Water is considered the most reliable natural agent that helps cleanse our body. Whenever we suffer from an ailment, intake of water is invariably prescribed as the most effective means of treatment.
But there is also a flip side to drinking water. If you are consuming too much of water, it may lead to water intoxication and it can be potentially fatal. A latest study undertaken in Monash University in Australia has found the ill-effects of over-drinking of water and also identified the mechanism that regulates fluid intake and prevents us from over-drinking.
The study has challenged the idea of drinking eight glasses of water daily and said that the presence of excess fluid in the body makes the brain activate a 'swallowing inhibition' and it is advised to drink whenever one feels thirsty and not as per a timetable.
Water intoxication or hyponatremia:
Excessive drinking of water can lead to water intoxication or hyponatremia which is caused when the vital levels of sodium in the blood become very low, potentially causing lethargy, nausea, convulsions and even coma. It causes a serious disturbance in the brain's functions.
Symptoms of over hydration:
The common symptoms of over hydration include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Effects on mental state
More serious symptoms include:
- Muscle cramps
Diagnosis of over hydration:
Over hydration can be diagnosed through blood and urine tests.
The treatment of this disorder caused by excessive drinking of fluids depends on the severity of the problem. Treatments include:
- Reducing fluid and salt intake
- Natural diuretics to increase urine production. Asparagus, beets, green beans, onions, leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale can be beneficial. Lemon and pineapple are also good natural diuretics.
- Medications as prescribed by the doctor
How to prevent over hydration?
As they say prevention is better than cure, hence we can always be conscious before drinking water:
- Athletes can weigh themselves before and after taking part in a race or a physical activity. This way, they can understand exactly how much water they have lost and can replenish as required.
- Avoid drinking more than one litre of fluid per hour. Drink more fluids before an athletic performance and during it so that you won't have to gulp down a lot afterwards.
- If you have problems with the kidney, heart, etc., talk to your doctor about their treatments so that it doesn't lead to over hydration. Also consult a doctor if you have excess thirst.
Levels of drinking water:
Adults' kidneys can discharge 0.7-1 litre of water in an hour. Hence, it is that amount of water which can be replenished in an hour. A person should not drink more than 1.4 litres of water in an hour, according to US Military Fluid Replacement Guidelines. In that way, a healthy adult who lives on an average diet and usual salt intake can drink up to 11 litres of water a day, if required. But then again, one has to engage in a lot of physical activity to use up that water as well. On the other hand, a healthy adult who eats very little and hence consumes very little salt can drink up to four to five litres of water a day.