Yes, You CAN Drink Too Much Water — And The Consequences Are Dangerous

Doctors have long recommended people drink at least eight glasses of water a day, but over the last few years, more conflicting information has started to trickle out regarding how much H20 our bodies really need. So how much water is too much water?

The human body is about 60 percent water, and we (and all other living things) need it in order to survive. When we sweat, pee, cry, etc. we're draining out resources, hence why it's necessary to replenish so often. When you drink enough water, your whole body works better. You digest food more easily, your skin is clearer, your muscles are stronger, your mood is better, and you're an all-around more functioning human being.

That might convince you to permanently attach your mouth to a camelback, but it turns out drinking too much water isn't much good, either. If you drink too much, you can cause something called "water intoxication" or "water poisoning," which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Overdrinking increases the amount of water in your blood, which in turn, can decrease its amount of sodium. If the imbalance is too strong, you can develop hyponatremia, which is what happens when your blood's sodium level is too low. People suffering from hyponatremia will suffer brain swelling, and can have headaches, feel nauseated, get confused, have muscle weakness and spasms, and worst of all, are at risk for seizures, comas, and death.

So how much water is too much water? The eight glass-a-day rule is the standard (some doctors say six is OK), though there are also some medical professionals who recommend men drink up to 13 glasses of water a day, while women can do with 9. If you live in a dry climate, or exercise frequently, you should add an extra couple glasses of water to the standard eight-or-so, and certainly, if you sense you're becoming dehydrated - if your urine is too dark, for instance, or you're feeling fatigued - it's best to treat yourself to a couple of cups. You probably don't need, say, 20 glasses of water per day, but even that won't kill you.

In fact, doctors say, the only people who are in real danger of overdoing it with water are high-intensity exercisers, especially marathoners and ultra-runners. If that's your jam, it's important to take in electrolytes in addition to straight fluids, which is why drinks like Gatorade, which contains electrolytes and sugar, are so popular with athletes. Even then, you should take care not to pump the liquids. "Muscle cramps and heatstroke are not related to dehydration," James Winger, sports medicine physician at Loyola University Medical Center, told in July. "Modest to moderate levels of dehydration are tolerable and pose little risk to otherwise healthy athletes. An athlete can safely lose up to three percent of his or her body weight during a competition due to dehydration without loss of performance."

Still, it is possible, even as a non-athlete, that you're chugging too much water. The most important thing to remember is that your body will tell you when it's running low on H20, and that you can function just fine when your mouth's just a little dry. But if you're constantly drinking when you're not thirsty, or trying to make your urine clear, you may find your hands, lips and feet or swelling, or that you're suffering from headaches more frequently, or feeling extra dizzy or fatigued. You don't need to wait until you're parched for water, but you also don't need to sip it constantly — your body is pretty good at demanding what it needs.