Is Drinking Too Much Water Bad for You?
It’s no secret that water is vital for human life — up to 60% of the human body is made of water. Water is an important resource for our bodies to function. But is drinking too much water bad for you?
In short, yes. Although rare, drinking too much water can be potentially life-threatening. To develop water intoxication, or hyponatremia, you would have to consume an excessive amount of water in a short amount of time.
In this blog, we’ll explain how drinking too much water can be bad for you, what hyponatremia is, and how you can rehydrate safely.
How Much Water Is Bad For You?
According to the CDC, your health, physical activity level, body weight, and age play a role in the amount of water your body needs. Health statuses like pregnancy and breastfeeding can also impact how much water you should drink.
The CDC recommends using the Dietary Reference Intakes guidelines for water consumption. The recommendations are about 2.7 liters of water for adult females and 3 liters of water for adult males. By drinking more than what your body needs, water toxicity or hyponatremia can cause problems and even become fatal.
What Is Hyponatremia?
In the simplest terms, hyponatremia, or water intoxication, is an electrolyte imbalance. Normally, humans have between 135 and 145 mEq/L of sodium in the bloodstream. When you drink an excessive amount of water in short periods of time, the concentration of sodium in our body dips dangerously low. As a result, your kidneys are unable to process the extra fluids quickly enough.
This causes an excess of water to build up in the bloodstream, which quickly moves into your cells. As a result, your cells begin to swell and cause problems.
Symptoms of Hyponatremia Include:
- Confusion or disorientation
- Low blood pressure and drowsiness
- Muscle cramps and stomach cramping
- Fatigue and muscle weakness
Hyponatremia can be especially dangerous for your brain cells, causing problems such as short-term memory loss, disorientation, and seizures.
In severe cases where sodium levels plummet too quickly and are not replenished, hyponatremia can be fatal.
Common Causes of Hyponatremia
Excessive Water Consumption
Although the first cause that might come to your mind, hyponatremia caused solely by the overconsumption of water is fairly uncommon. In one famous instance, a California woman succumbed to water intoxication in 2008. She consumed roughly 6 liters of water over a three-hour period after participating in a radio-station sponsored water-drinking contest.
Unexpectedly, dehydration is one of the key causes of hyponatremia. When the body is losing fluids and electrolytes from exercise, it releases an antidiuretic hormone called vasopressin. The physical stress of a marathon causes vasopressin to be released, signaling the body to retain water.
When an athlete drinks a large amount of water after vasopressin is released, that athlete is more likely to overwhelm her kidneys. With the balance of electrolytes and water in the bloodstream falling out of line, this can lead to water intoxication.
In fact, a 2002 study of Boston Marathon runners, found that 13 percent were suffering from hyponatremia, and other studies have found that up to one-third of endurance athletes may be subject to hyponatremia.
Outside of endurance sports and overconsumption, the electrolyte imbalance is one of the key causes of hyponatremia. Caused by common risk factors like vomiting, diarrhea, excessive sweating, diseases, and medications. In these cases, hyponatremia is triggered when electrolytes are not being replenished as quickly as water.
Stay Hydrated and Safe
Drinking too much water is dangerous, and can even be fatal. However, this article has two other key takeaways to help you stay hydrated everyday:
First, the speed at which you consume water matters. Avoid consuming large amounts of water in a short time. Drinking water regularly throughout the day is the best way to replenish your fluids.
Second, water isn’t the only thing your body needs to keep hydrated. Having enough electrolytes in your body can help prevent cases of hyponatremia.
To maintain the perfect balance of electrolytes and water, try a hydration booster like DripDrop. DripDrop was developed by a doctor on a mission to defeat life-threatening dehydration. The convenient packaging makes it easy to add a precise balance of electrolytes wherever you are. Individually packaged, carry them in your work or gym bag to stay hydrated on the go.