It gave Frank Zappa a chuckle. Frank’s bodyguard at the time was John Smothers, a very cool black guy with a unique way of looking at things. He was the master of malapropisms, a hoot to listen to. One morning in the studio, struggling to fit a ring on his finger, Smothers looked up and informed Frank, “My body contains water.” We laughed, knowing Smothers meant “retains water.” Like many of his misstatements, this one continued to be quoted ad nauseam in totally inappropriate and divergent ways. “My body contains water,” became the explanation for nearly every questionable note played, action or function for the rest of the project.

Smothers was right, of course. Humans are water creatures. Up to 70 percent of the human body is water. (Funny how that ratio mimics the composition of the planet. Adds to the Gaia theory.) Infants have high ratios. Older people not so much. But bottom line is that we need to stay hydrated for health. It may be more difficult to remember that now that we’re in the colder months.

Royal flush. Water is the elixir of life. It is elemental in detoxification. Our bodies can’t help but accumulate chemicals and byproducts that do us no good. And water is crucial in cleansing the body on the inside, just as it’s essential to cleanse the outside. So drinking enough water on a daily basis is important. We should drink enough to maintain that youthful 70 percentile.

In the summer, we seem to be more conscious of staying hydrated. Heat is a hair trigger that prompts us to replenish fluids. We may find the need to force fluids in the cooler months of winter. And that may be when we need to drink water the most.

During the summer months, the normal moisture in the atmosphere helps to keep us hydrated to some extent. Relative humidity is high. Though the cooler outdoor air of winter is able to maintain a decent relative humidity, it’s when that air comes indoors and is heated that it becomes dangerously dry. Outdoors in the cold air of winter, the humidity may hover around 55%. Once heated, that air loses the ability to hold as much water and indoor humidity may drop to as low as 10 percent or even less. The body can dry out in a hurry.

In the summer we lose a lot of moisture through sweat. But in the winter, we lose even more through breathing in the cold air. It takes moisture and energy to warm each breath. Because of the temperature differential, we lose more water in the vapor from our breath.

Water in winter. In some ways, it’s more important to drink plenty of water in winter than summer. The harsh temperatures and drier air make it hard on the body to maintain that hydrostatic balance. One of the first signs of dehydration is fatigue. As little as a 2 percent drop in the body’s water volume can trigger dizziness, muscle cramps, fatigue and mental acuity. Feeling foggy? You could be dehydrated.

A mammalian survival response to cold temperatures is to constrict blood vessels to conserve heat. Unfortunately, that pushes water out, raises blood pressure and elevates risk of stroke if we stay dehydrated. Drinking water can retain the fluids necessary to counterbalance that.

Even minor dehydration can cause headaches, dizziness, darker urine color, constipation, dry eyes and make the skin lose elasticity. Amazingly, one of the sensations we rely on most to remind us to drink water — thirst — is one of the most unreliable. By the time we’re thirsty, we probably have become dehydrated already. One trainer writes that there are three times a person should drink water: when you’re thirsty, when you’re not thirsty and anytime in between.

Another important reason to stay hydrated in winter is to protect against colds and flu. Viruses do very well in dry conditions.

Drink a shot. Numbers don’t lie and the numbers say that the flu shot is ineffective, as much as Big Pharma and its conspirators want to paint a different picture. Staying healthy is pretty much up to you, not some shot in the arm. We know now that viruses, and the flu virus in particular, survive best in very low humidity. They do well in extremely high (100 percent) humidity, also. Wintertime is flu season in general and staying hydrated can be key to avoiding colds, respiratory infections and influenza.

There is no substitute for water when it comes to hydration. And warm or room-temperature water is better than cold or iced. Consider with common sense: Body temperature is regulated to 98 degrees or so. That is an indication that the things we put into our bodies have to end up at that temperature sooner or later. Cold foods and liquids are especially hard on the body. We have to raise the temperature to body temperature to begin with. That takes calories and energy from the body, neither of which you want to spare in the cold winter.

So, thirsty or not, remember to drink up. Smothers is watching.

Be well.

Heartland Healing is a New Age polemic describing alternatives to conventional methods of healing the body, mind and planet. It is provided as information and entertainment, certainly not medical advice. It is not an endorsement of any particular therapy, either by the writer or The Reader. Visit for more information.

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