These are the signs that you’re drinking too much water

Worries about your water intake are usually centred on the idea that you’re not drinking enough – but now a number of new reports are calling for awareness of the fact that drinking too much water is also a distinct possibility.

Recently, news site Business Insider released a video detailing exactly what happens to your body when you’re drinking too much for your kidneys to handle, and the results are concerning to say the least.

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Excessive urination aside, exceeding the usual allowance can leave you with cramps, fatigue, swelling, headaches and nausea. And in extreme cases, drinking too much water can lead to water intoxication, which can be fatal.

So, to figure out how much is too much, and identify the signs that something’s not right, we asked Dr Clare Morrison of online doctor and pharmacy service MedExpress to break down the fact about your daily drinking habits, so you can hydrate without fear.

Why is drinking too much water bad for you?

‘Drinking too much water can cause water intoxication, which can be potentially fatal as it causes a disturbance in the brain functions that results when the normal balance of electrolytes in the body is pushed outside by excessive water intake,’ says Dr Morrison.

‘Swelling inside the brain is serious and needs to be treated immediately. Furthermore, drinking an extreme amount of water in a short time can be the most detrimental for your health, as it can cause the level of salt in your blood to drop dangerously low.’

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How much is too much water?

The right amount of water varies from person to person, but the main risk factors arise when you drink a lot, very fast.

‘You are more at risk of developing water intoxication if you drink a lot of water in a short period of time,’ Dr Morrison explains. ‘The kidneys are capable of excreting up to 28 litres of fluid per day, however, they cannot excrete more than 1 litre per hour, so drinking more than this is not advised.

‘It is also dependant on the person, for example a child is more likely to develop water intoxication than an adult if they are drinking the same amount over the same period of time. 2-3 litres of water consumed throughout the day is recommended as a healthy amount.’

You should also note that the NHS says we also get some fluid from the food we eat – think water-rich fruit and vegetables such as cucumber, watermelon, tomatoes and celery.

What are the symptoms of drinking too much water?

‘When the brain cells swell, pressure inside the skull increases, this pressure causes the first symptoms of water intoxication which will include, nausea, headaches and vomiting,’ Dr Morrison details.

‘More severe cases can produce symptoms which should be addressed more seriously such as double vision, confusion, increased blood pressure, drowsiness, muscles weakness and difficulty breathing.’

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Can drinking too much water be a symptom of a bigger medical issue?

‘Excessive thirst that cannot be quenched easily could be symptoms of serious medical conditions, such as dehydration which happens when you lack the appropriate amount of fluids for your body to property function,’ she adds.

‘Dehydration can be caused by sweating, illness, too much urinating, vomiting, or diarrhea. Other underlying conditions due to excessive thirst could be diabetes or kidney problems.’

If you’re concerned about water intoxication or any other health issue, always consult your doctor.