Posted on Oct 01, 2020, 5 p.m.
Did you know that you can actually drink too much water and overhydrate? Yes, we can. In attempts to avoid dehydration some people can overdo it, which can be dangerous.
Staying hydrated is vital, water is needed to live and support nearly every bodily function which includes immune support, temperature regulation, and natural detoxification. But drinking excessive amounts of water can have a number of side effects such as muscle cramping from the electrolyte imbalance, increased urine frequency, and in extreme cases fatal water intoxication.
"In overhydration an excess of water dilutes the electrolyte concentrations in the blood, causing imbalance throughout the body's many systems," physician Catherine Waldrop, M.D. "When the concentration of electrolytes in the blood is too low, it makes nearly all cellular processes less efficient to nearly impossible," she says.
The most common electrolyte imbalance that can be caused by drinking too much water is called hyponatremia which is characterized by gastrointestinal tract symptoms, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. More serious cases can result in excess water swelling in the brain leading to seizures, comas, or impaired mental status. This phenomenon is more common in those who are using intense training physical programs, and according to the US National Library of Medicine extreme thirst could also be triggered by certain medications such as diuretics or a symptom of high blood sugar.
Taking a look at the colour of your urine is a way to keep an eye on your water intake, most urologists suggest that a light yellow colour is ideal, while dark yellow probably indicates that you are not drinking enough water.
Clear urine could be an indication that you are drinking too much, but it may not always be dangerous, it is a signal you have had enough so take note and hold off drinking more until you are feeling thirsty.
On average a healthy person will have to pee around every 3-4 hours, if you are going more there could be a chance that you are drinking too much water. If you are drinking, for example from a gallon water bottle every day, that is probably too much for the average person, not only will you have to pee more but your sleep cycle could be disrupted as well.
It is not uncommon to experience nausea, headaches, vomiting, mental confusion, muscle cramping, weakness or spasms as a sign of overhydration because of the electrolyte imbalance, namely low sodium. People can also experience fatigue, lightheadedness, dizziness, and in severe cases seizure, coma, or even death as a result of extreme overhydration.
In attempts to stay healthy, some people drink more to control hunger and keep their skin looking great. But you can overdo it. It is ok to drink a little extra water, but keep an eye on how much you are drinking and don’t forget that you are also getting water via foods.
The right amount of water will vary from person to person depending on age, gender, activity level, environment, medications, and certain conditions. Typically drinking when one is feeling thirsty or anytime losing fluids, or when urine appears to be dark is a good idea.
"People who live in hot and/or dry climates or are very physically active will likely need higher levels of fluid intake," Waldrop says. "Women who are pregnant or nursing will also likely need to drink more fluids."
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.