WARNING: Too much water may be bad for your health
Water is the body's most vital nutrient and in general, people don't drink enough of it. Drinking adequate amounts of water (or herbal or redbush teas) each day - the equivalent of about 1.5 litres (2.75 pints) - makes an enormous difference to your health, especially to your energy levels and mental clarity.
However, you can drink too much, as a recently reported case showed.
Mrs. Dawn Page was advised to drink four extra pints of water a day and cut back her salt intake to assist with detoxification in order to promote weight loss. This advice later changed to six extra pints a day and even less salt. It’s not clear how much she was drinking to start with, but on the day that Mrs. Page was admitted to hospital doctors estimated she had drunk 5 litres of water, although Mrs. Page denied this.
She suffered a massive epileptic fit and brain damage caused by severe sodium deficiency resulting from her high water and low sodium intakes. Sodium forms part of the brain’s outer barrier, but because the blood plasma contained such low levels of sodium, water was able to enter the brain, causing swelling and permanent damage.
There have been other recorded cases of injury and death in athletes and night clubbers who have drunk masses of water in a short space of time, through fear of dehydration.
But to keep this in perspective, you need to be aware that it is also dangerous to drink too little water.
Water also helps to dilute toxic by-products of food metabolism in the blood for elimination through the kidneys, so drinking water helps support kidney function. Keeping properly hydrated helps to support digestion, as water keeps stools bulky and so reduces the risk of constipation.
It is a good idea to consider that the body wants to be in balance. The maximum amount of liquids drunk should be equal to the amount the kidneys can reasonably process and excrete in 24 hours. In adults, about 2 litres (3.5 pints) per day is excreted. Bear in mind that 1.5 litres (2.75 pints) of water a day is only a minimum in hot weather, or if you exercise, as you will need to replace the liquid you are losing as sweat.
The important message here is that drinking more than you need isn't better for you and may be worse. About 1.5-2 litres (2.75-3.5 pints) consumed over a day under normal circumstances is a healthy range.
If you would like to read more about water and the body, there is an excellent book called “The Body’s Many Cries for Water” by Dr F. Batmanghelidje. This fascinating story of a man’s discovery of the healing power of water under dreadful personal circumstances is inspiring, as well as informative.
Melanie Fryer Dip.ION
member of BANT (British Association of Nutritional Therapists).