Can drinking too much water be bad for you?

We’ve all heard the saying: “too much of a good thing…” but how much is too much water and is that bad for you?

Water is life and about half of your body consists of water. Water does many important functions in the body. It forms a large component of our blood, urine, sweat, and stomach juices. Our brains are mostly made of water. In addition, fat and all nerve impulses travel with the help of water.

We lose water on a daily basis

Our bodies lose water every day through normal bodily functions like sweating, breathing and urinating. When you exercise, you sweat more and breathe harder. Believe it or not, you can lose up to a litre of water during an hour of running! We lose even more water when things go wrong in the body, like when we have a fever, or during a bout of diarrhoea or vomiting.

Our bodies tell us when we need to replenish our water supply by creating thirst. However, sometimes we do our bodies a disservice by drinking fluids that are not necessarily the best option to rehydrate, like: coffee, cola and other fizzy cold drinks.

If we vomit or have diarrhoea we cannot just take in water alone to replenish the fluids we have lost. We also need to put back the electrolytes and glucose. The easiest way to do this at home is to take a glass of clean, safe water and then add a teaspoon of sugar to it and a pinch of salt. Mix well and take small sips of this mixture over an extended period of time. You can also make this drink when you’ve run out of sports drinks (like Energade or Powerade) during or after an exercise session. Flavour it with sugar-free flavouring or add some lemon juice.

Our bodies regulate water levels

Our bodies are cleverer than we think that they are and they try to keep the water levels balanced as much as possible. However, they can only get rid of extra water at a certain pace. If you take in more water than your body can excrete through urine, it will try to get rid of it another way by inducing vomiting. If that doesn’t work your body will swell up as it tries to divert the water out of your blood and into cells to keep you alive. Therefore, drinking too much water can be life-threatening, especially if you already have a compromised heart or kidneys.

Drinking too many energy drinks that contain caffeine can also be harmful since caffeine retains water and increases your heartbeat, which then raises your blood pressure. Energy drinks may contain other stimulants as well, like guarana, which can aggravate heart palpitations. Drinking too many energy drinks can damage your kidneys since they cannot get rid of all the additives fast enough.

The general rule is to drink approximately 2 litres of water or fluids a day, which is about the same as 8 glasses of water. Try to make the source of water mainly normal filtered or tap water, with rooibos or herbal tea as a close second. Try and avoid cola drinks or other caffeinated beverages like coffee or energy drinks as these could end up dehydrating you badly.

Maintaining good nutrition is an incredibly important part of maintaining good health which is why it’s essential to be clued up on good nutritional principles.

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