That old saying too much of a good thing can’t possibly pertain to drinking too much pure and delicious water, or can it? It is absolutely true that drinking too much water is not only not good for your health, it can in some cases be lethal. How can a tall drink of water be something that can hurt you? When you consume too much water into your system you overload it, and upset the electrolyte balance of it, which can be very dangerous to your health. Although consuming enough to stay hydrated is recommended, overdoing it is not suggested.
Just like when your body does not have enough fluid, or you are dehydrated, you are putting yourself at danger, when you consume too much water, or over hydrate you are likewise hurting yourself. Your body is made up of anywhere from 50% to 66% water, but it is an ever-changing concentration. That water is the essential compound that allows the cells to operate and to live. We lose water throughout the day through perspiration, urination, exhaled breathing and defecation, along with other pathways. It is essential that we replace what is lost, but there is such a condition known as water overdose.
Hyponatremia, or the dilution of the blood, is not as uncommon as you would assume. Although the degree can be from mild to severe, medical experts see it all the time in marathon runners, and other endurance athletes. When you take in more fluids than the body needs, you dilute the blood and alter the sodium concentration to such a degree that it can lead to water intoxication. The symptoms include fatigue, headache, vomiting, nausea, mental disorientation and frequent urination.
When a person consumes too much water in a short period of the time, the kidneys which are responsible to control the amount of salts, solutes and water which leaves the body, cannot keep up. Being unable to flush the body quickly enough, the blood literally becomes “waterlogged”. The blood, which is drawn to the higher concentration of salts, and enters the cells which causes them to swell up like a balloon to accommodate.
Although cells normally have the ability to stretch to accommodate for the fluctuations, neurons do not. Your brain cells are restricted within the compounds of the skull, being in a limited space, they can’t expand for that type of condition. Therefore, swelling of the brain cells can result in brain edema which cannot only be dangerous, it can be fatal. The result of such over expansion of the brain cells can lead to seizures, respiratory arrest, coma, brain stem herniation, or the potential for death.
So what is the safe amount of water to consume?
It is recommended that you drink a minimum of 6 8 ounces of glasses of water a day for a mildly active individual. Although not scientifically stated, the best gauge for water consumption is drink until your thirst is satiated. Although a lot has been written and hypothesized over the past several decades about the importance of water drinking and staying well hydrated, there is a reason why the body elicits the sensation of thirst. It is the sign that your body sends to your brain that you are in need of hydration. When we try to override what the body is telling us, we always get into trouble. If you are wondering how much water you need on a daily basis, the best guide to go by are your body’s own signals.