Health professionals are always telling us how important it is do drink plently of water and stay hydrated. But now it seems some of us are taking their advice to the extreme.
Recent reports indicate large numbers of people are becoming addictedÂ to water – with potentially fatal consequences.
Self-confessed AquaholicÂ Nigella Lawson was very recently advised by her doctor she was putting her body at risk by consuming up to three liters of water a day – and she’s not alone.
Spurred on by the evidence that drinking lots of water is good for our skin, can help us lose weight, tackle cellulite, there are reports of women downing up to nearly six litres of water daily. The body is then at risk from developing sysmtoms of dizziness to seizures and life-threatening comas.
‘Too much water puts the salt in the body out of balance and, as these salts play a vital role in how our bodies function, the consequences can be life-threatening,’ explains Dr Frankie Philips, a registered dietician and consultant niutritionst.
‘There have been cases of people going into comas and even dying from a condition called hyponatremia, where the body’s salts are diluted after drinking too much water too quickly, but fortunately it’s very rare.’
Rare, but not unheard of. A marathon runner died in 2007 after excess water intake caused a swelling of the brain, and actor Anthony Andrews was on the verge of falling into a coma after regularly drinking up to five litres of water a day.
So just how do you get the balance right? Especially when people who are over-hydrated often feel thirsty even though they have too much water in their bodies.
The body is made up of nearly two-thirds of water, and we need to top up it’s fluid every day.
‘We’re constantly losing water by going to the loo, though the skin and in our breath,’ explains nutrition consultant Clair Harper, ‘ Our body replaces this water through drinking fluids and from what we eat, but if we don’t adequately hydrate our cells with water, then they cannot function properly.’
Most experts agree around 6-8 glasses (1.2-2 litres) is enough to keep the average person hydrated.
But it does not all have to come from water – fruit juice, cups of tea and coffee can count towards your daily intake.
Dr Frankie Philips adds: ‘Being dehydrated can put a strain on your kidneys, but drinking a litre or two extra every day shouldn’t do any damage apart from leaving you feel bloated and uncomfortable.’
If you are concerned your’re getting too much or too little, Phillips recommends checking the colour of your urine when you go to the loo. ‘Ideally it should be the colour of straw. If it’s very dark, you’re probably not drinking enough. It it’s very pale, you coul be overdoing it.’