Is There Such A Thing As Drinking Too Much Water?

Avoiding overhydration

Overhydration: does that sound like an absurd idea? Most people find it hard enough to drink water daily and stay properly hydrated... but can it be possible to drink too much water? The truth is, this phenomenon is real and has the potential to lead to adverse health effects. Overhydration, also known as “water intoxication,” is a condition that develops from consuming an extreme quantity of water too quickly. Find out the symptoms of water intoxication, why it happens, and how to avoid it.

Water Consumption: Healthy Levels vs. Overconsumption

Water intoxication has a few different names: hyperhydration, water poisoning, water toxemia and hyponatremia all refer to the same reaction. It's pretty straightforward: water poisoning occurs when you drink too much water. But how much is too much? Both the quantity and the rate of consumption are factors in overhydration. It can be hard to determine a “recommended” level of water intake that applies to everyone since individual activity level and body weight are important factors. Should an inactive young woman drink as much water as a professional male basketball player? Of course not! In general, women should drink 91 ounces of water a day while men should consume about 125 ounces. These amounts are recommended by The Institute of Medicine (IOM) and change depending on your build and lifestyle.

Signs and Risks of Overhydration

Excessive water consumption can happen for a variety of reasons. Too much water consumption can dilute the normal sodium content in blood. When your sodium levels sink too low, hyponatremia occurs. This means the water level in the body tries to equalize with that of the sodium level, swelling cells. This can cause a number of issues, including nausea, muscle cramps, seizures, and swelling in the brain. Hyponatremia can result in serious consequences, such as seizures, brain damage and even death. Deaths from overhydration are easily preventable through simple awareness.

Initial signs of excessive water consumption and swelling cells are headaches, nausea and vomiting. More serious symptoms include:

  • Double vision
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Muscle cramping
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Issues processing sensory information

How Can Overhydration Happen?

Most often, cases of deaths due to water intoxication have been reported in endurance athletes and soldiers. However, there are a number of reasons why a person may drink too much water or drink too much very quickly. Those who are trying to lose weight quickly or following a strict diet may drink more water than needed to feel full. Periods of intense exercise or hot weather may also cause overconsumption of water. Some medications can cause dry mouth and make you feel extra thirsty, even if they aren't actually dehydrated. These situations could lead to overhydration. Those who feel constantly thirsty may want to check with a doctor. This can be a symptom of diabetes and is also found in those with severe anemia.

Hydrating and Avoiding Water Poisoning

Adults and children should be aware that drinking water is essential, but problems can arise from too much of a good thing. Caregivers for elderly individuals or those on medications need to be aware of the possibility of water poisoning and watch for significant changes in thirst. If you're experiencing extreme thirst or showing symptoms related to overhydration, contact a MedPost Urgent Care for assistance.