Is it dangerous to drink too much water?

Is it dangerous to drink too much water?

Can you die from drinking too much water?

Although very rare, drinking too much water can cause water intoxication, also known as Hyponatremia, which can be fatal if not properly treated. 

What is Hyponatremia?

Hyponatremia is a condition which can occur as a result of drinking too much water which causes an imbalance of sodium levels in the body. Sodium is an electrolyte which the body requires in order to regulate water levels in our blood and cells however if the concentration of sodium in your blood becomes significantly low, such as when diluted with water, your cells will begin to swell which can lead to various health risks.

The condition can be relatively mild, causing headaches, fatigue, irritability and muscle weakness, and can be treated by eating salty, sodium-rich foods or limiting water intake. However, symptoms can become more severe if brain cells start to swell, resulting in nausea and vomiting, confusion, seizures or loss of consciousness, which can be life-threatening.

If you’re experiencing these symptoms or think you may have severe Hyponatremia, please seek emergency medical assistance.

How much water would you have to drink to die?

When it comes to drinking too much water, there is no one size fits all. There are various factors that affect water poisoning, such as age, gender or existing health conditions.

On average, the kidneys can flush out 1 liter of water each hour which means if you’re drinking much more than that, your kidneys will have a hard time keeping up, eventually causing water intoxication. 

Always try to stick to the daily recommended water intake, approximately 2 liters, and drink regularly throughout the day. 

How does water overdose happen?

Water overdose can happen to anyone however it’s more common among endurance sports athletes since it is not just caused by overconsumption of water but significant loss of electrolytes. During strenuous exercise, you lose fluids and lots of electrolytes through sweat, however the body releases a hormone called Vasopressin which helps retain as much water as possible, meaning that you’re losing more electrolytes than water.

Therefore, if you only drink water to rehydrate you’ll be adding to the dilution of electrolytes, like Sodium, which leads to water overdose, or Hyponatremia. 

When it comes to sports drinks, most are isotonic, which means it takes longer to rehydrate, so you are more likely to drink more to compensate during an endurance event, which can increase your risk of water poisoning. 

Interestingly, carbohydrate-rich sports drinks can also cause dehydration via reverse osmosis. If the sugar content of the water outside of the cell is high, water and electrolytes from inside the cells will move outside to even out the sugar levels, which reduces cell function. 

We recommend choosing a low sugar electrolyte alternative or oral rehydration solution in order to replenish sodium levels and keep your body healthy, hydrated and prevent damage to your cells.

SOS is a medically formulated electrolyte drink, designed to provide you with instant hydration while replenishing your levels of sodium, potassium, zinc, magnesium and many more important electrolytes and nutrients. SOS has the best osmolarity rating on the market, meaning it is one of the most hypotonic and effective at boosting the absorption of fluids and rehydrating the body quickly. SOS contains 3x less sugar than most brands and can be used as part of your daily routine or for high-intensity training periods.

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References:

Dugas, J. “Sodium ingestion and hyponatraemia: sports drinks do not prevent a fall in serum sodium concentration during exercise.” British journal of sports medicine vol. 40,4 (2006): 372. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2577547/> [Accessed 14/07/20]

Farrell, D J, and L Bower. “Fatal water intoxication.” Journal of clinical pathology vol. 56,10 (2003): 803-4. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1770067/> [Accessed 07/07/2020]

Gunnars, Kris, “How Much Water Should You Drink Per Day?”, Healthline, 21/04/2020 <https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-much-water-should-you-drink-per-day> [Accessed 07/07/2020]

“Hyponatremia”, Mayo Clinic, 23/05/2020 <https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hyponatremia/symptoms-causes/syc-20373711> [Accessed 07/07/2020]

Mandal, Ananya. “Hyponatremia Treatment”, News Medical, 26/02/2019 <https://www.news-medical.net/health/Hyponatremia-Treatment.aspx> [Accessed 14/07/20]

Whitfield, Angus H N. “Too much of a good thing? The danger of water intoxication in endurance sports.” The British journal of general practice : the journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners vol. 56,528 (2006): 542-5. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1872071/> [Accessed 07/07/2020]

Yoshio Takei, Hironori Ando, Kazuyoshi Tsutsui, Handbook of Hormones, Academic Press, (2016): 9. <https://www.sciencedirect.com/book/9780128010280/handbook-of-hormones> [Accessed 07/07/2020]