which typically cleans out debris and bacteria - the culprits of bad breath.
Mild dehydration can be fixed fairly quickly simply by drinking water, but severe dehydration requires immediate medical attention. The amount of water each person needs to drink each day to stay hydrated will vary based on the individual, but general guidelines are:
- 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) a day for women
- 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) a day for men
Why staying hydrated can be harder during the winter
We all know that staying hydrated during the summer can be a challenge - high temperatures can make it hard for you to maintain a normal body temperature and can increase the chance of becoming dehydrated. But what about the winter? Does the colder weather mean it’s easier to stay hydrated? Not really.
It turns out that there are a number of reasons that can make it harder to stay well hydrated during the colder months:
- You may not feel like drinking cold beverages when it’s cold out.
- Dry winter air can reduce the moisture in your body more than in summer months.
- You may not feel as thirsty during the winter, making it easy to become dehydrated quickly.
- Colds and sickness may make you less likely to feel like eating or drinking, leading to dehydration. And, when you’re sick, you may be losing extra fluid due to a fever, vomiting, or diarrhea.
Tips for staying hydrated during the winter
So, now that we know the importance of making sure we stay hydrated during the colder months, how do we do it? Below are some ideas for ensuring you’re getting enough to drink each day.
- Set a goal. Using the guidelines above, set a goal to drink at least that much each day. Keep track of your progress by taking notes or using a tracking app.
- Buy a new water bottle. Having a pretty new water bottle to use may be just the thing to encourage you to reach for more fluids.
- Get a custom reminder. Download one of the apps designed to help you stick to a water drinking schedule. These apps can help recommend your ideal intake based on your gender, age, weight and activity level, and will serve up reminders for you throughout the day so you’ll never forget to stay hydrated.
- Sneak it in. Eating your way to hydration may just be the best trick in the book. Add soups or broths to your lunch menu, include a whole orange and low-fat yogurt (made up of 85%-90% water!) to your breakfast plate. Prepare some celery sticks, grapes or cantaloupe for a snack. Serve a leafy green side salad with your dinner.
- Warm it up. Don’t feel like drinking an ice-cold beverage when it’s snowing? Not a problem! Drink room temperature beverages or enjoy a hot cup of herbal tea, or hot water with lemon. Even a cup of hot chocolate on occasion can do the trick.
- Add some flavor to your water. Keep it interesting by adding in lemons, limes, or other fruits to plain water to help you up your intake.
- Watch what you drink. Not all beverages are created equally. It’s just as important to watch what we drink. Caffeine and alcohol actually act as diuretics, causing us to lose more water.