Can You Drink Too Much Water?
Water is a critical element when it comes to numerous bodily functions, ranging from temperature regulation and joint lubrication to carrying nutrients to your cells. Nearly all major body systems depend on it.
Because your body loses water through sweating, digestion, and even breathing, it’s important to drink adequate amounts of water and prevent dehydration. However, did you know that you can drink too much water? Although it’s not an easy thing to do, it can happen.
What Happens When You Drink Too Much Water?
Under normal conditions, your body will excrete excess fluids through sweat, urine, etc. So, if you drink too much water, you’ll likely be making more trips to the bathroom.
However, should you consume so much water that your kidneys can’t excrete the surplus fast enough, the serum sodium levels in your blood will fall too low, a condition known as hyponatremia.
The resulting imbalance leads to cellular bloating, which can cause serious problems and can even be fatal.
Who is at Risk of Overhydration?
Overhydration is more prevalent among athletes participating in endurance sports such as marathons, but it can also result from underlying conditions, such as kidney failure, heart, or liver disease, or taking certain diuretics, pain medications, or antidepressants. Old age or taking ecstasy can also increase your risk of overhydration.
Typical symptoms of mild overhydration include:
- Loss of coordination
As the condition worsens, people may experience symptoms such as:
- Muscle twitches
Extreme cases of hyponatremia may result in loss of life.
How Much Water Should You Drink Every Day?
That said, your next question is likely how much water is too much? There are varying opinions on how much water you should be drinking every day.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends that men consume 125 ounces of water and women 91 ounces of fluids per day. Health experts typically recommend taking about half a gallon of water a day or eight 8-ounce glasses, commonly known as the 8×8 rule.
However, as with most things, your water needs depend on a range of factors. Age, gender, activity level, overall health, and the climate you live in can all affect your recommended fluid intake. Bear in mind that fluids can come from water, beverages, and food.
If you’re working out and sweating a lot, for example, you’ll need to drink more fluids to stay hydrated. The same applies if you have an illness that causes you to run a fever, diarrhea, or throw up.
One of the easiest ways to evaluate your fluid intake is to check the color of your urine. A pale yellow to light yellow color indicates that you’re well-hydrated, while dark yellow is a sign of dehydration.
If your urine is brown or dark, that’s a medical emergency, and you should seek medical attention right away.
Testing for Overhydration
Those at risk of hyponatremia should seek medical attention immediately. If you have severe symptoms, call an ambulance or go to the nearest emergency center.
To diagnose hyponatremia, a doctor will need to test the levels of sodium in your blood as well as take your medical history and perform a physical examination.
Treatment for overhydration depends on what caused the condition and the severity of your symptoms. Treatments may include:
- Restricting fluid intake (but only as advised by a doctor)
- Treatment of the cause of overhydration
- Stopping drugs that tend to cause overhydration
- Taking diuretics to increase the excretion of sodium and water in your urine
- Replacing sodium in severe cases
Most people don’t need to worry about how much water to drink or when, because the body has a system of regulating your fluid intake. When your water balance is thrown off, thirst kicks in. As such, thirst is a very reliable indicator of when and how much water to drink.
Even so, certain circumstances may call for increased water intake, whether you feel thirsty or not. The most critical being during times of increased sweating or long, intense exercise.
Your water needs also increase when you have symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting, as well as during breastfeeding. Older people may need to monitor their fluid intake consciously.
However, if you’re experiencing excessive thirst, this may be a symptom of another serious health issue that requires immediate medical attention, provided other factors aren’t at play. For instance, on a very hot day, being thirsty often might be normal.
Redefine Your Health with Body Refined
Worried about your fluid consumption? Contact Body Refined today to learn more about your functional health and how we can help you hydrate correctly and improve your life. Call (844) 899-4846 or ask the Body Refined bot, Skylar, by clicking the message bubble to the bottom right corner of your screen.
Kurt Dixon is an educated, certified and experienced health consultant who is passionate about helping his client-patients achieve their goals by adjusting their lifestyle to promote a seamless, healthy living. His experience covers healthcare, pharmaceutical, money management, telecommunications & customer service industries. He is also the founder of Body Refined and the Lifestyle Management program, an integrated consortium of measures addressing life balance, eating healthier, physical wellness and career management.