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9 dangers of drinking too much water

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Water is essential for your life and well-being. But drinking too much of it (overhydration) can lead to water intoxication.

This, in turn, can lead to hyponatremia and impaired brain function. What are the symptoms of water intoxication? Can it be reversed? Read this post to find answers to all these questions. Swipe up!

What is water intoxication?

Water intoxication, also known as overhydration or water poisoning, is a life-threatening condition caused by drinking too much water. It is characterized by electrolyte imbalance or low sodium concentration in blood (less than 135 mEq/L), which is known as hyponatremia.

Symptoms of water intoxication are confusion, nausea, vomiting, headache, and disorientation. Severe cases of water intoxication may also lead to coma or death.

Listed below are 9 side effects of drinking too much water:

1. Causes hyponatremia

Hyponatremia is a decrease in sodium levels below 135 mEq/L blood serum. It happens due to rapid overhydration. Sodium is an important salt that helps in cell signaling and various other functions in the body. So, when your serum sodium levels drop, you start feeling nauseous, disoriented, fatigued, or get a headache. In severe cases, it might also lead to death.

2. Causes the cells to swell up

When the sodium level in your body decreases, water enters the cell through the semipermeable cell membrane through the process of osmosis. This results in swelling up of the cells. The swelling of the body cells (including the brain) causes serious damage to the muscle tissues, organs, and brain.

3. May cause diarrhea

Overhydration may result in severe diarrhea and prolonged sweating. It is caused due to hypokalemia or a decrease in potassium ions. The balance between intracellular and extracellular potassium ions is hampered when you drink too much water. In fact, a mere 1% change in potassium ion distribution can lead to a whopping 50% change in plasma potassium ion concentration (7).

4. Affects the brain

Hyponatremia or low sodium in the blood can cause the brain to swell up. This, in turn, results in speech disability, disorientation, walking instability, psychosis, and even death.

Overhydration may lead to heart failure in people undergoing dialysis. The heart performs the vital function of pumping blood through your entire body. When you consume too much water, it increases the volume of blood inside your body. The increased blood volume exerts unnecessary pressure on the blood vessels and heart. It may also sometimes lead to seizures.

6. Overburdens the kidneys

Overhydration may cause acute kidney injury (AKI). High water intake also lowers plasma levels of arginine vasopressin, which helps preserve kidney function. Consuming too much water can put pressure on your kidneys to function constantly. Your kidneys can filter about a liter of fluid per hour from the body. Beyond that, they need to work extra hard to maintain homeostasis.

7. May cause liver problems

It is important to note that this problem is not caused by merely drinking too much water. Rather, it happens by drinking too much water with iron in it. Iron overload is not exactly detrimental, but in rare cases, it may cause liver-related problems. People with liver cirrhosis are prone to developing hyponatremia.

8. Frequent urination

Frequent urination, say once in every 15 minutes, can be really frustrating, whether you are at home, work, or school. When you drink too much water, your kidneys function constantly. As a result, you need to rush to the washroom again and again.

9. Poses the risk of chlorine overdose

Chlorine is used to disinfect drinking water. But, drinking too much water can put you at risk of chlorine overdose. When that happens, you are at risk of developing bladder and colorectal cancers.

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