My bottle of water stands right next to my keyboard. And yours? Do you sip water throughout the entire working day?
Like me, do you want to avoid dehydration and maximize your brain performance, energy and attention span? We all know that water helps with that.
But not everybody knows that drinking too much water can be dangerous. Are you aware that drinking too much water can even lead to death?
Anything we consume in excess is toxic. Water is no different. It can be the elixir of life, but it is also a poison.
The good news is that it is extremely unlikely to be a problem in the office environment, unless you suffer from certain life-threatening diseases.
This article is important for those who do a lot of sports. After intensive physical exercise (like a marathon), we tend to drink large amounts of water, and that can be dangerous.
Did I get your attention? Please read on.
Is Drinking Too Much Water Harmful?
The short answer is, yes.
Think about it. The kidneys can only do so much filtration. Yes, they control water and sodium content in the bloodstream, but too much consumption can tax these organs. They can become flooded!
Here is what happens. When you drink too much water, the blood actually becomes “waterlogged” believe it or not and the cells become saturated. Most of the time everything is in balance as water passes through cellular membranes. Your kidneys are trying their hardest to flush out the water, but if they can’t the sodium content is diluted.
The result of over doing it is swelling of the cells as water rushes in to balance sodium dilution. This condition is known as water intoxication or poisoning. Another name for it is hyponatremia. In short, the sodium concentration is too low.
Most of our bodies can handle some degree of swelling. We know that fat and muscle tissue can expand and stretch as it is soft and flexible. But what about the brain? Bone is pretty hard so don’t expect it to adapt.
Swelling in the brain causes undue pressure resulting in headaches, drowsiness, confusion or other unnatural states. The more pressure there is, the more the likelihood of damage, coma, and possible death. This only takes about ten hours.
Is It Frequent To Die From Water Intoxication?
No, it is not.
The British “Mirror” reported that people have died drinking too much water, but it was during activities like yoga and lawn bowling. But deaths from water intoxication are not common.
Although deaths caused by water intoxication are very rare, it is quite common during sport events. For example, 13% of Boston Marathon participants in 2002 showed signs of over hydration.
Is Drinking Too Much Water A Real Danger for Sedentary People Like Managers and Executives?
The risk of dying after drinking too much water at your desk is close to zero. It is also not very likely that you will get water intoxication when you sip the water in front of your PC. So please do not stop drinking water as it has a lot of benefits for your cognitive functions and performance.
Where there is cause for concern is during intense exercise like a marathon race or during military training. The New England Journal of Medicine reported in 2005 that almost one-sixth of marathon runners experience debilitating conditions like hyponatremia.
In addition, excess water consumption can result from some type of forced situation or abuse. Of course this is unusual.
It may happen during a fraternity hazing. Such was the case in 2005 at Cal State Chico when A\a pledge who was forced to drink enormous quantities of water between push-up sessions died on site.
These cases do not apply to the corporate world. However, certain kidney conditions may send up a red flag warning about water consumption in any location. The afflicted must be coached to avoid over hydration at all costs to avoid water intoxication and stress on these vital organs.
How To Know I Am Drinking Too Much Water?
If you are used to intense thirst after exercise, you might well be taking in too much fluid. Overhydration is a scary situation – and quite dangerous.
There are signs, however, to help us stay in control. Do you experience any of the following?
1.You want more water even after quenching your thirst.
2.You seem to urinate quite often and through the night.
3. You notice that your urine is very light, almost clear.
4. You have bad headaches, usually in the day time.
5. You feel drowsy and confused and don’t know why.
6. You are tired all the time.
7. You notice that your hands, lips and feet look swollen.
8. Muscle cramping and weakness are frequent.
How Much Water Is Too Much?
You might not have experienced it, but over hydration is possible at any time you drink too much water for the body to process. Experts say drink eight glasses a day but some people think they are healthier at ten or more.
Intake guidelines are flexible but no one wants to have the life-threatening condition called water poisoning. You must consider what is average for you and stick with it. Factor in your exercise level, age, gender, type of nutrition and general health.
Never gulp it all at once. It is best over a longer period of time. Your kidneys can only flush from 20 to 28 liters of water per day. If you look at the hourly amount, it is only one liter.
The kidneys excrete 0.21 to 0.26 gallons, so you have to limit your intake to accommodate this rate, and it is for a healthy kidney only. You can’t take in more than can be excreted out.
A marathon runner does worry about hydration, but the person must also consider vasopressin levels. If they go up under the duress of the competition, kidney function drops. Yes, the runner sweats, but it is worse to achieve a net gain in water.
People who exercise are often ignorant of the basics and they assume they must replenish sweat. But you can get hyponatremia after a few sports drinks. If you sweat 500 milliliters per hour, then it is okay to take that much in.
But who knows how much they sweat anyway? Experience will help for a marathon runner or active athlete. Be cautious and listen to your body as there is no tool for absolute accurate measurement. It should be about thirst, and nothing more.
Ways To Prevent Over Hydration
Given that you want to avoid this condition, pay attention to certain guidelines:
1. Stop fluid and water intake at the first sign of a symptom and do not resume for at least a few hours.
2. Eat salty foods to balance your sodium/water balance.
3. Always stay hydrated and opt for an electrolyte drink with sodium so you never feel the need to over imbibe liquid.
How To Treat Over Hydration
There are safe ways to treat over hydration, such as after intense exercise, when symptoms often appear. The cause of the over hydration will determine the best treatment:
1. Cut back on water intake, or other fluids.
2. Diuretics will eliminate fluids in the urine, increasing its volume.
3. Eliminate the cause of the over hydration.
4. Cessation of medications that cause the problem.
5. Adjusting sodium intake as needed.
While it’s possible to succumb from excess water intake, it’s practically impossible at the office.
It is still good to know how the kidneys function and what happens under duress as in a marathon race. You can always tell by the color of the urine if there is a problem. You should drink when thirsty, but don’t overdo it.
Anyone concerned about improper or over hydration can speak to their physician. Guidelines are available according to age, body size and type, and other factors.