Water has gained a lot of popularity as the healthiest drink to have, and increasing awareness has led to adequate consumption of water. Individual needs may vary but the need to have enough water remains the same for all. But can excess water consumption cause any harm? Is it safe to have plenty of water all at once? How much water at once is too much?
Many questions sometimes boggle our minds and we try to find their answers. Well, while water is essential, adequate water can keep your body and mind functioning well, its excess can be harmful too. Just like any other nutrient water needs to be processed by your body and influences other nutrients and minerals. The presence of excess water at once has an impact on other nutrients as they get diluted in water. This can affect your health in many ways. Having too much water is called water intoxication, water poisoning, or hyper hydration.
How Much Water At Once Is Too Much?
Usually, you need to drink water so that your body cells can perform well. Hence, you are advised to take adequate water every day. Although the amount of water needed by each person may vary, having water as much needed is necessary for all. The need may be more for certain groups like athletes, sportspersons, people recovering from illnesses, and injuries, and pregnant and lactating women, based on their health conditions. If you are involved in strenuous physical work, a very active exercise routine, or during hot days, your requirement for water increases. If that is satisfied, you are taking adequate water, or else you begin to feel the deficit. While the right amount of water intake differs from person to person, the general understanding of having eight glasses a day can be a good measure, to begin with. However, there can be a problem when excess water is taken.
Normally, you drink water when you are thirsty, when you sweat a lot or when you have done strenuous physical activities. Water helps to maintain body temperature, get rid of wastes through urination, sweat, and bowel waste, lubricate joints, and protect tissues.1
- Experts believe that the ideal intake of water is around
- 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids a day for men
- 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women
- Including fluids from water, other beverages, and food.1
Drinking water when not needed can result in an excess intake of water. This can lead to undesirable symptoms. So how much water at once is too much? The risk of excess water intake is high when you try to prevent dehydration and end up having a lot of water at once.
Experts suggest that, as your body can excrete the extra water through urine or sweat, there is no tolerable upper level of water intake.2 However, when a large amount of water is consumed at once, it can result in water toxicity. The rate at which too much water is consumed in a short span of time may be faster than what the kidneys can excrete. This can result in dilution of blood sodium levels, as a result of which the blood levels of sodium fall too low. Thus, having too much water at once can sometimes disrupt the functioning of the brain. Excess water can affect the body and cause the brain cells to swell.
This is a dangerous condition called hyponatremia, which results in fluids entering the cells, resulting in swelling. It can cause symptoms like drowsiness, headache, confusion, nausea, high blood pressure, low heart rate and muscle spasms. This increases the risk of seizures and coma. This can also be more of a concern for people with high blood pressure, heart disorders, and other chronic illnesses. The threat is particularly more when you drink too much water at once.
Hyponatremia is usually seen in ill people whose kidneys are not functioning properly. It can also occur during extreme heat stress or prolonged strenuous exercise where the body finds it difficult to excrete the extra water.2 People who are at greater risk of ill effects of having too much water at once are those who are physically very active, athletes, and runners. As they tend to drink large amounts of water, and also lose sodium through their sweat, they may end up drinking too much water at once. Women and children have a smaller body size and hence, are also more susceptible to hyponatremia.
Studies suggest that an intake of more than 500 ml of fluids per day will result in the excretion of solute-free water. The recommended total daily fluid intake of 3,000 ml for men and 2,200 ml for women is more than adequate. The study review concluded that higher fluid intake does not have any convincing health benefits, except being helpful in preventing recurrent kidney stones.3
How To Know If You Are Drinking Too Much Water?
You may be able to keep a watch on certain things to monitor if you drinking too much water at once. Normally, the color of urine is pale yellow. However, if you note your urine is often clear, it may be because you are drinking too much water during that period.
Some signs of having too much water at once include headache, nausea, muscle cramping and fatigue can be due to water and electrolyte imbalance. It is important to know the symptoms of hyponatremia as they can help in correlating the possible intake of too much water at once and immediate action can be taken. The symptoms may be mild at the beginning like mild headache, feeling of nausea, or bloating. If the sodium levels drop suddenly or further below, symptoms of weakness, fatigue, irritability, unsteady gait, confusion, and convulsions. It is best to seek medical advice if you experience any of these.
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