Answer: You've probably heard that it's important to 'drink plenty of fluids' or simply 'drink lots of water'. There are excellent reasons for drinking water, buthave you ever wondered if it's possible to drink too much water. Here's what you need to know:
Can You Really Drink Too Much Water?
In a word, yes. Drinking too much water can lead to a condition knownas water intoxication and to a related problem resulting from the dilution of sodium in the body, hyponatremia. Water intoxication is most commonly seen in infants under six months of age andsometimes in athletes. A baby can get water intoxication as a result of drinking several bottles of water a day or from drinking infant formula that has been diluted too much. Athletes can also suffer fromwater intoxication. Athletes sweat heavily, losing both water and electrolytes. Water intoxication and hyponatremia result when a dehydrated person drinks too much water without the accompanyingelectrolytes.
What Happens During Water Intoxication?
When too much water enters the body's cells, the tissues swell with the excess fluid. Your cells maintain a specific concentration gradient, so excesswater outside the cells (the serum) draws sodium from within the cells out into the serum in an attempt to re-establish the necessary concentration. As more water accumulates, the serum sodiumconcentration drops -- a condition known as hyponatremia. The other way cells try to regain the electrolyte balance is for water outside the cells to rush into the cells via osmosis. The movement of wateracross a semipermeable membrane from higher to lower concentration is called osmosis. Although electrolytes are more concentrated inside the cells than outside, the water outside the cells is 'moreconcentrated' or 'less dilute' since it contains fewer electrolytes. Both electrolytes and water move across the cell membrane in an effort to balance concentration. Theoretically, cells could swell to...