The rules of drinking water have been etched into our mindset since perhaps we were kids. But did you know there is a real-time medical word called ‘water intoxication’? According to a recent medical report, muscle and energy boosting H2O can be life threatening when consumed in excessive quantity. “Also known as water poisoning, water intoxication is the disruption of brain function due to drinking too much water and can even lead to brain function impairment due to severe dilutional hyponatremia,” says the study.
Are you wondering if it’s really possible? How can someone possibly drink too much water? How much water is too much? And what other health problems one can face because of excessive intake of non-caloric water? Dr Deepti Bagree, Head Of Department at Healthcare, RESET- Holistic Living Concepts helps us in putting our world’s most vital drink – water - queries to rest!
Is It Possible To Drink Too Much Water?
Water is one of the most important nutrients for human existence and is involved in almost all the metabolic processes and thus termed as ‘life’. We often ask experts how much water one should drink, as there is no one fixed formula that fits well for every individual. Consuming around 2.5-3.0 litres water or approx. 8-10 ounce of glasses is what is recommended. But one can’t negate the fact that water intake depends on various factors like age, gender, location and activity levels. For example, often in the fear of being dehydrated, athletes into endurance sports like marathon runners and triathlon drink excessive water, which not only leads them to over hydration but also is not good for their performance. In an attempt to replenish water loss through sweat, these sportsmen over hydrate, which dilutes the sodium further flushing it off from body and clogging cells with water.
What Are The Symptoms Of Drinking Excessive Water?
Water intoxication or overhydration can have detrimental effects on health affecting the equilibrium. Here are the signs of overhydration:
- Refilling water bottle too frequently post completing the previous one.
- Drinking water without being thirsty.
- Over hydration in an attempt to make your urine look clear.
- Frequent urination day or night.
- Frequent headaches. This happens because overhydration swells up the brain cells leading to pressure against the skull and as a result one might experience throbbing headaches.
- Swelling of lips, feet and hands due to expansion of cells in these parts.
- Nausea, vomiting, cramps, fatigue. In fact, serious prolonged intake can even lead to coma.
Can One Also Get Water Poisoning Due To Overhydration?
Drinking excess water might lead to electrolyte imbalance i.e. hyponatremia (low sodium). The intoxication or overhydration can have detrimental effects on health from mild to life-threatening conditions. Salt in cells plays many important functions and dilution of the salt in the cell might lead to swelling and further water clogging. Water clogging in severe cases may involve brain cells too, affecting overall functioning.
Can One Also Experience Vomiting And Diarrhea Due To Over-Consumption?
Dehydration and overhydration are two sides of the same coin and have almost similar symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, headache etc. These symptoms attribute to retention of water in the body, diluting sodium and potassium - the key electrolytes and flushing them out of the system. This imbalance leads to vomiting, diarrhea as kidneys are unable to handle such large amount of water and may need to be corrected by intravenous electrolyte supply.
Feeling Thirsty Means You’re Already Dehydrated?
Thirst is an indication and not always a sign of dehydration. Dehydration is a common phenomenon and many of us don’t pay heed to it. Feeling thirsty may not always be a sign of dehydration and may not be as serious as it looks. Most of the times, despite chugging bottles of water, we may still feel thirsty and this may be a trivial water deficit. In certain medical conditions, like Diabetes Insipidus, you are frequently thirsty even though you are drinking enough water. So, always consult your healthcare provider if the condition prolongs.
Can Excessive Water Deplete Potassium Levels?
Potassium is one of the most crucial electrolyte minerals. It plays a critical role in initiating nervous cells to electrically-control functions such as muscle contraction and relaxation. Overhydration creates an imbalance in electrolytes. Excess water gets into the cell diluting the electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, thus flushing them out of the body, leading to cramps and swelling of cells.