“Drink water and mind your business”—a millennial slogan that keeps resonating in our ears and across our phone screens. But is it possible to consume too much of the precious life sustaining and harmless fluid? Simply put, it is.
We all know that drinking water is essential to survival, but the question of exactly how much we should consume on a daily basis is something that, well, feels like it will forever go unanswered.
The truth remains that you can actually drink too much water and it could have a negative effect on your body. Let’s look at just how much water you should be consuming then, and how much is medically considered too much.
How much water should we drink?
It’s clear that there are pros and cons associated with drinking water so as with most things in life, drinking water should be done in moderation.
As a rough guide you can calculate your recommended intake by taking your (lbs) and dividing it by 2 to get an estimate of how many ounces of water you should drink daily, essentially:
Your weight (lbs) ÷ 2 = Water intake in ounces
With 8 ounces being approximately one glass of water and the average human weight being around 130 lbs, for most people this will mean a recommendation of eight glasses a day.
Remaining hydrated is a key component of a healthy lifestyle, just make sure your intake is sensible so the issues of excess won’t be a problem and you can avoid water intoxication.
What Is Water Intoxication?
Water intoxication, also known as overhydration or water poisoning, is a life-threatening condition caused by drinking too much water. It is characterized by electrolyte imbalance or low sodium concentration in blood, which is known as hyponatremia.
Water intoxication is rare, and it is very difficult to consume too much water by accident. However, it can happen — there have been numerous medical reports of death due to excessive water intake.
Water intoxication most commonly affects people participating in sporting events or endurance training, or people who have various mental health conditions.
Symptoms of water intoxication are confusion, nausea, vomiting, headache, and disorientation. Severe cases of water intoxication may also lead to coma or death. Listed below are some side effects of drinking too much water.
Side Effects Of Drinking Too Much Water
It may be surprising, but water intoxication actually has a negative effect on the body and is very much a real thing. Here are some disadvantages associated with the overconsumption of H2O;
Lowers your sodium level
It’s already been states that drinking too much water can cause hyponatremia, which occurs when the body’s sodium level is too low. Because in this case, the body holds on to too much water, it can make the sodium in your body diluted. Hyponatremia can yield symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, headaches, and even confusion.
Can lead to heart problems
Certain studies have shown that fluid overload could have a negative effect on heart health, and could potentially even cause congestive heart failure.
This is due to high blood pressure from the excess fluid in the bloodstream. There’s also a potential of affecting your heart rate by either extreme of slowing down or speeding up.
Increases risk for headaches
Hyponatremia can lead to uncomfortable headaches (a symptom that is oddly also associated with underconsumption of water).
When there is an overload of fluid coming into the body, the brain can’t compensate when your cells swell from this extra fluid.
Overburdens The Kidneys
Overhydration may cause Acute Kidney Injury (AKI). High water intake also lowers plasma levels, which helps preserve kidney function. 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 need to work extra hard to maintain homeostasis.
Increases risk for muscle cramps and weakness
Unfortunately, muscle cramping and feeling weak could be a side effect of drinking too much water, especially if over-consuming while exercising.
This is due to the electrolytes being diluted. The imbalance affects your muscle function.
Bladder lesions could form
Abnormalities in the bladder such as a lesion, which can show up as delayed bladder sensations have been associated with too much fluid consumption. Higher fluid intake has also been linked to an increased risk of bladder cancer.
May Cause 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 water with iron in it. Iron overload is not exactly detrimental, but in rare cases, it may cause liver-related problems. People with liver cirrhosis are prone to developing hyponatremia.
Signs That You Are Drinking Too Much Water
You Always Have A Bottle Of Water With You
Do you always carry a bottle of water with you wherever you go and 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.
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 started forcing yourself to drink this quantity. But did you know that your food also contains water? When you force yourself to drink 3-4 liters of water per day, you are actually drinking way more than your body needs. This might result in overhydration.
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 is an electrolyte imbalance in your body.
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? It could be because you are overhydrated.
You Experience Headaches
Both overhydration and dehydration can cause headache. When you drink too much water, your cells swell up and grow. 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.
You Feel Nauseous
Too much water in your body might hinder your kidney function. This means that your kidneys will get tired and stop flushing out water from the body. This leads to the feeling of nausea and vomiting.
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. You will also gain weight suddenly due to water retention in the body.
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.
You Are Tired
When your kidneys are constantly functioning to help flush out the excess water, your body is stressed out. This impacts how you feel in general. You will feel tired and fatigued if you drink too much water.
How To Treat Overhydration Or Water Intoxication
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 you are going to pass 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, be sure to follow the prescription religiously.
While there are disadvantages of drinking too much water, there are also disadvantages of not drinking enough water, with many symptoms being the opposite of the ones that come from drinking a sufficient amount of water. Lack of fluid intake can lead to dehydration, headaches, exhaustion, dry skin and mouth, achy joints, digestive issues, increased risk of kidney stones, and more.
All in all, drinking water is extremely beneficial and important to our overall health, so don’t let the chance of water intoxication instill fear or prevent you from consuming the recommended daily amount, especially because how much water you drink is completely in your control. Be conscious of your fluid intake on a daily basis, and do what makes you feel good without overdoing it. It truly doesn’t hurt to always have a water bottle on hand to ensure you’re hydrated at all times!