Can you drink too much water?

By Mel Sim

Is overhydration even a thing?

We all know it is important to drink water regularly. It’s the remedy for everything. Want to stay focus? Drink water. Want glowy skin? Drink water. Want to recharge after a workout? Drink water. That’s why we religiously chug down our eight cups (sometimes more) every day to stay hydrated and healthy.

Did you know that drinking too much water can have a negative impact on your health? Wait what – there’s no such thing as too much water! After all, the body is what, over 70% water?

True, the body is mostly made up of water and all of the major systems of your body depend on water to work properly. Then there is this thing called electrolytes. You know, what you get when you quench your thirst with a sports drink.

So electrolytes (potassium, sodium and magnesium) help regulate your body. Drink too much water can dilute the electrolytes – a condition known as water intoxication – making them weak and unable to function as they should (which is again why when after a fitness class, you are asked to drink a sports drink to recharge your electrolytes). A serious problem is when your sodium levels become too low (known as hyponatremia).

While death by overhydration is rare, it can happen. And if your electrolytes drop too quickly, it can be fatal – in fact, forcing someone to drink large quantities of water has been used as a form of torture way back!

How do you know if you are drinking too much water? Here are some tell-tale signs:

Your urine is clear
Clear urine is good right? It means you are well hydrated? Actually, it means you are overhydrated. A healthy colour is in fact transparent yellow so if you see your urine is clear, it’s time to hold back the H2O.

You wake up frequently at night to pee
That’s because your bladder is over its capacity. And that’s why you are constantly waking up to empty your bladder. How often should you be urinating then throughout the day? According to experts, a healthy consumption of water means you are going anywhere between six to eight times a day.

You don’t feel good
Drinking water should make you feel refreshed but if you are feeling the total opposite, it means you’ve had too much. The symptoms of overhydration are nausea and vomiting. When you drink too much water, your kidney can’t get rid of the excess liquid so you start collecting water in your body, causing the unpleasant feeling.

Bam, bam, bam in your head
When you don’t drink enough water, you get a headache. Guess what – when you drink too much water, you get a headache as well! As the sodium concentration reduces, cells in the organs start to swell. Which means things actually grow – like your brain. Too much water causes your brain to swell and press against the skull. No wonder you have a headache!

Your muscles cramp up
The reason why athletes are asked to refill on electrolytes is so that there is balance in the body. When your electrolytes are low, it can cause your muscles to spasm and cramp.

You’re tired
How is it that you’re drinking water and feel the fatigue? It’s the overconsumption. With too much water in them, your kidneys have to work harder. This results in your hormones creating a stressful situation that leaves your body stressed and tired.

Photo by Ethan Sykes on Unsplash

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