How Drinking Too Much Water Can Hurt Your Body

06/22/2017 06:39 am ET Updated Jun 26, 2017

Drinking water is vital for your body to function properly. Various doctors have advised that you consume six to eight glasses of water every day and there have been several warnings on the harmful effects of becoming dehydrated. But too much of any good thing could become potentially dangerous. Recent studies have shown that ‘overhydration’ is just as harmful as dehydration. Excessive water intake has been shown to be damaging to several organs in the body and could even lead to death. Here are some of the dangerous effects of a water overdose.

1. Kidney Damage

The kidney helps to sift excess waste and water out of the blood. But drinking excessive water will cause your blood to become diluted and your kidney needs to function overtime to stabilize the body system.

There is also a condition called hyponatremia which occurs when the kidney is unable to maintain the proper sodium balance in the body because the blood is overly diluted from the consumption of excessive amounts of water. The symptoms of this condition are nausea, fatigue, excessive vomiting and frequent urination.

With a water overdose, the cells in the body swell by absorbing more water to help relieve the burden of the kidney in waste management and filtration.

2. Brain Damage

Research has shown that adequate amount of water in the brain can help focus and memory. But too much water can have a much adverse effect on your brain. With the cells in the body swelling when there is excessive water, the brain cells do not possess the capacity to swell because they are packed and fitted inside the rigid skull with little or no room for expansion.

By M. Amin Arnaout, chief of nephrology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, “Rapid and severe hyponatremia causes entry of water into brain cells leading to brain swelling, which manifests as seizures, coma, respiratory arrest, brainstem herniation and death”

3. Muscle and Circulatory Damage

A healthy electrolyte level is important to normal body functioning and muscle performance. However, drinking too much water can cause your electrolyte level to drop which could lead to muscle spasms and cramping.

Your blood vessels could also become worn out from absorbing excess fluid and the blood has to work overtime to ensure the cells are getting the adequate amount of sodium needed irrespective of the dilution.

4. Skin Damage

Water does great things for your skin and can help prevent the skin from looking dry, flaky and wrinkled. Your skin pays the price from the poor circulation caused by severe dehydration. But consumption of an unhealthy volume of water could leave your skin in an even worst state. Where you have hyponatremia (which causes your cells to swell), there could be discoloration and swelling on your hands, feet and lips. Your skin begins to swell visibly and could cause weight gain from the water overdose in the bloodstream.

Your skin will also not benefit from not getting adequate rest and sleep with the frequent urination during the night. The skin might begin to look fatigued and worn-out.

Generally, drinking over 3 liters of water daily could be the start of overhydration depending on your body mass. So if you are urinating excessively and your urine is clear it could be a sign that you are drinking too much water. Be observant of your body’s reaction to the quantity of water being consumed daily.

For a healthy alternative, try replacing a part of your water intake with coconut water which is a natural substitute. Increased water intake should only occur in cases of pregnancy, strenuous exercising, high altitudes or when recovering from a fever to prevent dehydration.

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