Staying hydrated is crucial for your health. You’d have probably heard your mother tell you several times to drink more water, particularly in the summers. But did you know that excessive hydration is also as dangerous as dehydration?
Sure, your organs and cells require water for proper functioning. However, when you consume too much water, their working is disrupted. This can also be life-threatening. Overhydration is known by other names too. Water intoxication, water poisoning are both names for the condition.
What Does Too Much Water Do?
The human body comprises 60% of water. You need water for healing, weight loss, good skin, and so much more. However, this doesn’t mean that you should drink water every chance you get. What happens when you overhydrate is that the amount of water in your blood goes up.
This dilutes the electrolytes present in your blood. Typically, sodium levels drop which is what is called hyponatremia. Since sodium balances fluids’ markers inside and outside the cells, its dilution can move fluids inside cells. This swells the cells up which can be deadly if it happens to brain cells.
What Are The Symptoms Of Overhydration?
Swelling of the brain cells due to water intoxication can raise pressure in the skull. This causes early symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and headaches. In severe cases other symptoms such as increased blood pressure, double vision, confusion, difficulty breathing, cramps, weakness, etc. may occur.
When fluid gets collected in the brain the condition is called cerebral edema. This can cause the central nervous system to disfunction by affecting the brain stem. Coma, seizures, brain damage, and even death can be caused in severe cases.
Water intoxication can be fatal. Typically soldiers and people who participate in endurance sports get overhydrated. This is done to avoid dehydration but too much water can be equally harmful. Studies have also found that psychiatric patients such as schizophrenics have died due to water poisoning.
How Much Water Should You Drink?
The amount of water one should drink differs from one person to another. Factors that chip in determining how much water is required include one’s weight, climate conditions, and physical activity levels.
Basically, you should drink only as much water as your kidneys can get rid of. Your kidneys can flush out up to 29 liters of water per day. But, in an hour they can only get rid of up to 1 liter. Therefore, it is not a wise move to consume more than a liter of water in a short time.
So, how much water you take in a particular period of time also counts. For instance, if you drink a lot of water in an hour, the risk of overhydrating is high. Distribute that water over a longer period and the risk is less.
The Institute of Medicine recommends that for men water intake per day should be 125 ounces. For women, the recommended intake is 91 ounces. This includes water consumption through foods and other beverages as well.
However, some people such as pregnant women, athletes, and older adults may require more water. Therefore, listen to your body, drink water when you are thirsty, and don’t overfill.