Can you drink too much water? It’s ingrained into many of us to stay hydrated, to drink water throughout the day. How much water we need to drink depends on our needs and a lot of other factors, but can it ever be too much? Here are 5 reasons why drinking too much water can seriously harm you.
Your sodium levels can be diluted
Drinking too much water too quickly means your body will hold on to more water than it should and this causes the dilution of your blood by way of decreasing your sodium levels. This is called hyponatremia. Sodium, an electrolyte, regulates the amount of water present in and around your cells. When the sodium becomes diluted your cells begin to swell. When this happens you may get a headache or you may feel fatigued, disoriented, or nauseous. It has been fatal in severe cases.
This condition is most prevalent among professional athletes. They sweat a lot and in doing so, lose a lot of sodium. At the same time, they’re drinking copious amounts of water, diluting their sodium levels further. It’s worth pointing out to folks who aren’t professionals but who do exercise a lot to not overdo it with their water consumption. What’s recommended is drinking an amount that is about equal to the amount you sweat.
You could suffer from low potassium syndrome
You can lose excessive potassium through urination, thanks to overhydration. Suffering from low potassium is also called Hypokalemia. Here’s how it works. Drinking too much water affects the balance between intracellular and extracellular potassium ions. All it takes is a 1% change in potassium ion distribution to change the concentration of your plasma potassium ions.
Potassium is another electrolyte that is important for nerve and muscle cell function, particularly muscle cells in the heart. Mild symptoms include fatigue, constipation, muscle cramping, and palpitations. More severe symptoms include paralysis, respiratory failure, breakdown of muscle tissue, lazy bowels, and premature heartbeats.
Weight gain, swelling, tiredness, and weak muscles
You may gain weight due to water retention. Your kidneys may also be affected. They filter around a litre of water per hour, and they also help maintain homeostasis. Drinking too much water overworks them, putting pressure on them to constantly function. if they aren’t functioning properly, the water retention that results may lead to the swelling of your lips, hands, and feet. Not a good look.
The balance of your electrolytes is affected by consuming too much water. You may find that this results in frequent muscle cramps and weakness. You may also feel tired in general. As stated, the kidneys are working overtime expelling fluid. This leaves the body in a stressed state. Naturally, this fatigue will impact your mood and capabilities as well.
Too much water can cause your cells to swell up. I know it says brain in the heading, but let’s go back to the kidneys. When you’ve put them in that place where they cannot flush out the water quickly enough, the blood becomes waterlogged. The excess water leaves the blood in the end and enters the cells, which swell up in response. Most of our cells are embedded in flexible tissues, like fat and muscle, so they have room to stretch. Not so for neurons.
Now to the brain. Yes, drinking too much water can affect your brain. The cells here are tightly packed, inside your skull, having to share space with blood and cerebrospinal fluid. So the swelling here can be very dangerous. The entry of water into the brain can lead to seizures, coma, respiratory arrest, brain stem herniation, speech disability, walking instability, psychosis, and even death. So, pretty heavy stuff.
You could get cancer
Drinking too much puts you at the risk of chlorine overdose. Chlorine is not only used in swimming pool water but also to sanitise our drinking water. Chlorine overdose can cause many difficulties like breathing difficulties, skin irritation, and build up of fluid in the lungs, but it’s been suggested that it can cause cancer as well.