Overhydration – The Risks It Holds

Water is important for all living things to lead a healthy life. There are many health benefits of consuming water. Few being, it helps carry nutrients in our body, proper digestion, weight loss and prevents dehydration. But did you know drinking too much water could be harmful to your health? Too much water is a bigger threat than too little. Drinking too much water can lead to Overhydration/Water intoxication. Confusion, nausea, vomiting, headache, and disorientation are some of the symptoms of water intoxication. Severe cases of water intoxication can lead to coma and death.

Water intoxication can also lead to hyponatremia and impaired brain functions. Hyponatremia is characterized by electrolyte imbalance or low sodium concentration in blood. Sodium levels decrease below 135mEq/L blood serum. Sodium helps in cell signaling and various other functions in the body. Due to a drop in the levels of sodium one starts feeling nauseous, disoriented and in some cases, they experience a headache. And as mentioned earlier in severe cases water intoxication can lead to death. The swelling of the cells is also caused by water intoxication. When sodium levels are lower in the body, water enters the cells through the semipermeable membrane through osmosis. The swelling of the cells, including brain cells, causes serious damage to the muscle tissue, organs, and the brain.

When one is overhydrated will experience diarrhea and prolonged sweating. A decrease in potassium ions called hypokalemia can also be detected in patients having water intoxication. When one drinks too much water, the balance between intracellular and extracellular potassium ions is hampered. Low sodium in the blood can cause the brain to swell up.  It also overburdens the heart. Water intoxication can lead to heart failure in patients undergoing dialysis. Too much water increases the volume of blood inside the body. This exerts unnecessary pressure on the blood vessels and the heart. It might also lead to seizures sometimes.

Overhydration can also cause Acute Kidney Injury (AKI). It also lowers plasma levels of arginine vasopressin that helps in preventing the kidney to function. Maintaining homeostasis would become very difficult if the fluid level is too high. Liver problems, frequent urination, chlorine overdose, potential risk of coma are some of the other complications that might arise from water intoxication.

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the daily fluid intake varies and depends on the person’s age, sex, medical conditions and daily activity. The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine recommends women to drink 2.7 litres and men to drink 3.7 litres of water on a daily basis.

In order to treat water intoxication or overhydration, one should immediately stop drinking too much water, seek medical attention and stop any medication that is causing water retention in the body. The patient might be given diuretics and administer sodium to bring back the balance in the body fluids.

Water is good for our well-being as long as we do not drink too much. Too much and too little water is bad for our health. So, it is right to consume just enough water required. If you feel nauseous after drinking water, seek medical attention immediately.

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