How is it possible to drink too much water?
Dietitians constantly remind us that drinking enough water is absolutely vital in order for our bodies to function properly. And it is – unless you drink too much of it. Though most people look out for the signs of dehydration, over-hydration is equally as dangerous. Drinking too much water can result in water intoxication, also known as hyponatremia, causing the inside of cells to flood due to abnormally low sodium levels in your bloodstream. In severe cases, water intoxication can lead to debilitating health problems such as seizures, coma and even death.
You constantly have a water bottle in hand
If you carry around your water bottle all day and immediately refill it when it depletes, you may be drinking too much water. Constantly adding water to your body can result in low sodium levels in your blood, which can cause all of the cells in your body to swell. According to exercise professor Tamara Hew-Butler, this can become particularly dangerous when your brain starts to swell. “Your brain can only swell about 8-10% before it reaches the skull and it pushes your brain stem out,” says Hew-Butler.
You drink water even when you’re not thirsty
The best way to know if your body really needs more water is to be consciously aware of whether or not you actually feel thirsty. “Our bodies are so programmed to fight against dehydration because we’ve always been living in fear of scarcity or not having enough, so we have all of these built-in mechanisms to protect us against that,” Hew-Butler says. “One of these mechanisms that all animals have is thirst. Thirst is every body’s individual monitor that lets them know if they need more. The more water you need, the thirstier you get.”