We are constantly reminded that drinking enough water is vital for our bodies to function properly. And this true – unless you drink too much of it. Though most of us worry about getting dehydrated, overhydration is just as dangerous.
Drinking too much water can result in water intoxication, also known as hyponatremia, which causes the inside of cells to flood due to abnormally low sodium levels in your blood. In severe cases, this can lead to debilitating health problems such as comas, seizures, and even death.
Below are 8 signs that you’re drinking too much water.
If you carry around a water bottle all day and immediately refill it when it’s empty, you might be drinking too much water. Constantly adding water to your body will result in low sodium levels in your blood, which can cause all the cells in your body to swell. According to Tamara Hew-Butler, DPM, PhD, an exercise science professor at Oakland University, this is particularly dangerous when your brain starts to swell. “Your brain can only swell about 8-10% before it reaches your skull and it pushes your brain stem out.”
2. You Drink Water Even When You’re Not Thirsty
The best way to know whether your body actually needs more water is to be consciously aware of whether or not you feel thirsty. “Our bodies are so programmed to fight against dehydration because we’ve always been living in fear of scarcity or not having enough, so we have all these built-in mechanisms to protect us against that. One of these mechanisms that all animals have is thirst. Thirst is everybody’s individual monitor that lets them know if they need more. The more water you need, the thirstier you get,” Dr. Hew-Butler.
If you’ve been drinking a healthy amount of water, the color of your urine should be straw-colored to transparent yellow. Though most people believe that clear urine is the healthiest sign of hydration, having urine with no pigmentation at all may be a sign that you’re drinking too much water. For most people, 8-10 glasses of water per day is considered a normal amount.
4. You Urinate Frequently, Including During the Night
You might be drinking too much water if you find that you often wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. Most of us urinate between 8-10 times a day, so if you find yourself urinating more than 10 times per day, you’re probably drinking more water than your body needs. To prevent nighttime urination, have your last glass of water a few hours before bed to give your kidneys time to filter the water through your body.
The symptoms of overhydration are similar to those of dehydration, says Hew Butler. When you drink too much water, your kidneys are unable to get rid of the excess liquid and water starts to collect in the body. This can cause a range of unpleasant symptoms, such as nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.
6. You Notice Swelling or Discoloration in Your Hands, Lips, and Feet
In many cases of hyponatremia, people will experience noticeable swelling or discoloration in the hands, feet, and lips. When all the cells in your body start to swell, your skin will start to swell as well. Those who drink too much water may suddenly gain weight, due to swelling and excess water in the bloodstream. If you’re drinking more than 10 cups of water per day and notice swelling or discoloration in your hands, feet, and lips, consider cutting back on your water intake.
Your kidneys are the organs responsible for filtering the water you drink and making sure that your fluid levels in the bloodstream stay balanced. When you consume too much water, your kidneys have to work a lot harder, creating a stressful reaction from your hormones that leaves your body fatigued and stressed. Therefore, if you’re constantly drinking water and find yourself struggling to get out of bed, it might be because you’ve added unneeded stress to your kidneys.
8. Your Muscles Feel Weak and Cramp Easily
Having a healthy and fully-functioning body is all about balance. When you consume too much water, your electrolyte levels drop and that balance is compromised. Low electrolyte levels can cause a number of unpleasant symptoms, such as muscle spasms and cramping. You can help prevent muscle problems by replacing a couple of glasses of water with coconut water, which is full of electrolytes and 100% natural.