No matter what medical issue you’re dealing with, the advice is usually to drink more water. In fact, a lot of health advice makes water sound like some magic elixir you can’t have enough of. And water is absolutely necessary to survive. But what we don’t often get told is that you can have too much of a good thing, water included.
“We're constantly being told the benefits of regularly drinking water, and more often than not, these benefits stand true,” Morgan Statt, Health and Safety Investigator at ConsumerSafety.org, tells Bustle. “From boosting your immune system to clearing your skin, you'd be hard-pressed to find something water doesn't help with. But, unfortunately, it is possible to drink too much water.”
Statt warns against drinking more than 27-33 fluid ounces (about three and a half to four cups) per hour. This can lead to hyponatremia, when you’re taking in more water than you can pee out. This makes your blood sodium levels dangerously low, leading to fatigue, vomiting, confusion, headaches, and sometimes death.
The effects of excessive fluid consumption are usually not this severe, but they are very disruptive. Here are some signs that you could be drinking too much water or other fluids.
1You’re Peeing All. The. Time.
Frequent urination can be both uncomfortable and embarrassing. And while it can stem from a number of medical issues, the number one cause is actually drinking too much water, Sangeeta Mahajan, MD, a urogynecologist at the University Hospital Case Medical Center, tells Bustle. If you’re peeing more than seven times day, dial back your water consumption and see if the problem goes away. And if your issue is constantly getting up to pee at night, limiting fluid intake before bed may be especially important.
2Your Pee Is Clear
Dark yellow pee is a bad sign, but so is completely colorless pee, says Statt. Ideally, your pee should be light yellow.
3You’re Getting Cramps
Excessive urination can lead to a loss of potassium, a mineral that helps your body contract and relax your muscles, says Statt. Without it, you might notice yourself more easily cramping.
When your kidneys are working overtime to filter out all the water you’re consuming and balance your fluid levels, you might experience adrenal fatigue, as well as a rise in stress hormones, says Statt.
5Swollen Hands And Feet
When your blood sodium levels are imbalanced, fluids may rush to correct them, leading to swelling in your hands and feet, Statt adds.
Sodium imbalances resulting from over-hydration can also fill your cells with fluids, leading your brain to swell, says Statt. This puts pressure on your skull, which can lead to a headache.
7Drinking When You're Not Thirsty
Thirst is the best indicator that you need water, Statt explains. One study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that our swallow reflex diminishes once we've had enough to drink. So, lack of thirst likely means you've hydrated enough.
Many of these signs don't indicate over-hydration in of themselves, so also check your urine color and the frequency with which you're going to the bathroom. If you've over-hydrated, Statt recommends avoiding water and instead having a sports drink, which can replenish your electrolytes. If you’re experiencing symptoms of hyponatremia, you’ll want to go to the doctor’s to get a saltwater injection and any other treatments necessary to restore your body’s electrolyte balance.