Water is something we all know that we should drink a lot of to stay hydrated and not wait until we’re thirsty. Certainty, this is an excellent piece of guidance. Your body requires water in order to function properly. Then there’s the other side of the spectrum. What happens if you drink too much water?
Drink too much water can dilute sodium (salt) levels in your body, disturbing the electrolyte balance, which can lead to major health problems if not adjusted.
How to know when to stop or how much water is too much?
How much water do you really need?
Before we dive into the details, take a moment to consider the relationship between water and your body. In addition to food and oxygen, water plays a vital role in human life as well. 60% of your body weight is water.
Simply said, water helps you control your body temperature, carries nutrients through your bloodstream, eliminates waste via urination, and acts as a “filler” for all your organs. Every element of the body relies on water, from the smallest cell to the largest organ. If you don’t drink enough water, the consequences can be fatal within days.
When you don’t drink enough water, you become dehydrated. Even mild dehydration can make you feel tired, reduce your cognitive awareness, and decrease your exercise performance. And as already mentioned, severe dehydration can kill you.
Here are the suggestions for the amount of water you should drink every day:
- Men should drink about 3.7 liters per day;
- Women should drink approximately 2.7 liters per day.
As a result, keep in mind that these suggestions are for normal individuals, not athletes or people who are active. As a result, if you exercise frequently or live in a hot, humid region, you may need to increase your water consumption. Women who are pregnant also need to drink more water because their hydration requirements are different.
But what if you drink too much water?
In 2003, a 64-year-old woman was found dead in her home. The night before she died, she drank a lot of water: perhaps 30-40 glasses, with frequent vomiting in between. She became increasingly confused and agitated, yelling that she hadn’t had enough water. After refusing medical help, she went to bed and died in her sleep.
A post-mortem investigation was performed 6 hours later because the woman had no relevant prior medical history. Many causes of death were ruled out by blood toxicology, and she was eventually diagnosed with “hyponatremia as a result of acute water intoxication.”
There was also research done on ultra-distance triathletes. An Ironman triathlon in New Zealand attracted 605 of the 660 participants. Before the race, they were weighed and their blood plasma sodium levels were measured. Only 330 of the race finalists’ lab results were available after the study’s conclusion.
Of these 330, 58 (18%) were hyponatremia (low sodium levels); but only 18 received medical attention; 11 of these 18 were severely hyponatremic, and 7 of these 11 had symptoms of severe hyponatremia. The study concluded that while hyponatremia is a common finding in distance athletes. In the case of 73% of the severe hyponatremic athletes studied, the cause was fluid overload.
There are many other cases – but the answer is clear and concrete: you should not drink too much water.
Why does it happen?
To understand that, you need to know how your body handles water, salt, and waste materials.
Normally your kidneys act as “filters” of waste material. Your kidney arteries carry your blood to your kidneys. As it passes through the kidneys, excess fluid and waste material are removed by small units called nephrons. What your body still needs is reabsorbed into the bloodstream; the rest is sent to the ureters to be eliminated in the urine.
When you drink too much water, toxic water consumption reduces the kidneys’ ability to eliminate it completely.. This causes your body to retain fluid, resulting in hyponatremia. If you already have kidney problems, your kidneys are at a higher risk of developing this condition, and you may be more vulnerable.
How to avoid overhydration
As a result, how can you prevent consuming too much water? Drinking enough water, but not too much, is relatively simple:
• Drink when you are thirsty: Your body will tell you when it needs water, so drink just when you’re thirsty.
• Measure your sweat rate: If you work out for long periods of time in hot or humid locations and/or if you are a competitive athlete you should measure your sweat rate. By calculating carefully, you will know how much water you should drink when you take a break
• Avoid consuming too much water: Simply, don’t drink too much water if you’re not thirsty. Otherwise, you may feel nausea or even vomiting.