Have You Heard of Water Intoxication? Drinking Too Much Water Has its Downsides!

Eating And Drinking Water

By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder

There are six types of nutrients that our bodies need to survive. They are carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals and water. We have provided a wealth of information about minerals, because they appear to be the least discussed nutrients. But today, we are going to talk about water.

Our bodies are made up of more than 50 percent water. Water is essential for life (all cells and organs need water to function properly) and, of course, preventing dehydration. Some people also swear by drinking a gallon of water daily for better digestion, maintaining a healthy weight and a clearer complexion. Many celebrities, including the ageless Beyoncé, reportedly drink a gallon of water a day and say it is one of the best defenses against aging.

Although I’m still skeptical that water is the fountain of youth, drinking water is obviously necessary and good for you. You can read here to determine how much water you really need.

However, as always, too much of a good thing can be bad!

Drinking too much water (and in a short period of time) may cause water intoxication (also called water poisoning) and overhydration.

Too much water may dilute the electrolytes in the blood, especially sodium. Abnormally low sodium concentration, below 136 mEq/L, is referred to as hyponatremia. Sodium is an electrolyte, which helps regulate the amount of water that's in and around your cells. When sodium levels are low because of too much water, fluids may shift from outside the cells to the inside, causing them to swell. This swelling can cause many health problems, from mild to life-threatening.

As you can imagine, once your brain cells start to swell that’s when you have entered very dangerous territory. This could lead to seizures, brain damage, coma and even death, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

You have to drink a lot of water, usually in a short period of time, to get water poisoning. It is not likely you will get it just by drinking water like you normally do.

However, if you are an endurance athlete that drinks a lot of water, be aware of your intake. According to the NIH, when it comes to endurance athletes, “the morbidity and mortality from abnormally low sodium concentration has been well reported in the medical literature. While the mild form may be asymptomatic, severe hyponatraemia causes confusion, seizures and death. In contrast, there does not appear to be a single report of the death of an athlete in which dehydration was the clear cause.”

We are usually very concerned about dehydration and athletes, when we should also be concerned about hyponatremia.

Water is an interesting topic, because it brings light to the mineral sodium. Sodium is often viewed as something you should avoid. Although it is important to watch your sodium intake, especially with all of the processed foods available today, sodium is still essential for your health.

Every human action -- eating, thinking, running, working -- depends on adequate sodium. Sodium exists in a delicate balance with water and potassium. Healthy sodium/potassium and sodium/water balances mean a healthy body, functioning efficiently and effectively. It’s not a coincidence that sodium and potassium are the main “electrolytes” that healthcare medical professionals make you aware of while running or when you have a stomach virus. As you can see, imbalances can cause symptoms ranging from mild fatigue to death.

Our bodies are all about balance. We cannot look at water and other essential nutrients as separate entities. We need each of these nutrients in the right amount, and they all work together to keep us healthy.   

Think of it this way: you need all of your ingredients to bake a delicious batch of cookies, but you may not want to add more salt than the recipe calls for. The cookies may be too salty and not as tasty. Similarly, our bodies need the correct amount of “ingredients” (water, vitamins, proteins, carbohydrates, fats and minerals) in order to be at their healthiest state. To achieve optimal health, it is important to ensure these nutrients are balanced. Nutritional testing can accurately measure the amount of protein, minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates and fats in your body. You can measure the water inside and outside your cells using an InBody Machine.

Enjoy your healthy life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.

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