Most people are aware of the need for extra water when exercising and during the hot days of summer. Sweating is a clear loss of significant amounts of fluids. But in what less obvious ways do we lose water? How significant are those losses? If you use central heating in cool weather you are accelerating your body’s water loss. Central heating delivers very dry air into your home. And if you work in an airtight office building, that effect is compounded. So as we exhale, moisture leaves our lungs into the dry air at an increased rate.
Another way we lose more fluids during the cooler seasons is by letting our bodies get chilled. When our body temperature drops, blood moves from our extremities toward our core to maintain the temperature of our vital organs. When the kidneys receive this extra blood, filtration increases slightly, thereby increasing the volume of our urine. More fluid loss.
Loss of fluid leaves the protective mucous of our lungs and respiratory tract at a bit of a deficit. This compromised mucosal layer may be too big of a hit to our natural defenses against invasive bacteria and viruses. The chances of airborne pathogens infecting us increase. When we are infected with a cold or flu our body’s immune response compensates by generating more mucous to expel the invading microbes. But the damage has been done. We are sick and fighting to get better.
One sign that we are still operating at a fluid deficit is the state of the mucous. Colored and/or sticky mucous that is difficult to expectorate says you are running very dry. Another is a dry hacking cough. But before we ever get to this state there are indicators we all too often ignore.
Dry mouth and cracked lips; dry, scaly skin; cold extremities; headaches; itchy dry eyes; dark urine; even constipation can be indicators of dehy-dration. If you recently began experiencing any of these symptoms you need to play catch-up. Waiting to be thirsty is an unreliable indicator.
The average person should drink pure water at one fluid ounce per two pounds of body weight per day. Thus if you weigh 140 pounds, that’s 70 ounces or 2.1 liters of water. If you exercise or are fighting a cold or flu, you may need to double that figure. In fact, if you know you’ve been exposed to a high concentration of microbes (you are sneezed on, your child’s daycare is festering with runny noses, etc.), drink as much water as you can and build your defensive mucosa. It’s a strategy that’s inexpensive and effective.