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What happens to your body when you drink too much water?

Water Intoxication

We all know how important it is to keep our bodies hydrated. Water makes up 50-80% of our body weight. Every cell, tissue and organ in our body relies on water to function. A recent blog discussed the importance of drinking enough water and even some great apps to track this. However, there is such a thing as drinking too much water…

Experts call this condition water intoxication.

So how much is too much?

The ideal amount of filtered water

Most experts claim that the ideal amount of filtered water we should drink every day is eight glasses. Of course, the amount of water required differs between individuals. It depends on such things as age, medical conditions and occupation. Athletes and those doing manual labour need extra water to maintain proper hydration.

You may already know the feeling of dehydration… dry mouth, headaches, foggy head and feeling dizzy. These are good signs that you need to pick up that drink bottle.

Our two kidneys are the organs that extract fluids and waste products from our body. On average, our kidneys can filter and process 200 litres of fluid every 24 hours. Drinking more fluid than the kidneys can process may lead to water intoxication.

The signs of water intoxication

The signs of water intoxication

Drinking too much water increases the amount of water in the blood. This water can dilute the electrolytes in your blood, especially sodium. When sodium levels drop, fluid shifts from outside to inside the cells, causing them to swell. If this happens in the brain, it can be life threatening.

Here are some signs that you have consumed too much water:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Severe cases can produce symptoms such as:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Confusion
  • Double vision
  • Drowsiness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Muscle weakness and cramping
  • Inability to identify sensory information

Who is at risk?

Who suffers from water intoxication

Anyone can suffer from water intoxication. However, it is more common amongst some people than others. Those most at risk include endurance athletes, cyclists, hikers, triathletes, rugby players and military personnel.

Water fasting is a type of diet that restricts everything you consume except water. It has become more popular in recent years as a quick way to lose weight. Even though you are drinking only water, it can actually cause dehydration, not water intoxication. In severe cases it causes a condition called orthostatic hypotension.

The best way to track if you are drinking the right amount of water every day is through an app on your phone. Our recent blog reviewed the best four apps to track your water consumption.

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