Water is essential for your life and well-being (1). But drinking too much of it (overhydration) can lead to water intoxication. And this can lead to hyponatremia, impaired brain function, and sometimes death (2), (3). Since about 50% of adults are dehydrated, doctors and dietitians ask us to keep ourselves hydrated (4). But this is often misconstrued, and people end up drinking more water than their body actually needs. So, how much water should you drink? What are the symptoms of water intoxication and can it be reversed? Give this post a read and find out if you are drinking too much water and the dangers it can cause. Swipe up!
Signs That You Are Drinking Too Much Water
Let’s start with the signs of overhydration. Here are 9 clear signs that you are drinking too much water. Take a look.
1. You Always Have A Bottle Of Water With You
Do you always carry a bottle of water with you wherever you go? And then quickly refill it as soon as the water in the bottle is over? You might think that constantly sipping water is helping you, but actually, it is not. It is depleting the electrolytes in your body, leading to further complications.
2. You Are Not Thirsty, But You Still Drink Water
You read somewhere that you should drink 3-4 liters of water per day. And you start forcing yourself to drink this quantity. But did you know that your food also contains water? Yes! So, when you force yourself to drink 3-4 liters of water per day, you are actually drinking way more than your body needs. And this might result in overhydration.
3. You Think Clear Urine Is A Sign Of Good Health
Do you keep drinking water until the color of your urine is clear? Well, the sign of a healthy body is pale yellow urine. Clear urine is an indication that you drank too much water, and there’s an electrolyte balance in your body.
4. You Frequently Urinate In The Day And At Night
Do you find yourself running to the washroom every 30 minutes or so? Do you often wake up in the night to use the washroom? Then, you are overhydrated.
5. You Experience Headaches
Both overhydration and dehydration can cause headache. When you drink too much water, your cells swell up and grow in size. Your brain cells also get affected the same way, and your brain starts to push against the skull. As a result, you experience a constant headache.
6. You Feel Nauseous
Too much water in your body might hinder your kidney function. This means that your kidneys will be tired and stop flushing out water from the body. And this leads to the feeling of nausea and vomiting.
7. Swelling And Discoloration Of The Hands, Feet, And Lips
Drinking too much water can also lead to swelling of the lips, hands, and feet. Since your kidneys are not functioning properly, your body will retain the excess water. Also, you will gain weight suddenly due to water retention in the body.
8. You Experience Muscle Weakness
Frequent muscle cramping and weakness are two other signs of overhydration. This happens because the electrolyte balance in the body is hampered. To keep your electrolyte levels up, you can drink coconut water instead of just water.
9. You Are Tired
When your kidneys are constantly functioning to help flush out the excess water, your body is stressed out. And this impacts how you feel in general. You will feel tired and fatigued if you drink too much water.
So, these are the symptoms that indicate overhydration. Now, let’s take a look at a few serious side effects of drinking too much water.
10 Side Effects Of Drinking Too Much Water
1. Causes Hyponatremia
Hyponatremia is a decrease in sodium levels below 136 mmol/liter blood serum (5). It happens due to quick overhydration. Sodium is an important salt that helps in cell signaling and various other functions in the body. So, when your serum sodium levels drop, you start feeling nauseous, disoriented, fatigued, or get a headache. And in severe cases, it might also lead to death.
2. Causes The Cells To Swell Up
When sodium decreases in your body, by the principle of osmosis, water enters the cell through the semipermeable cell membrane (6). This results in swelling up of the cells. The swelling of the body cells (including the brain) causes serious damage to the muscle tissues, organs, and brain.
3. Causes Hypokalemia
Overhydration can cause hypokalemia or a decrease in potassium ions. The balance between intracellular and extracellular potassium ions is hampered when you drink too much water. In fact, a mere 1% change in potassium ion distribution can lead to a whopping 50% change in plasma potassium ion concentration. And this can result in severe diarrhea and prolonged sweating (7).
4. Affects The Brain
Hyponatremia or low-sodium in the blood can cause the brain to swell up. And this, in turn, results in speech disability, disorientation, walking instability, psychosis, and even death (8).
5. Overburdens The Heart
The heart performs the vital function of pumping blood through your entire body. When you consume too much of water, it increases the volume of blood inside your body. The increased blood volume exerts unnecessary pressure on the blood vessels and the heart, leading to seizure in some cases.
6. Overburdens The Kidneys
Consuming too much water can put pressure on your kidneys to function constantly. Your kidneys can filter about a liter of fluid per hour from the body. Beyond that, they have to work extra hard to maintain homeostasis.
7. Causes Liver Problems
It is important to note that this problem is not caused by merely drinking too much water. Rather, it happens by drinking too much of water with iron in it. Iron overload is not exactly detrimental, but in rare cases, it may cause liver-related problems as well.
8. Frequent Urination
Frequent urination, say once in every 15 minutes, can be really frustrating, whether you are at home, work, or school. When you drink too much water, your kidneys function constantly, and as a result, you have to rush to the washroom again and again.
9. Poses The Risk Of Chlorine Overdose
Drinking too much water can put you at the risk of chlorine overdose. And when that happens, you will be at the risk of developing cancer. So, stay hydrated and not overhydrated.
The brain and visceral organ damage that your body goes through ultimately lead to coma and death. Therefore, you must drink water carefully. Do not drink too much water within a short window of time.
Now, the burning question is, how much water is good for you? Here’s what the experts recommend.
How Much Water Should You Drink Per Day?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the daily fluid intake varies and depends on the person’s age, sex, medical conditions, and daily activity (9). The National Academies of Sciences Engineering Medicine recommends women to drink 2.7 liters (91 oz) of total water (from all food and beverages), and men to drink a total of 3.7 liters (125 oz) (10). Scientists from the Netherlands recommend 2.2 liters of water for women and 3 liters for men per day (11). So, it is clear that it is not true that everyone should drink 3-4 liters of water every day. You must talk to your doctor and restrict your daily water intake to a maximum of 3 liters.
So, what should you do if you accidentally overdrink water? How can it be treated? Find out in the following section.
How To Treat Overhydration Or Water Intoxication
Thankfully, there are several ways to do so. Here’s how you can reverse the dangerous side effects of overhydration or water intoxication:
- Stop any further water intake.
- Seek medical attention if you do not feel well and feel like passing out.
- Stop taking any medication that is causing water retention in the body.
- A doctor may administer sodium to help bring back the balance in your body fluids.
- You may be given diuretics.
As they say, prevention is better than cure. Let’s take a look at the following ways to prevent overhydration.
Ways To Prevent Overhydration Or Water Intoxication
Here are a few ways you can stop drinking too much water:
- If you have medical conditions like diabetes or kidney problems, talk to your doctor to find out how much water you should consume.
- If you exercise regularly, you may drink 2-4 cups of water per hour while exercising. If you need more water, drink sports drinks as they contain electrolytes that help balance the salts in your body.
- Endurance athletes should measure their weight before and after a race to determine how much water they lost from the body. The lost water can be replenished without running the risk of overhydration.
Not everyone is at the risk of being overhydrated. Only a few people are more prone to drinking too much water. Check this list out to know if you fall into this category.
People Prone To Overhydration
You might end up drinking too much water if you:
- Run marathons or ultramarathons.
- Are a hiker or a biker.
- Are a triathlete.
- Are an elite rower.
- Are an endurance cyclist.
- Are a soccer player.
- Are in military training
To conclude, water is good for you, as long as you do not overdrink it. Take an informed decision on how much water you drank from foods and beverages to keep a track on your water intake. If you feel nauseous after drinking water, seek medical help immediately. Take care!
Expert’s Answers for Readers Questions
Can you die from drinking too much water?
In the worst case, yes, you can die if you drink too much water.
Can you lose weight by drinking water?
Drinking water helps flush out toxins and accelerates metabolism. But that doesn’t mean you can lose all the flab in just a day by drinking water. You must eat good and exercise to lose weight.
Can drinking too much water make you gain weight?
Yes, if you drink too much water, it gets retained in the body. As a result, you will gain water weight.
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