As children who’ve spent our days running and biking under the hot, scorching sun, we’ve been told repeatedly by doctors and teachers that we need to drink more water – at least seven glasses of it. Our bodies expel water in several ways, including sweating, breathing, urinating, and even talking, so it only makes sense that we need to drink water to make up for water loss.
Most people unknowingly go through life without any idea that they’re dehydrated. For these people, having an extra glass (or five) couldn’t hurt. Even though our bodies need water to lubricate joints, protect tissue, and maintain proper body temperatures, too much of a good thing can actually be detrimental to our overall health.
You see, being overhydrated can be just as dangerous as lacking proper hydration. When we consume too much water, we can suffer from a condition known as hyponatremia (water intoxication) which causes our cells to flood. An imbalance of sodium in the bloodstream can cause mild problems like headaches and muscle spasms. However, more severe symptoms of being overhydrated include seizures and even death.
Causes of overhydration
The simplest cause of being overhydrated is drinking more than your kidneys can handle. Most people think that this is the only reason for overhydration, but it’s actually a bit more complex than that.
You see, the main cause behind overhydration has more to do with water retention or a lack of ways to expel water from the body. People suffering from conditions that limit their ability to excrete water are at a higher risk of suffering from overhydration. The weather also plays a role in how hydrated or overly hydrated we can become. When it’s abnormally hot or cold outside, our bodies will beg for us to consume more water.
How much water do I really need?
There’s really no “right” amount of water that everybody in the world needs to drink. Some doctors recommend around 15 cups daily for men and 12 cups for women, while others would argue that it’s significantly more. Like sugar and meat, the poison is in the dosage and not the food items themselves. It’s all relative based on your way of life.
Staying physically active is a great way to get rid of excess water in our bodies. If you live in the gym, you could probably literally drink a gallon of water every hour and not suffer from overhydration. Athletes should really let thirst guide them on how much water to drink. When we exercise, we get rid of water by sweating and panting. That, and also going to the bathroom regularly.
So what if you don’t exercise but rather stay in front of the computer all day typing away? We’re not judging here, but if you choose this sort of lifestyle then your body needs less water to keep it optimally hydrated. 7 or 8 glasses of water a day should be sufficient to keep your muscles and brain hydrated and functioning normally.
How to treat overhydration
Unless you have a serious addiction to water, treating overhydration can be quite simple. The first thing you need to do is evaluate whether you’re drinking far too much. If you are, then cut your water intake to about four cups a day.
More serious cases of overhydration will require a visit to the doctor’s office. More often than not, if they feel that your case requires medicinal treatment, you’ll be prescribed diuretics which will cause you to urinate more.
In the most serious instances where visible swelling is found in the limbs and lungs, you may need to spend a few nights at the hospital. A serious imbalance of electrolytes can lead to death if left untreated.
So in conclusion…
Yes, it is possible to drink too much water, and being overhydrated is just as dangerous as dehydration. Both of these conditions create an imbalance of sodium and electrolytes which is never good. In many cases of overhydration, cutting back on water consumption or going to the bathroom more often can be quick fixes, but in serious cases of overhydration, you may require professional care.