Surely, you have heard that you have to drink 2 liters of water a day and, immediately afterward, you have been told not to drink much more than that. And perhaps you have thought that the more water the better, and a considerable amount of water is indeed necessary, important, and healthy, but it will depend a lot on the circumstances. If we drink more than necessary, then we can suffer from overhydration.
We must bear in mind that the foods we eat such as fruits and vegetables also have a considerable amount of water and, therefore, it is liquid that we must add to the recommended amount of 2 or 3 liters with which different media bombard us.
Overhydration: when water can become poisonous
Sticking to the water bottle seemed like a great idea until we discovered the dangers of overhydration. It is a serious risk, especially in sports people who can drink more than necessary without realizing it. But, what are its symptoms?
Well, there would be water intoxication. The kidneys become overloaded and the cells begin to swell temporarily. Due to this swelling, the brain presses on the skull, and severe headaches appear. But there is even more because this symptom can be joined by muscle cramps, nausea, swelling in the legs, changes in heart rate, drowsiness, hallucinations, seizures, and even partial or complete paralysis.
The latter occurs in very severe cases when overhydration has been going on for a long time. However, we must bear in mind that our body has defense mechanisms that make the brain react. For example, the brain acts to prevent intoxication by inhibiting the act of swallowing. What does this mean? That the throat is closed so that swallowing costs, that is, your body rejects the water; you already have enough.
On the other hand, neurons can adapt to the speed with which water is ingested. Even if we drink too much water without becoming overhydrated, we can harm ourselves especially if we do not replenish the salts that we lose by eliminating liquids, or rather, all the water that we have drunk.
Who are the most affected by overhydration?
Although anyone is at risk of overhydration, elite athletes, as well as those who exercise more than 4 hours a day, are the most exposed. A clear example is those who have a hobby of running marathons. Normally, they drink large amounts of water before the marathon, which causes excessive sweating that eliminates more mineral salts than necessary. And this, in turn, unconsciously asks the body for more water.
On the other hand, a psychological disorder known as potomania or psychogenic polydipsia can be caused. It is an uncontrollable urge to drink water that ultimately leads to overhydration.
What to do if you suffer from overhydration?
If you think you have some of the symptoms or even the doctor has diagnosed it, the first thing you should do is:
• Reduce fluid intake. It does not matter if your body asks for it. It gets used to what you teach it. Reduce consumption to a maximum of one liter per day. In a few days, you will notice an improvement.
• If high blood volume is created due to heart or another disease, it may be very practical to restrict sodium in the diet. This promotes the accumulation of liquids and therefore, favors overhydration.
• Take diuretics and thus eliminate excess fluids.
Overhydration is not an issue to be taken lightly; elite athletes like Cynthia Lucero, who ran the Boston Marathon in 2002, lost her life due to overhydration. Craig Barrett also suffered the same fate; he collapsed due to excess water.
Remember: You should drink water when you are thirsty and not beyond what the body can handle. If you exercise for many hours a day, it would be advisable to have a professional measure your hydration and sodium levels.
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