Can Drinking Too Much Water Be Dangerous to Your Health?

People do things they know are bad for them all of the time. They smoke cigarettes, eat fatty foods, drink too much alcohol. The list goes on and on. But there’s one thing on the list of “Stuff That’s Bad for You” that a lot of people don’t know about.

Drinking too much water.

It’s been drilled into our heads, by everyone from medical experts to our mothers, that we need to drink 8 full glasses of water every day. And it’s true that drinking plenty of water has many health benefits.

But drinking too much water too fast can cause a potentially life-threatening condition sometimes referred to as water poisoning.

The Story of Jennifer Strange

Probably the most well-known case of water poisoning involved a California woman named Jennifer Strange. She participated in a radio contest that, though outrageous, seemed harmless enough. The participant who could drink the most water without going to the bathroom would win a gaming system.

Mrs. Strange had to pull out of the contest early when, after drinking several bottles of water in a very short period of time, she started to feel sick. Later, she was found dead in her home. And, according to autopsy reports, the cause of death was water intoxication.

What Too Much Water Can Do To Your Body

Drinking too much water too fast can cause an electrolyte imbalance. How important are electrolytes? Without them, some of your bodily functions just won’t work properly. And an electrolyte imbalance can lead to a condition known as hyponatremia. Without proper treatment, hyponatremia can very quickly lead to coma and, eventually, death.

Spot the Signs of Water Intoxication

The symptoms of water intoxication are pretty easy to spot. Someone who drinks too much water too fast might experience headaches, nausea, and muscle weakness. They might even vomit or experience convulsions.

If you think you’re suffering from water intoxication, you need to seek medical help immediately. The treatment for this condition usually involves administering fluids that contain electrolytes, often via IV.

The good news is that if you receive the proper treatment in time, you can fully recover from water intoxication.

Preventing Water Poisoning

So what can you do to prevent water intoxication?

For one, don’t drink too much water too fast. You can’t stop drinking water altogether, because your body does need it to stay healthy. But drinking 2 or 3 bottles of water back to back probably isn’t a good idea. Instead, spread your water drinking out over the course of the day. You can drink a bottle of water in the morning, a bottle at lunch, another bottle on the way home from work, and so on. You’ll still get the benefits of drinking plenty of water. But you’ll be doing it in a way that won’t threaten your health.

What if you’ve just had a strenuous workout and, despite drinking a bottle of water, you still feel dehydrated? Instead of drinking more water, drink a sports drink. Not only do sports drinks help to rehydrate you, they will also replace the electrolytes your body probably lost while you were exercising.

While water intoxication isn’t as common as the cold, it’s still something more people need to be aware of. Once you know what water intoxication is, and what can cause it, it’s easy to take steps to prevent it.

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