Can drinking too much water lead to death? Here’s what an expert says | Health


Drinking the right amount of water has innumerable benefits. From relieving constipation to keeping UTI away to maintaining the balance of fluids in body, nearly all health experts would suggest you to drink the mandatory 8-10 glasses of water every day for good health. Some people tend to take this most convenient advice way too seriously and gulp down huge amounts of water throughout the day expecting that quick weight loss or liver detox. But does excess amount of water really help or in some rare circumstances can turn deadly? (Also read: 5 benefits of munakka water for gut)

Dr Sudhir Kumar, Senior Consultant Neurologist, Apollo Hospital, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad recently tweeted about dangers of having excess water that included death and other serious health issues. When you drink more water than is required, it could upset the balance of electrolytes and decrease sodium to dangerously low levels. It is called water intoxication and could cause symptoms like confusion, nausea and vomiting in mild cases and coma, seizures and death in severe cases.

“Water is life-saving and is essential for survival. However, ingestion of excess amounts of water, especially over a short period of time can lead to serious health hazards, including death,” tweeted Dr Sudhir Kumar.

Dr Kumar says while the normal requirement of water is 2.5 to 3 litres per day there is a misconception that drinking more water is good for health.

“Some people can drink more water due to psychiatric illnesses. Athletes can overestimate fluid loss and drink an excess amount of water,” tweeted the expert.

Too much water can disturb the balance of sodium and water in the blood. Appropriate intake of water is as much important as eating right food or getting good quality sleep,” says Shetty.

“Hydration is very important and not drinking water can lead to various complications. However, did you know drinking too much water can lead to water intoxication. It happens when the salt and other electrolytes in your body gets diluted and your kidney can’t flush out all the water through urine,” Smitha Shetty, Lifestyle Nutritionist had earlier told HT Digital.

“Too much water can disturb the balance of sodium and water in the blood. Appropriate intake of water is as much important as eating right food or getting good quality sleep,” adds Shetty.

“Drink(ing) excess water can cause bloating, polyurea, hyponatraemia (assumed to be the cause of Bruce Lee’s death), swelling, poor metabolism, etc.Water proportion cannot be fixed, it varies according to seasons, your physical activities and your mind-body constitution (Prakriti). So don’t get into statistics of it, just watch your urine. It shouldn’t be smelly or yellowish. Drink as much water as it takes for you to keep it odourless and crystal clear. That”s the right amount (quantity) of water your body needs, not 1 glass more or 1 glass less,” Ayurveda expert Dr Dixa Bhavsar said in her recent Instagram post on how much water is ideal for good health.

How much water can be handled by a healthy person?

Elaborating on the ideal amount of water a person should drink, Dr Kumar says “healthy kidneys can handle 800-1000 ml of water/hr. People with kidney, heart or liver disease can handle lesser amounts of water. If excess water intake happens rapidly (over 1-2 hours), normal kidneys cannot handle that.”

Consequence of excessive water intake

Dr Kumar says excess water intake leads to hyponatremia i.e. low sodium level in the blood. He adds that this leads to passage of water into the brain cells, leading to brain swelling and that symptoms depend on sodium level and extent of brain swelling.

Symptoms of water intoxication

– In mild cases, symptoms are lethargy, nausea and dizziness

– In moderate cases, symptoms are confusion, vomiting and agitation.

– In severe cases, symptoms are seizures, coma and death in some cases.

What is the treatment for water intoxication?

Dr Kumar says if you notice any symptoms, you must consult a doctor and check sodium level.

“Low sodium is corrected by restricting fluid intake and by saline injections. Rapid correction of low sodium should be avoided as that can lead to brain damage,” he adds.

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