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Can You Drink Too Much Water?

Health & Wellness
Last Updated Sep 11, 2020

We've all heard the advice to drink at least eight glasses of water a day – after all the body is made up of between 55% and 70% percent water.

We need water to moisturise the skin, help eliminate toxins, regulate body temperature, carry nutrients to cells, help move blood around the body, keep mucous membranes – the lining of the lungs and the nose for example – moist, among a host of other functions. Our bodies need water to maintain the health of every single cell. 

The majority of adults can lose up to 2.5 to 3 litres of water a day, so it is important to replenish it, as the body can't store water. Most people need about two litres of water a day, and possibly more on a really hot day or if you are exercising a lot. The rule here is to balance what you drink with how much you sweat. You get a lot of your body's water needs simply from the foods you eat though. All food, even dry-looking food, has a certain amount of water, but there are foods that are water-rich, such as lettuce, cucumber or fruits.

Too Much of a Good Thing

But can you drink too much water? In fact, you can. Drinking excessive amounts of water can cause hyponatremia, or water intoxication, a potentially fatal condition. The word has Latin and Greek roots and literally means insufficient salt in the blood.

You may have heard stories about club or festival-goers falling ill after consuming illegal drugs – in a recent high-profile case, someone tragically died after drinking too much water in an attempt to replace lost fluids. The trouble is, if you are intoxicated, your reasoning is compromised.

If you drink too much water, you dilute the levels of sodium in the body. The excess water can enter the cells in the brain, causing the brain to swell. This causes lethargy at first, blurred vision, headaches, then may lead to unconsciousness, coma and possibly death. At the first sign of early symptoms, get immediate medical attention to replace the sodium.

Dehydration, though, is probably more common than having too much water. This can be remedied quickly and easily by getting fluids into your body, but if severely dehydrated, seek medical attention.

The Natural Thirst Quencher

Water is the best thing to quench your thirst – sugary soft drinks just don't cut it, and nor do diet soft drinks. They may even make you thirstier and have you reaching for more soft drink – the very thing you don't need. And one of the great things about water is it's free! And you don't need to buy expensive bottled water – think of all those plastic bottles going in landfill. Fill up your reusable stainless steel or BPA-free bottle straight from the tap and away you go. Better still, use a water filter and fill up your bottles using that.

Be careful though if you feel excessively thirsty – this could indicate an underlying medical condition, such as diabetes. If you feel excessively thirsty for no apparent reason, it's always best to get checked out by a medical professional.

There is a saying that goes "Water is the only drink for the wise man". But as with everything in life, moderation is the key.

Originally published on Feb 04, 2011

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills… There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind… So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself. — MARCUS AURELIUS