Well we've had what feels like a lot of rain lately. Some of the McLaren Vale vineyards are looking pretty waterlogged. It's interesting that we can have so much water around us yet many of us find it challenging to stay hydrated in winter. Two things that many clients struggle with in winter are:
drinking enough water and
feeling like water is going straight through them - feeling they need to urinate too frequently.
1. Understandably it's cooler so we're not sweating as much so we may need a little less water than during summer. How do we know if we are drinking enough water? The best ways to monitor your hydration status is the colour of your urine and the frequency of urination. A pale straw-colour yellow is what we're aiming for and it's normal to need to urinate every 2-3 hours. If you are urinating less than this you may well be dehydrated.
2. Water is probably not going straight through you. If it was you would have diarrhoea not an increased urinary frequency. Again, this issue may come back to what is normal urinary frequency? It's surprising how many people think they should only have to urinate 2-3 times a day!
What might be happening in people who are urinating more frequently than every 2-3 hours is the effect of common diuretics like caffeine and alcohol.
What can happen in winter is more coffee and tea drinking to stay warm (and maybe a bit more red wine?)
What is it about caffeine and alcohol that causes us to get dehydrated?
Here's a video to help explain:
Or a written explanation...urine is produced by blood filtering through the outer layers of the kidneys. As the blood is going through the filtering system, some gets reabsorbed (recycled) and some goes all the way into the inside of the kidney and becomes urine. A hormone called ADH (anti-diuretic hormone) encourages the kidneys to recycle blood/urine to help us stay in fluid balance. Caffeine, alcohol and other diuretics reduce the production of ADH. This means we recycle less blood and produce more urine therefore needing to urinate more often.
This doesn't just happen at the time of enjoying the coffee or alcohol. Caffeine and alcohol have an average half life of 6 hours (everybody is slightly different). This means they still have a diuretic effect for 6-12 hours after ingesting them. So even though you may only have one coffee mid-morning - it's still having a half-strength effect on your kidneys at 5pm! And if we have a glass of wine in the evening, it's still having an effect in the middle of the night.
Another effect of caffeine is that it stimulates the bladder muscles to contract increasing the sensation of needing to urinate.
Oh dear, all this sounds like bad news doesn't it? The good news is if you have healthy kidneys and a healthy bladder you can cope with some caffeine and alcohol. The main thing is to ensure you are maintaining your fluid intake so you don't end up dehydrated. Some ideas for staying hydrated in the cold weather:
herbal teas e.g. ginger, tulsi, peppermint
hot chocolate (make with quality cacao powder, honey/maple syrup and hot milk/water)
Decaf coffee* (Patio decaf coffee is the best I've tried)
Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables as they contain alot of water
*Ensure your decaf coffee is Swiss Water Filtered - that way you know that no solvents have been used in the decaffeination process
Phew that feels like a lot of information! So to summarise, if you feel like water is going straight through you - look at your total caffeine and alcohol intake. Reduce your total intake of these diuretics until you are back to a normal urination frequency of every 2-3 hours during the day and 0-1 times during the night.
If you have any kidney or bladder issues you may want to try being caffeine-free.
Happy hot drink hydrating,