Ask the Expert is where we answer questions on all aspects of your health and wellness. Here, a dietitian answers if it's possible for us to consume too much water, and its effects.
Can you drink too much water? What are the effects?
Until today, no recommendation has been drawn to determine the maximum level of fluid intake that healthy individuals can tolerate. In other words, we still do not know how much of water can be consumed before being considered ‘too much water’. It is because generally healthy individuals have a considerable ability to handle excess water and thereby maintaining water balance in the body.
Nevertheless, it does not mean that you can drink all you can. In fact, water toxicity can happen even though it is rare. It usually occurs in an acute basis whereby the consumption of fluid is so heavy and rapid that the kidneys – the main organ that is responsible in regulating body fluid balance – are unable to handle the excess load. Subsequently excess water starts to accumulate in the body. Eventually it can lead to electrolyte imbalance, muscle weakness, lung congestion, water retention in the brain and even death.
And now, you may wonder how much you should drink in a day. According the Malaysian Dietary Guidelines, one should drink six to eight glasses of plain water per day (which is equivalent to 1.5-2.0 liters of plain water ). If there is an increase in physical activity and/or sweating, one can take two glasses or more fluid to compensate the fluid loss. Last but not least, always opt for fluid sources that are low in fat and added sugar, preferably plain water because it contains three ZEROs- zero calorie, zero sugar, and zero fat!
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