What You Need to Know About H2O

Water is essential to sustain your life. Staying sufficiently hydrated can also help you to lose weight. Drinking too much water, however, can be fatal.

What's so good about water?

Bottled WaterWhen you are dehydrated, metabolism, those chemical processes that keeps your body chugging along, provides you with energy, and keeps those calories burning, run less efficiently. Keeping yourself hydrated helps to keep those chemical processes running more efficiently, helping you to burn more calories and lose weight. However, if you are already drinking enough water and keeping yourself hydrated, drinking more water is not going to make much of a difference. Furthermore, at a certain point, excessive water consumption can be bad for you, very bad. 

Here are a few tips about water that you need to know:

  • Drink water throughout the day, rather than drinking it all at one time.
  • If you are hungry, try drinking water before turning to food. Your body may be telling you that you are dehydrated.
  • Drinking water before a meal may help you to eat less.
  • Drink a glass of water after every meal to help your digestion.
  • Keep a glass or bottle of water while at work and while going for long walks.
  • You are better off drinking water than soda (even the diet variety), fruit juice (especially juice from frozen concentrate), and alcoholic beverages. Try to limit your intake of soda, fruit juice and alcoholic beverages. 
  • Staying sufficiently hydrated helps your digestive system to work more efficiently and reduces the chance of getting kidney stones.
  • The updated My Fitness Pal app (Android | iOS) now lets you keep track of your water consumption.
  • The color of your urine is a good indicator of your level of hydration: Clear or light urine means you are sufficiently hydrated. Darker urine indicates that you should be drinking more water.

So how much water should you be drinking?

The rule of thumb used to be to have eight cups a day. In fact, that is what my doctor's assistant recommended. However, that rule of thumb is old school thinking. The amount of water each person should be drinking varies depending on several factors such as what sort of climate you live in, how active you are, and especially, your body weight. To get an idea of how much water you should be drinking, please use the water calculator located on this page.

What was that you said about too much water being fatal?

If you drink too much water, you could throw off the balance between water and sodium in your blood, a condition known as hyponatremia, also known as water intoxication. In fact, after getting a blood test from my doctor, I discovered that this happened to me. Hyponatremia can lead to an altered personality, lethargy and confusion, none of which I experienced, thank goodness. In extreme cases, hyponatremia can lead to seizures, coma and the most serious symptom of all: death. I could have increased the amount of sodium in my diet to restore the balance between water and sodium. However my blood pressure is a little on the high side, so my doctor recommended cutting back on the amount of water I was drinking instead. I did so, had another blood test a week later, and was happy to learn that that did the trick.

For the morbidly curious, here are a few extreme cases of where excessive water intake has occurred in death:

  • When Andy Warhol died in 1991 it was initially reported that he died due to complications during a gallbladder operation. Warhol's family subsequently accused the hospital of giving him too much water after the operation. An autopsy found that his body weight was 150 pounds, even though he weighed 128 pounds when he was admitted to the hospital. It was claimed that this was an indication that he died of water intoxication.
  • In 1995, an eighteen -year-old girl named Leah Betts from Latchingdon in Essex, England took ecstasy, drank seven liters of water, went into a coma and died. At irst, the drugs were thought to have resulted in here death. However, upon further examination, it was found that the excessive water lead to water intoxication and hyponatremia, and that this is what caused her death.
  • A clothing entrepreneur named Christine, with an A-type personality, became obsessed with drinking water. One day, while going or a run, she collapsed and died due to water intoxication. The excessive water in her system caused her brain cells to swell, which, in turn, caused her to drop dead.
  • In 2007, a Californian woman named Jennifer died of water intoxication while trying to win a Nintendo Wii console. Radio station, KDND, held a "Hold Your Wee for a Wii" contest, which involved drinking large quantities of water without peeing. Jennifer won second place in the contest, only to die in her bathroom several hours later due to water intoxication. The radio station's parent company was found liable and a jury awarded $16.5 million in compensation to the woman's husband.
  • In 2008, a 47-year-old woman from London fainted and collapsed while hiking in The Grand Canyon. When she came to, she seemed out of it. She was rushed to the hospital. In spite of receiving treatment, she vomited up clear liquid, became unresponsive and was soon declared brain dead. Her husband said she had been drinking excessive amounts of water and eating very little. This resulted in hyponatremia, caused swelling in her brain and subsequently resulted in brain death.

Since we're thinking abut death, I will close this post with another morbid tidbit, which, I hope, is common knowledge. Drinking ocean water, even if you are drying of thirst, will kill you. Our bodies are only able to produce urine that is less salty than sea water. The high amount of salt in ocean water makes it impossible to rid your body of the excess salt and will cause you to die of dehydration.

Drink up, but drink up with knowledge and caution.