Can you drink too much water?

My cup at work and my CamelBak “sippy cup” keep me drinking water all day long. Before I got home today I had consumed a little more than 100 ounces of water. So I just had a little with dinner and have now cutting myself off, otherwise I will be waking up a lot during the night.

Years ago when I lived in Phoenix and worked at The Arizona Republic I was a unfairly unhealthy person. Having a job in newspapers makes it difficult to have any sort of healthy lifestyle.

I think that was also when I had my (regular, packed with sugar) Vanilla Coke addiction and I would troll the floors looking for the soda in the various vending machines. Eventually I quit that and just started bringing in my own soda, which just fueled the addiction.

I worked with a guy who regularly came in with lunch (we normally started our shift around 2-2:30) from some fast food restaurant. His favorite seemed to be fried chicken.

We’ll call him Enrique … Enrique was probably one of the the unhealthiest people I have ever known with his regular fast food intake, cigarette smoking, coffee and Diet Coke imbibing and pitchers of beer each night after work. (Sounds like a party, right?)

Enrique came in to work one day and announced that his doctor told him he was drinking too much water. We all, of course, laughed. I don’t think I ever saw Enrique drink water, unless ice cubes count.

Enrique definitely wasn’t drinking too much if any water.

But can someone drink too much water?

The answer is yes. (It is uncommon, but still the answer is yes.)

According to About.com, drinking too much water can lead to a condition known as water intoxication and to a related problem resulting from the dilution of sodium in the body, hyponatremia. Water intoxication is most commonly seen in infants under six months of age and sometimes in athletes.

Water intoxication is when the normal balance of electrolytes in the body is pushed outside of safe limits, according to Wikipedia.

According to the Mayo Clinic, endurance athletes, such as marathon runners, who drink large amounts of water, are at higher risk of hyponatremia. In general, though, drinking too much water is rare in healthy adults who eat an average American diet.

When my cousin was pregnant her doctor told her to try to drink a gallon of water a day, which is 128 ounces or 16 servings.

The recommended daily intake is six to eight 8 ounce servings of water a day. If you exercise, you need to drink a little more. On average I get in 10 servings in a day.

How much water did you have today?

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4 Comments

  1. I don’t keep track, but I’ve been much more cognizant of my hydration since we moved to Phoenix! I’m normally a bit of a “camel” (as described by John), and manage to get by with less water than what is healthy.

    The flipside to being well-hydrated, hyponatremia, can definitely be a risk given the right circumstances, and has been a hot topic in the running world, due in part to a recently published book on the topic. Haven’t read the below article, but fyi:

    http://www.irunfar.com/2012/08/waterlogged-part-ii-trials-questions-and-suggestions-regarding-hydration-and-ultramarathons.html

    –Nicole

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