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Overhydration and Hyponatremia: What You Need to Know

You’ve surely been told at least once in your life to drink more water or drink enough water. And rightly so, because drinking enough water is extremely important for your health. Drinking 2-3 liters of water a day helps your body function optimally, and is an absolute necessity for good health. A lot of health issues can stem from not drinking enough water. But has anyone ever told you to drink less water? Probably not!

Water makes up 70% of our body and is vital for various bodily functions. It’s what keeps you looking fresh everyday, and keeps your skin clear, hair strong, and your gut healthy. Without water, our body struggles to function normally, and we may suffer various issues, like headaches in the short term to kidney stones in the long term.

And the best part about water is that it is calorie-free so you’d assume that you don’t have to limit how much of it you have. But that is false, because too much of a good thing can also be harmful.

What Happens if You Drink More Than Your Necessary 2 or 3 Litres a Day?

Your brain can sense the levels of hydration of your body, but it cannot fully sense when your body is overhydrated. This could be due to a defect, or simply the way we are wired.

What happens due to overhydration? According to a recent report, overhydration results in brain swelling and a condition called ‘hyponatremia,’ which is a serious drop in the levels of sodium in your blood.

How can you be overhydrated?

The problem is not simply that you had too much water. It is also that by drinking that much water, there is a fall in your sodium concentration. Sodium is an electrolyte, and it regulates the amount of water that surrounds your cells, so when the levels of sodium drop, your cells begin to swell, and this involves the brain region in more serious cases.

This sodium imbalance can occur due to

- An underlying medical condition that causes water retention

- Drinking too much water without replenishing electrolytes

- Some medications and drugs can also lead to sodium imbalance

- Diarrhea or severe vomiting can lead to electrolyte loss

- Symptoms of Hyponatremia

- Hyponatremia can have a range of symptoms, both mild and serious:

- Headaches

- Nausea and vomiting

- Tiredness

- Muscle cramps, spasms and weakness

- Swelling of cells in the body, including brain cells

- In more serious cases, seizures and comas may also be observed

Prevention

- During very demanding and long exercise sessions, it is good to consider drinking sports beverages to replace the salt you lose during your workout. Athletes performing in triathlons or other intense and gruelling activities tend to drink a lot of water without replacing salt, and this can lead to dizziness, vomiting, and cramps to seizures and comas in serious cases.

- Water is very important for your body, but don’t drink too much more than the recommended 2-3 liters a day.

- If you have illnesses or conditions that lead to hyponatremia, like certain kidney and liver conditions, getting treated for these conditions is important.

But don’t let this reduce your water intake. Make sure you drink 2-3 liters of water a day and up this intake slightly if you exercise or spend time in the sun. Be mindful, drinking water when you feel the need for it, and avoid drinking too much water.

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