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Drinking Too Much Water Can Be A Health Hazard! This Is How

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By Apollo 24|7, Published on- 28 April 2022, Updated on - 29 July 2022

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Growing up we often heard our parents emphasize the importance of drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated, especially during summer. While what they said was true, what they probably didn’t say is worth knowing too. Excess of anything, including water, can do more harm than good. 

Drinking too much water can lead to water intoxication, a serious medical condition. Although the risk is generally low, the possibility still exists. Therefore, it is recommended that you familiarize yourself with the symptoms, causes, and effects of overhydration. The article addresses all these points for you in detail below.  

What is Overhydration?

Overhydration refers to a condition in which your body holds more water than required. It can occur as a result of chugging too much water or due to a disorder that adversely affects the ability of your body to release water. Water retention can also lead to overhydration. 

Too much water in the body can lead to hyponatremia, a condition characterized by dilution of electrolytes, especially sodium, in your blood, which is otherwise required to maintain the fluid balance inside and outside your cells. 

When sodium levels in the blood drop below a certain level, outside fluids get inside the cells, causing them to swell. When this happens to the cells in your brain, it can trigger severe symptoms. 

Recommended reading: What Is Water Retention: Ways To Lose Water Weight

Symptoms

Depending on how much water you have consumed, the intensity of symptoms can vary.

1. Mild

Some of the initial symptoms of overhydration usually go unnoticed. However, you are likely to be overhydrated if you observe the following changes: 

  • Colourless urine
  • Frequent urge to pee

2. Moderate

If the cells of the body start to swell, the person may experience: 

  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Headaches
  • Confusion or disorientation

3. Severe 

In rare cases, water intoxication can lead to serious symptoms such as: 

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Double vision
  • Muscle weakness, spasms, or cramps
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness
  • Coma

While water intoxication is rare, without timely treatment it can turn fatal. 

Causes 

High-intensity physical activity is one of the most common causes of overhydration in healthy individuals. The risk is especially high for endurance athletes who participate in sports (such as marathons, ultra-marathons, etc.) and military training exercises.

athlete_overhydration

Nevertheless, overhydration can also be caused by factors, such as: 

1. Medical conditions

  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Congestive heart failure (CHF) 
  • Liver disease 
  • Kidney problems
  • Schizophrenia
  • Syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone

2. Medicines

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Diuretics
  • Antipsychotic drugs
  • MDMA (a synthetic drug also known as ecstasy) 

Treatment

Depending on the cause and severity of symptoms, treatment for overhydration may include: 

  • Limiting the intake of fluids
  • Use of diuretics to increase the urine output
  • Treating the underlying medical condition
  • Replacing the medication responsible for the condition

How Much Water Should You Ideally Drink In A Day?

It is said that men and women should drink at least 3.7 and 2.7 litres of water per day, respectively. However, there is no fixed formula that can help determine how much water you should drink. The water requirement can vary from person to person, depending on factors such as age, gender, health, levels of physical activity, and climate. 

While relying on your thirst to drink water may seem appropriate, the approach may not work for everyone, especially athletes, the elderly, and pregnant women. To get a rough estimate, you can take into account your intake of calories. For instance, those consuming 2200 calories a day should consume at least 2200 ml of water. An optimum intake of water is essential for good health. However, drinking too much water can lead to severe health complications, therefore, never go overboard.

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