HEALTH & Is drink­ing too much water bad for you?

Runcorn & Widnes Weekly News - - In Business -

MOD­ERN health trends come and go, but one piece of ad­vice that doesn’t ever seem to change is that we should all be drink­ing as much water as pos­si­ble. As it turns out, though, there are hid­den dan­gers to this most in­nocu­ous of ac­tiv­i­ties – the spec­tre of “water in­tox­i­ca­tion”, hy­dra­tion’s po­ten­tial sting in the tail.

Headaches, nausea, fa­tigue – all of these symp­toms are as­so­ci­ated with de­hy­dra­tion but can also rear their heads if you’re over-hy­drated, as it turns out. The sci­en­tific word for the is­sue is hy­pona­tremia but the con­di­tion is re­ally rare, es­pe­cially if you’re not an en­durance ath­lete. What is over-hy­dra­tion? ES­SEN­TIALLY, over-hy­dra­tion is when you take on more fluid than your kid­neys can process and re­move. It can be dan­ger­ous and even fa­tal in the most ex­treme cases. “Wa­ter­ing down your blood [makes] it harder to carry nu­tri­ents, send brain sig­nals and con­trol the mus­cles,” says Harry Aitken, a qual­i­fied sports sci­en­tist at fit­ness com­pany Auster.

Over-hy­dra­tion can par­tic­u­larly crop up dur­ing ex­er­cise, as peo­ple try to gulp down the water they’re los­ing through sweat. “Peo­ple have a ten­dency to re­place the water but for­get the sodium losses,” say Dr Ri­cardo Da Costa, a nu­tri­tion lec­turer at Monash Univer­sity. Da Costa says that re­hy­dra­tion is all well and good, but with­out sodium to bal­ance the equa­tion, the change to the com­po­si­tion of our plasma can be prob­lem­atic.

The risk of over-hy­dra­tion is still rel­a­tively slim for most peo­ple, though. As Jo­hanna Hignett, an ad­vi­sor to the Nat­u­ral Hy­dra­tion Coun­cil, ex­plains: “You would need to drink ex­tremely large quan­ti­ties, in the or­der of five litres or more within an hour” to be at risk of hy­pona­tremia. In nor­mal life you’re un­likely to be chug­ging as much as that. What are the symp­toms? HY­PONA­TREMIA causes the sodium in your body to be­come di­luted, and when this hap­pens, your body’s water lev­els rise, caus­ing your cells to be­gin to swell. This swelling can cause many signs and symp­toms, from mild to life-threat­en­ing.

A per­son who is con­sis­tently drink­ing too much water may ex­pe­ri­ence nausea and vom­it­ing, headaches, con­fu­sion and loss of en­ergy. In more ex­treme cases, it can cause mus­cle weak­ness, spasms or cramps, seizures and can even re­sult in coma. Headaches and fa­tigue are signs of hy­pona­tremia

Ex­perts ad­vise that any­one who de­vel­ops se­vere signs and symp­toms of hy­pona­tremia should seek im­me­di­ate emer­gency care. THE steps to avoid reach­ing the point of over-hy­dra­tion in­volve some rel­a­tively ob­vi­ous re­ver­sals of nor­mal prac­tice. If you’re mon­i­tor­ing the colour of your urine, as some peo­ple do, you should be aim­ing for a light yel­low colour, rather than shoot­ing for as clear pee as pos­si­ble – which many peo­ple as­sume means the peak of hy­dra­tion.

Urine shouldn’t be en­tirely clear and, if it is, you might be drink­ing more water than you need. Hignett says the ideal shade for most peo­ple is “a pale straw colour”.

Peo­ple who drink too much water while tak­ing part in marathons, ul­tra marathons, triathlons and Don’t take on too much water other long-dis­tance, high-in­ten­sity ac­tiv­i­ties are at an in­creased risk of hy­pona­tremia, so if you’re re­hy­drat­ing af­ter ex­er­cise, con­sider tak­ing it slower than usual.

If you no­tice your­self tak­ing time to re­turn to nor­mal ser­vice af­ter work­ing out, try drink­ing a sports drink, as the sodium con­tent can help you to find your bal­ance again.

At the 2002 Bos­ton Marathon, a study found that 13% of par­tic­i­pants demon­strated the symp­toms of hy­pona­tremia, prov­ing that, while se­ri­ous re­sults are ex­tremely rare, the is­sue is still com­mon – es­pe­cially at sport­ing events.

There’s a rea­son that daily water rec­om­men­da­tions have both lower and up­per lim­its, so you should try to stick to them in nor­mal, day-to­day life. NHS guid­ance ad­vises that we drink six to eight glasses of fluid a day, although food can also con­trib­ute to this to­tal.

It makes sense, there­fore, that drink­ing 15 cups of water a day might not be sen­si­ble. A safe limit is one litre of liq­uid per hour, as this is roughly what your kid­neys are able to process nor­mally.

Fi­nally, it may sound ob­vi­ous, but the body al­ready has a built-in sys­tem to help you know how much to drink – thirst. If you keep drink­ing and never stop feel­ing thirsty, talk to your doc­tor, as this could be a sign that some­thing isn’t quite right. But, for most peo­ple, drink­ing un­til you’re no longer thirsty, then stop­ping, will keep your lev­els in check.

The risks of over-hy­dra­tion may be low, but it’s worth know­ing that the con­di­tion is pos­si­ble, es­pe­cially if you’re a bud­ding ath­lete with a marathon to run in 2019. With these tips in mind though, you should be safe from hy­pona­tremia.

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