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Can You Drink Too Much Water?

Can you drink too much water? Well, the simple answer is yes, and it could lead to a potentially life-threatening condition called hyponatremia.

Although drinking enough water is vital for maintaining our bodies daily functions, and HealthLine notes that recommended amount according to The Institute of Medicine's established guidelines is 78–100 ounces (about 9­–13 cups) of fluids per day, on average, but that water intake varies depending on a number of factors including age, weight, weather, and activity level. But drinking in excess of this could lead to water intoxication or hyponatremia (according to Medical News Daily, when “sodium levels fall below 135 mmol/L” it’s called hyponatremia).

The condition, according to Reader’s Digest, causes the blood cells to flood and swell because of the low sodium content in the bloodstream, and while death is not a guaranteed outcome, in severe cases it could cause coma or lead to death. Who is at risk to it? According to Healthline, the individuals most at risk for low sodium in the blood would be high-performance athletes, the elderly, people who have a low sodium diet, live in a warm climate, take anti-depressants or diuretics, or those having heart failure or kidney failure.

One of the reasons hyponatremia can be so dangerous is because the brain can start to swell, something which exercise science professor at Oakland University, Tamara Hew-Butler, DPM, Ph.D., spoke to Reader’s Digest about. She said, “Your brain can only swell about 8 to 10 percent before it reaches the skull and it pushes your brain stem out.”

So, how can you ensure that you are not drinking too much? According to Dr. Hew-Butler, you should pay close attention to whether your body is actually thirsty, as she explains: “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. 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.”

[Image via Shutterstock]

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