Have you ever been told to drink more than 6 litres of water a day? I definitely have. In fact, I know some people who even drink more than 10 litres of water daily. What are the risks of drinking too much water within a short period of time? Is there ever such a thing as drinking too much water?
Water is a basic necessity for human survival. However, the human body is known to be able to survive for at least 2 days without water. Water is used by the body for numerous biological processes which include digestion, blood circulation, nutrient transportation, body temperature maintenance and many more processes. In addition to that, drinking water is definitely better than drinking carbonated drinks and sweet drinks because it does not contain empty calories (calories that do the body no good). Water also rehydrates your skin and assists the functionality of the kidneys as well as helps maintain normal bowel movement.
A question that seems to popup in most people’s mind is, “How much water do I really need daily?”
How much water do I really need daily?
Well, it really depends on your current health, your daily activities and where you are (climate). We lose water from our body daily through breathing, sweating, urinating and passing our bowels. Because of this, we must drink enough water to keep our body well hydrated. Please note that foods also contribute to our daily water intake. The Institute of Medicine recommends that men drink about 3 litres of water daily, and women drink about 2.2 litres of water daily. There is also the well-known adage of drinking eight 250 ml glasses of water daily.
What happens if we drink too much water?
Water intoxication or water poisoning or dilutional hyponatraemia occurs when the normal balance of electrolytes in the body is pushed beyond safe limits. This may cause a fatal disturbance in brain functions. This is caused by drinking too much water within a short time or intensive workouts done over a period of a long time without replenishing the body with electrolytes.
When this happens, the sodium level in the bloodstream is already extremely low. Sodium is an electrolyte that regulates the amount of water around and in your cells. Too little sodium and too much water in the body causes the cells to swell which will result in mild to severe health problems. Mild symptoms of dilutional hyponatraemia include headache, nausea, muscle spasms and cramps, dizziness, fatigue, restlessness and vomiting. Severe symptoms of dilutional hyponatraemia include coma, seizures, hallucinations, swelling of the brain, respiratory arrest and even death.
There is nothing wrong with drinking lots of water over a period of one day because of the natural process of water loss from our body. However, drinking too much water within a short time or drinking too much water when exercising non-stop for more than 3 hours will place undue stress on the heart and kidneys. Have you ever noticed how your heart tends to beat harder when you drink 3 glasses of water at one go? Have you ever notice how light-headed you feel when drinking too much water during a marathon?
A rule of thumb to see that you’re drinking enough water is via the colour of your urine. Well, I definitely won’t be placing a picture of my urine samples here. If your urine is clear or slightly yellow, then that means you’re hydrated. Too yellow? Better drink up your plain water then.
Personally, I don’t drink too much water daily because I find it annoying to go to the toilet every 30 minutes. As long as my urine is clear or slightly yellow, I know I’m hydrated. I drink more water when I exercise or during a hot day. Besides, I don’t want to stress out my kidneys and heart in the long term by drinking too much water than what my body requires.