Overhydration: What It Is And Why Drinking A Lot Of Water Is Not Always Healthy

Date December 19, 2017

We constantly hear that it's important to drink lots of water. And indeed, it is necessary for the normal functioning of the whole body. Doctors keep on warning that dehydration can cause serious problems.

But did you know that drinking too much water is also harmful? Yes, it's true! By drinking too much liquid, you risk your body becoming waterlogged, especially if you are a sportsman or have problems with your kidneys.

What is overhydration?

A sufficient amount of water in the body helps it to function well:

  • to regulate temperature;
  • to prevent constipation;
  • to flush body waste;
  • to perform all the basic functions.

Hydration of the body is a particular concern for those who workout in hot weather. However, drinking too much water can be dangerous, too!

Overhydration is the violation of water and salt balance in the body. When this happens, tissues and organs contain an excessive amount of fluid. It can lead to a real intoxication with water. This becomes possible when salt and other electrolytes in the body are too diluted. 

Hyponatremia is a condition in which the level of sodium (salt) becomes dangerously low which leads to the overhydration of the body. 

If the quantity of electrolytes decreases too fast, it can even lead to a lethal outcome. Of course, death due to overhydration is rare, but still possible!

How the imbalance of sodium affects the body.

Overhydration occurs when you drink too much water. It disturbs the natural balance of minerals and salts in the body, including sodium.

As a result, cells start consuming excessive fluid and swell. It's especially dangerous when this happens in the brain, as it leads to great pressure on the skull.

Who is at risk of overhydration?

The group of people prone to the development of overhydration includes those who keep a strict diet, as well as those who regularly physically exert themselves intensively.

  • marathon runners and ultra runners;
  • triathletes;
  • bodybuilders;
  • cyclists;
  • rugby players;
  • oarsmen
  • military servicemen who participate in training;
  • travelers.

This condition also affects people with kidney or liver diseases. Overhydration may also affect those who suffer from heart failure. Nevertheless, it can develop in anybody that consumes too much water.

Side effects of consuming too much water.

As the table shows, overhydration is practically the same as dehydration in terms of its manifestation. It can cause confusion and irritability of thoughts. The person suffering from it can have headaches, convulsions, and spasms.

Additionally, general muscle weakness can also develop.  The person can feel anxiety and extreme fatigue. Overhydration is usually accompanied by nausea, loss of appetite and vomiting.

If things go too far, then they can also lose consciousness, hallucinate or suffer from a cerebral edema. All this is followed by a sharp rise in blood pressure which results in coma and death. Fortunately, things almost never get that far!

This, however, doesn't mean that overhydration should be taken lightly!

How do you know what amount of water is too much?

Even doctors find it hard to answer this question. Specialists at the World Health Organization claim that the need for water is individual for each body. There are various factors that determine this norm for each of us and they are the level of activity, metabolic rate, environment conditions, body weight, age, gender and even the intake of certain medications.

The National Health Service of Great Britain recommends limiting water consumption to 6-8 glasses a day. According to them, the total volume of water consumption should not exceed 1-2 liters a day.

If you are trying to prevent hyponatremia, make an effort to find a sensible balance of salt and water. You can do this by periodically taking a solution with sodium instead of regular water. And be careful not to overdose, as it may lead to gastrointestinal disorders and other unpleasant symptoms.

Listen to your body. Drink water when you feel thirsty. But if you feel thirsty all the time, consult a doctor, since it can be a sign of a serious problem, such as diabetes and nephritis.

It also matters how fast you drink water.

If you drink too much water in a very short time, you can fall into a coma! In the scientific environment, there was a registered case of a woman who drank 40 glasses of water which led to fatal water intoxication.

Remember that kidneys can only filter 0.5 liters of water an hour.  That's why you should do your best not to overload them. Normally, not more than 800-1,000 ml of water is enough for the body!

How to prevent overhydration.

Marathon runners can reduce the risk of overhydration by weighing themselves 'before' and 'after' the race. It helps to determine how much water they lost along with sweat. It's recommended to drink 500-600 ml of water for each lost kilogram.

During a regular workout, try to drink 2-4 glasses of water in an hour. If you exercise more than that, then determine the necessary amount of water according to your sense of thirst. If you want to drink water, go ahead!

If you suffer from diabetes, CHF or a kidney disease, talk to your doctor about the amount of liquid that you need to take daily.

You also need to consult a specialist if you constantly feel thirsty. It can be a sign of a serious health problem that needs treatment.

Since overhydration is potentially fatal, consult a doctor at the first symptoms of this condition. Be healthy!

Source: CureJoy, HealthLine

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This article is solely for informational purposes. Do not treat yourself, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for harm that may result from using the information provided in the article.