We often associate dehydration with the scorching temperatures of summer, but did you know that dehydration is a common problem in winter too? The bone dry air and indoor heating sources can rob moisture from our bodies, causing a whole host of problems. It’s important to stay hydrated, not just in the summer months but all year-round.
We all know water is vital for our bodies. After all, the human body is made up of 70% water, and it needs the right amount of hydration, along with electrolytes, to function properly. Every day, we lose water through regular activities like sweating and even breathing, regardless of the temperature outside. That’s why it’s crucial to make sure we’re getting enough water, especially as we get older.
So, how can you determine if you’re dehydrated, and what is the ideal daily water intake?
How Can I Tell If I’m Dehydrated?
Curious about your hydration levels? Give these simple self-tests a shot.
Skin Test –– Try this: pinch and lift some loose skin on the back of your hand using your thumb and index finger, then release it. Does it bounce back quickly? If not, dehydration might be knocking at your door.
Fingertips – Check the skin on your fingertips: do they look wrinkled up, like you just soaked in a bath for way too long? If so, you probably need to drink more water.
Check out your urine – Take a moment to glance at your urine before flushing it away. Is it a pale yellow, dark yellow, or somewhere in between? A light yellow shade falls within the normal range. The deeper the color, the higher the likelihood of dehydration. Don’t forget to consider frequency too. As per WebMD.com, most individuals urinate six to eight times a day. If you urinate less than six times, it could indicate dehydration. And remember to keep an eye on infants as well: If an infant has had a dry diaper for three or more hours, it may be an indication of dehydration.
Wrinkles, Loss of Elasticity – Does your skin show signs of premature aging? Drinking enough water daily can help slow the aging process.
Headaches – Dehydration headaches are common. According to Medical News Today, when the body is dehydrated, the brain can temporarily contract or shrink from fluid loss. This mechanism causes the brain to pull away from the skull, causing pain and resulting in a dehydration headache.
Constipation – Frequent constipation could indicate that you’re not drinking enough water.
Bad Breath – Dehydration can lead to lower saliva production. “If you’re not producing enough saliva, you can get bacterial overgrowth in the mouth, and one of the side effects of that is bad breath,” says John Higgins, MD, a professor of medicine at the University of Texas in Houston.
Cracked, Dry Lips – Dry winter weather and dehydration can leave your lips dry and cracked. Provided this is not due to any other underlying conditions, staying hydrated and a good moisturizing lip balm can alleviate these symptoms.
The Old Saying…
What about that old saying, “If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated”? Is there any truth to it? Yes! According to the Mayo Clinic, by the time your body is thirsty, you could already be dehydrated, having lost as much as 1 to 2 percent of your body’s water content. The key is to keep drinking and stay hydrated before you feel thirsty.
Easy Ways To Stay Hydrated
- Start your day with a glass of water. Place a glass on your nightstand when you go to bed and drink it as soon as you get up, even before you reach for that cup of java.
- Drink water! Don’t substitute coffee, alcohol, soft drinks, or any caffeinated beverage for water.
- Drink a cup of water between cups of coffee.
- Spread water drinking throughout your day.
- Drink water before and after exercising or taking a walk.
- Eat hydrating foods like cucumbers, celery, tomatoes, strawberries, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, grapefruit, cantaloupe, baby carrots, and iceberg lettuce. An easy way to do this is to build a tossed salad with a combination of these foods.
- Anytime you’re sick and losing body fluids, through vomiting or diarrhea, dehydration can occur. Replacing loss of water and electrolytes is essential. You’ve heard it before: drink plenty of fluids!
The Real Answer To How Much Water You Should Be Drinking Daily
We’ve all heard that we need to drink 6-8 glasses of water a day. Is this true? Medical professionals recommend every person should try to drink one-third to one-half of their body weight in ounces per day.
For example, a person weighing 135 pounds should consume 67.5 ounces of water each day. That’s about 8.5 eight-ounce glasses of water a day. Need an easy trick to help you to remember to drink more water during the day? We’ve got one here.
Deborah Tukua is a natural living, healthy lifestyle writer and author of 7 non-fiction books, including Pearls of Garden Wisdom: Time-Saving Tips and Techniques from a Country Home, Pearls of Country Wisdom: Hints from a Small Town on Keeping Garden and Home, and Naturally Sweet Blender Treats. Tukua has been a writer for the Farmers' Almanac since 2004.