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Drinking too much water is not healthy

Updated on October 28, 2010

Water and living a healthy life

Hyponatremia can make you lose your head.
Hyponatremia can make you lose your head.

Too much fluid. Is it dangerous?

I spend pretty much of my time these days trying to maintain my weight or lose a few extra pounds so as not to have the burden of shifting a middle age spread.

To be able to do this i run and exercise several times a week, but this is not always enough to keep the extra baggage away. Unlike many others the summer for me is a difficult time to diet.

I love lazing in the sun and eating ice cream. Champaigne and wines are also that bit more pallitable so the fall brings with it a new round of dieting and fitness workouts to get back into my long winter trousers.

To my horror , this summer i had gone up more than seven kilo's which in British terms is over a stone in weight. I was quite sure that my scales were broken it just couldn't be possible.

After picking them up, inspecting under them and then finally throwing them at the wall i realised that they were completely right.

I joined a great website called weightlossresources (wlr) to give me a kick start and an opportunity to log my food intake.  I thought that counting calories would be much better to control the food intake.

After 3 weeks on my diet i was beginning to feel moody tired and just generally not good.

I had started running more than normal and that was going well but this general feeling of not being able to concentrate and being grumpy was getting me down. In addition, i weighed myself at the end of a long hard week and saw that i had only shifted like half a kilo. I was gobsmacked and really annoyed at this.

When i looked over my food diary i could see quite clearly that my food intake was low and my fluid intake was high. It didn't really hit me that this could be a problem.  Not until i posted on the website that i drank 6 litres of water each day. ( I was so out of it that morning that i maintained that i drank 6l in addition to my fluid diet) That was wrong but in total daily fluid intake it was correct.

Shortly afterwards the comments started to come in. Most being concerned about my excessive drinking habits!!

I knew through my workt the dangers of water intoxication so how could i do this to myself?

Here i was drinking more fluid than i was ever used to while reducing calories and salt.

I really believe that i was causing some kind of toxic attack on my body.

Therefore i decided to research more into this and write about it.

If anyone else can avoid going into this uncomfortable mode when dieting just by reading this then i will have done something good by sharing my experience.

So the answer to the above question is Absolutely 100% YES! to that question. Too much water is dangerous and i will continue to explain as best i can why.


Although water is essential for the body in excess amounts it can lead to a condition called hyponatremia. This is when the bodies sodium levels are so diluted and washed out that they are no longer at a healthy level. The body needs sodium to function properly.

This is a condition which is even more dangerous in small infants who don't have much salt in their diet and should be avoided at all costs.

Many athletes suffer from hyponatremia at some time in their career especially when running in long distance races like marathons. When an athlete sweats alot and drinks to compensate for the thirst he has to compensate with drinks that include both water and electrolytes. Should the athlete only drink normal water, the already depleted sodium levels would be even more diluted and a number of problems could arise. The event of water intoxication starts and the runner more than likely will collapse and even end up in the hospital emergency unit.

What happens when the body is being intoxicated by water?

Water enters into the cells of the body and the cell immediately swells up. Cells have a specific concentration gradient which is regulated by several mechanisms, one of course being the amount of sodium. When we drink too much water the water cannot get into the cell so it stays on the outside in the serum. Not only does it swim around there it wants it's share of sodium and it draws it from the nearby cell. The cell and the serum need to be in harmony. The result being shared diluted sodium. The more water the more diluted the sodium becomes.

The water is transported in and out of the cell by a process called osmosis.

In normal circumstances the inside of the cell will contain more elecrolytes than the outside. This is why osmosis pulls the water into the cell. When the water is in excess and the cell is full the electrolytes then start to pass out of the cell into the serum fluid to balance the concentration.

When the concentration inside of the cell becomes too low all sorts of havoc starts.

The heartbeat becomes irregular, fluid can enter into the lungs. Swelling from the many swollen cells can put pressure onto the brain and other nerve tissues. The person can become quite strange and easily be mistaken for being drunk.

If the brain tissue swells too much seizures can be a reality. For the not so lucky, coma and death can be a reality.

The worst thing you can do at this point ( when acting unclear )  is to offer the victim a drink of water. The fluid intake has to stop immediately and a hypertronic saline solution is administered intravenously )

If treatment is started before any damage to the brain has occurred then the patient can recover with no permenant damage within a few days.

How much water is too much water?

The kidneys are the organ which deals with too much water intake as you know. Too much means many visits to the wee room.

However, the kidneys , if not already damaged for some reason, can process up to 15 liters of water each day. This means that you can drink alot of water before you become intoxicated.

The problem arises if you drink too much at any one given time.

You can drink several liters each day if you pace yourself.

Drink 15 liters in a oner and you are a goner.

It comes down to how much you drink at any one given time..

Therefore you must never have a competition to see who can drink the most water. It could have fatal consequences for the winner who stubbornly plods on to win.

As for me on a diet with reduced sodium and solids in general. I don't think i will collapse of water intoxication, but i certainly need more calories to function at a normal and healthy level.


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    • Dr Ken Romeo profile image

      Dr Ken Romeo 6 years ago

      This is a topic that most people don't realize is important. You did a wonderful job with it.

      Too much of anything is usually bad and water is no exception.


    • dablufox profile image

      dablufox 6 years ago from Australia

      This is amazing stuff, i actually watch a documentary about people dying in Papua New Guinea walking the Kakoda trail and doctors and scientists were at a loss as too why people were literally dropping dead.

      It turned out they were drinking to much water and diluting the salt content in their blood way too much.

      The sad thing is that when someone dropped to the jungle floor, their mates quickly assumed dehydration and promptly gave them more water to drink, effectively killing them.

      Very sad, but know I think they have wised up the the phenomenal and people that walk the trail are educated on the risks of drinking too much water and I think walkers are given special salt tablets now before they start their trek.

    • Aisla profile image

      Carolyn Mikkelsen 6 years ago from Norway

      I have never heard this but what a story. You should write about that one Fox!

    • lightning john profile image

      lightning john 6 years ago from Florida

      I read once that if you drink 3 gallons of water in one hours time that it will be fatal. Thanks for writing this.


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