Not drowning, just hydrating

We all know drinking plenty of water is good for us, but can you overdose on H2O?

In rare cases, filling up with too much water can be fatal, CSIRO researcher Pennie Taylor says.

“We are more concerned in the clinical settings where somebody might have chronic heart disease, heart failure or renal failure, where they might have a little too much water that their body can’t cope with, which increases their risks of overhydration,” she said.

A condition called hyponatremia occurs when the body retains too much fluid. This dilutes your sodium levels, a mineral which, in the right quantity, is essential for good health.

Some signs of hyponatremia are confusion, disorientation, nausea and vomiting.

For a long time, the consensus for optimal health has been that we should drink eight glasses of water a day. But this measure does not take into account the abundance of water in some of the foods we eat, nor the fact that other beverages, such as coffee and tea, also contribute to our hydration.

According to WebMD, some calculations suggest that 20 per cent of our daily water requirement comes from the fruit and vegetables we consume, such as watermelon, cucumbers, zucchini and tomatoes.

Ms Taylor puts that estimate at 50 per cent, excluding glasses of water consumed.

Determining how much you should sip will also depend on whether you live in a humid place or a hot and dry location, where you are more likely to perspire profusely. If you sweat a lot, then you need to be more mindful of hydration.

As a general rule, Ms Taylor recommends drinking four to six 250ml glasses of water a day, taking into consideration the above factors.

While it is unusual, heavy H2O drinkers do need to be mindful of water intoxication, a recent article in Medical News Today warns.

Kidneys cannot eliminate more than 1L of water an hour, which means the body will retain the excess fluid that can cause hyponatremia.

According to WebMD, a simple way to work out if you are drinking too much water is by observing the colour of your urine. If it is a dark yellow, you are not drinking enough, but if it is very pale or mostly colourless, then it indicates your body may be expelling a large excess of water.

Still unsure if you are getting enough hydration? There are apps that can help you work it out both on Google Play if you own an Android smartphone, or on App Store for iPhone users.

Have you ever felt ill after drinking too much water? How many glasses of water do you drink each day?

Related articles:
Why you need to stay hydrated
Water works fun
30-day water diet

Written by YourLifeChoices Writers

YourLifeChoices' team of writers specialise in content that helps Australian over-50s make better decisions about wealth, health, travel and life. It's all in the name. For 22 years, we've been helping older Australians live their best lives.

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