drinking water from a bottle
Diet & Nutrition

Are You an Aquaholic? Too Much H20 Can Be Dangerous

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you’ve probably heard a lot about water and weight loss. Can drinking more water really help you lose weight? The short answer is yes — and no. If you’re already well hydrated and getting plenty of water, getting more water into your diet probably won’t make a lot of difference. But if you’re going through your days a little — or a lot dehydrated, as many people are, getting enough water could help. There is always the case of too much of a good thing. Some people are such water drinking devotees that they are aquaholics, resulting in overhydration.”   As a result, experts now fear we’ve become so focused on staying hydrated that we’re guzzling water to life-threatening extremes.

There are two types of overhydration: Increased water intake and retaining water. Increased water intake—or drinking more water than the kidneys can get rid of in the urine—can cause too much water to collect in the body.

When the body is unable to get rid of excess water, it is said to be retaining water. This happens with several medical conditions, for instance. It can be dangerous because it throws off the balance between water and sodium in the blood.

Overhydration caused by drinking too much water can occur both consciously and unconsciously. A person may drink too much water during exercise. Some medications can also cause dry mouth and cause an increase in thirst. Increased thirst can also be caused by uncontrolled diabetes. Psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia (primary polydipsia or psychogenic polydipsia) can also cause compulsive water drinking.”

What Are the Symptoms of Overhydration?

Symptoms of overhydration may not be recognized in the early stages but can include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Changes in mental state (confusion or disorientation)

If left untreated, overhydration can lead to dangerously low levels of sodium in the blood (hyponatremia). This can cause more-severe symptoms, such as:

  • Muscle weakness, spasms or cramps
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness
  • Coma

How Can Overhydration Be Prevented?

Endurance athletes can reduce the risk of overhydration by weighing themselves before and after a race to determine how much water they have lost and need to replenish.

Individuals should avoid drinking more than one liter per hour of fluid. Drinking more fluids before and during a race or an intensive athletic exertion can also help you avoid the need to drink too much water afterwards. Sports beverages that contain the electrolytes sodium and potassium are also recommended, as both are lost in sweat.”

So how do you know how much water you need?

For starters, don’t rely solely on thirst. As soon as you put water on your tongue, you kill your thirst mechanism. Instead, he suggests the following:

  1. Weigh yourself daily for a week, to check hydration. Your body weight shouldn’t fluctuate too much.
  1. Notice how much you pee—and its color—in the morning. It should be a copious amount and pale or clear.
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