I will freely admit: I am terrible, terrible, TERRIBLE about drinking enough water each day.
Do I know it’s important? Of course I do! Do I recognize the health benefits? Naturally. Is that enough to compel me to guzzle a minimum eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day? Unless that water is infused with coffee beans or bubbling with carbonated sugar, hell no.
So no, you won’t find me or my (lack of) abs smiling from the cover of Men’s Health anytime soon. BUT… there is now some sound science that suggests the old adage of drinking 8 glasses of water daily may not be as healthy as advertised.
At the very least, there’s evidence to suggest that in the right circumstances, TOO much water can actually be lethal.
Specifically, it can cause a condition called hyponatremia, which lowers the body’s sodium to dangerous levels.
Less sodium may sound like a good thing, but without it, cells can swell up with water. This, in turn, causes symptoms like headaches, nausea, fatigue, or, in the worst cases, seizures, coma, and death.
There are, of course, caveats.
It’s massively, ludicrously unlikely that sitting at your computer sipping 8 glasses of water over 8 hours will cause you to keel over. Those most at risk are people who have pre-existing conditions that impede the body’s ability to get rid of fluids.
In those cases, the issue is not too much water but a difficulty in flushing it out of the body. Those who might be at risk are athletes who take part in strenuous, high-exertion sports like marathons. Again, that’s not to say hydrating isn’t important, especially during physical activity, but the key is in not overdoing it.
Another group that might be at risk are people fighting infections. Doctors caring for a UK woman battling a urinary tract infection were initially mystified when her symptoms worsened dramatically even after taking antibiotics and pain medication.
Initially fearing a stroke, the doctors picked up on a small and vital clue: While recovering from the infection, she’d been chugging a ton of water throughout the day. The doctors ran some blood work which showed the patient’s sodium levels were dangerously low. After putting the brakes on her fluid intake, her condition quickly improved.
There are other individual cases suggesting that more research needs to be done into how much water is too much water… which is VERY different from endorsing an all-coffee/soda/scotch whiskey diet. But as with so many other things in life, it really is possible to have too much of a good thing.