With all the excitement and festive indulgences that come with the holiday season, we often overlook the importance of one critical aspect – hydration. Staying hydrated, especially during the holiday season, has a substantial impact on our overall well-being and health.
Maintaining an optimum level of hydration helps in a variety of bodily functions such as nutrient transportation, digestion, skin health, mental function, mood, and even energy levels. As such, it is crucial to emphasize the importance of staying hydrated during the holiday season, despite the disruptions in our normal routines and dietary practices.
First and foremost, hydration is necessary to maintain an optimal body temperature. During the holidays, some people travel to warmer or cooler climates, and keeping adequately hydrated aids in acclimatizing to different weather conditions. It allows the body to regulate its temperature through sweating in hot climates and maintaining blood circulation in cold climates.
Additionally, staying hydrated during the holidays aids digestion. Typically, the holiday season is associated with eating large meals, high in carbohydrates and fats. An adequate intake of water aids in breaking down these foods and preventing discomfort and bloating. Without enough fluids, digestion slows, leading to constipation, gas, bloating, or even a blockage. Water can help soften the stool, aiding its passage and preventing these uncomfortable symptoms.
Maintaining a proper hydration level can also help control overeating during the holiday season. It’s quite common to mistake dehydration for hunger, causing people to consume more calories than necessary. Sufficient water intake before a meal can trigger a feeling of fullness, resulting in eating less. Additionally, consuming alcohol, common during holiday celebrations, often leads to dehydration and hangovers. Drinking water before and after the alcohol can alleviate these symptoms by promoting detoxification and rehydration.
The holiday season often comes with increased travel and heightened stress levels. During travel, particularly air travel, the low cabin humidity levels can quickly cause dehydration. Staying hydrated during such travel not only helps fight off jet lag but also aids in keeping your skin fresh and revitalized. Similarly, stress also causes fluid loss. Drinking plenty of water helps to mitigate stress effects, improving overall mood and energy levels.
Physical activities, like a friendly snowball fight, building a snowman, or late-night dancing at holiday parties, can also lead to perspiration and fluid loss. Water replenishment after these activities ensures you can enjoy them fully without the risk of dehydration and fatigue.
Lastly, adequate hydration supports the immune system. Hydration keeps your mucosal membranes moist, which reduces the chance of colds and flu commonly found in the holiday season. A strong immune system also promotes rapid recovery from fatigue and can defend against viruses and bacteria you may encounter while travelling.
Considering the importance of hydration, what are the best practices to ensure that you stay adequately hydrated? One practical strategy includes carrying a water bottle wherever you go, serving as a constant reminder to drink water. Furthermore, start each meal with a glass of water, increase your intake of fruits and vegetables that are rich in water, and alternate alcoholic beverages with a glass of water to ensure a balance.
To make hydration more festive and appealing, you could infuse your water with festive fruits and herbs such as cranberries, pomegranates, rosemary, or mint. Also, remember that other beverages such as tea, fruit juice, and broth also contribute to your overall hydration.
Although hydration may not be high on your holiday priority list, understanding its importance and implementing simple practices to stay hydrated can lead to more energy, better digestion, enhanced skin health, mood improvements, and even reduced overeating. These benefits will help ensure you fully enjoy and embrace the spirit of the holiday season. Remember, keeping yourself adequately hydrated is one of the best gifts you can give to your body during the holiday season, and indeed, throughout the year.
Understanding Dehydration & How To Hydrate
Dehydration occurs when your body loses more fluids than it takes in, and it’s not just a summer problem. During the colder months, you can become dehydrated from indoor heating, reduced urge to drink, wearing heavy clothes that can lead to sweating, and consuming alcoholic beverages at holiday parties. This loss of fluid affects your body’s capability to perform normal functions, causing symptoms such as dry mouth, tiredness, dizziness, and headaches.
Increase Water Intake
Drinking enough water is a fundamental principle for staying hydrated. Despite the holiday distractions, aim to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses, about 2 liters or half a gallon of water a day, more if you are physically active or if you’re in a warmer climate.
Create a Schedule: You can create a drinking schedule, such as drinking a glass of water before and after meals or setting reminders on your phone to drink water at certain intervals throughout the day.
Use a Reusable Water Bottle: Keeping a reusable water bottle on hand is another effective way of increasing your water intake. When attending events or while out shopping for gifts, carry a water bottle along. This way, you have a visual reminder and access to drink water.
Substitute Other Fluids
Holiday celebrations are never short of beverages – fizzy drinks, hot chocolates, mulled wine, cocktails, and eggnog. While these beverages contribute to your fluid intake, they also contain high sugar levels or alcohol which can lead to dehydration. Instead, opt for healthier choices that contribute to hydration:
Herbal Teas: Herbal teas, without added sugar, are a great way to stay warm and hydrated. Varieties such as peppermint, chamomile, and rooibos have additional benefits such as aiding digestion and improving sleep quality.
Fruit Infused Water: If plain water isn’t exciting for your taste buds, infuse it with fruits like lemons, oranges, strawberries, or herbs like mint for a natural flavor without the added sugar.
Soup Broths: Hot soups or broths are not only comforting on a cold day, but they also contribute to your fluid intake.
Smoothies: Opt for a hydrating smoothie packed with fruits and vegetables high in water content, such as cucumbers, celery, watermelon, and oranges.
Consume Water-Rich Foods
Not all your hydration has to come from drinking fluids. Consuming foods with high water content is another way of boosting your hydration level. Fresh fruits and vegetables are perfect for this. Here are some you can include in your holiday meals:
Fruits: Watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, peaches, and oranges all have a water content of 85% or more.
Vegetables: Cucumbers, lettuce, zucchini, celery, and tomatoes have a water content of 90% or more. Incorporating these into salads, main dishes, or snacks will contribute to hydration.
Limit Alcohol and Caffeine
Holiday parties and alcoholic beverages go hand in hand, but alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it can cause your body to lose more fluids than you take in, leading to dehydration. If you do indulge in alcoholic drinks, do so in moderation and try to drink a glass of water for every alcoholic beverage you consume to offset its dehydrating effect.
The same goes for caffeine; it can lead to fluid loss. So if you’re a coffee or tea enthusiast, make sure to increase your water intake or consider decaffeinated alternatives.
Hydration isn’t just for summer or after exercising, it’s essential for every day and every season, and that includes the holiday season. During the festivities, remember to give your body the fluid it needs to keep it functioning at its best. From increasing your water intake to consuming foods rich in water, take small steps towards staying adequately hydrated. Here’s to celebrating the holidays with health and hydration!