Overhydration: The Dangers Of Too Much H2O
This month, SOS Technologies once again had the privilege of being an associate sponsor of the Chicago Marathon, providing equipment support for emergency medical services during the race.
Obviously if you’re running 26.2 miles as thousands upon thousands of marathoners in Chicago were, you know the importance of continually drinking water so you don’t get dehydrated. In any kind of race of this nature, there are usually plenty of water stations to help ensure that hopefully doesn’t happen along the way.
Unfortunately, some runners, bikers and many others who exercise are so fixated on drinking tons of water that they find themselves in very real danger if they aren’t careful.
That’s right. You can actually overhydrate, or to use the scientific term for it, experience hyponatremia.
Hyponatremia is a condition in which the level of sodium in the blood reaches a point that’s abnormally low. Since sodium is an electrolyte that helps maintain normal blood pressures as well as regulate how much water is in and around your cells, the sodium in your body becomes more diluted when you drink too much water. Cells can then swell with the higher amounts of water in the body, leading to mild to traumatic health conditions.
While hyponatremia can be more common among people participating in longer events of physical fitness, others can feel the effects of overhydrating simply by drinking so much water that they feel they couldn’t drink any more. In addition, they may feel fatigued, lose their appetite, experience muscle spasms or complain of headache and nausea.
If you’ve felt any of the above symptoms, your first thought in relation to water might be, “Well, I’m dehydrated and must not be getting enough water today.” That may be inaccurate because what really may be happening is that your sodium levels in body fluids are dropping, causing an imbalance of water to salt in your body. Your hands feel puffy, you’re cold in otherwise warm temperatures and you feel generally disoriented and confused. All of which can occur from drinking too much H2O.
What’s the solution?
Naturally, cutting back on the amount of water you take in is a good place to start, but what’s the best balance of H2O so you aren’t drinking too little or too much water? We’ve often heard that 8 glasses of water a day is the golden rule for getting the proper amount you need, but different people have different needs based on the activity they’re undertaking, gender, the environment and more. Instead, consider these guidelines:
- Check your “water weight.” If you’ve weighed in since yesterday and gained three pounds or more (without eating something drastically different than you usually do), you may be consuming too much water. Throughout the week, continue to weigh yourself. A proper amount of water may result in slight weight fluctuations, but not that much day-to-day.
- Feeling parched first thing in the morning?An indicator that you’re not getting enough water may be when you wake up and immediately feel thirsty. If you’re consuming the proper amount of water, this feeling typically doesn’t occur. Some people also have a tendency to gulp as much water down as possible in the morning to get their daily amount out of the way – which can lead your body to feel you’re taking in too much too quickly. Rather than gulp it, slowly sip a cup or water or juice.
- Coffee, tea and certain sports drinks count too.Many have thought that coffee or tea won’t be counted as part of our intake since they aren’t water. It’s time to rethink that. Your body is also interested in overall fluid intake over the course of a day, so there are important needs to be met there. Sports drinks that are low in sugar can also contribute positively.
Gauge your intake based on activity in that a slower run will not require quite as much water as a vigorous pace in hot weather, which demands at least 12 ounces per hour.
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