25 April 2019
The health benefits of drinking water are widely recognized, but drinking too much water can be hazardous your health. Photo: Reuters
The health benefits of drinking water are widely recognized, but drinking too much water can be hazardous your health. Photo: Reuters

Drinking too much water may not be good for your health

Many people have made it a habit to drink eight glasses of water daily because they think it’s good for the health.

But drinking too much or too little water can be hazardous to the body.

The human body needs around 2 to 2.5 liters of fluid, which is roughly eight glasses, a day to get rid of waste products and toxins by way of urination.

The whole detoxifying process requires functioning kidneys. Fluids are not limited to clear water. Any beverage or food that contains water counts as fluid.

Patients with chronic diseases should not follow the eight-glasses-per-day practice blindly. Patients who suffer from end-stage renal disease, nephrotic syndrome, heart failure or liver cirrhosis should limit their water intake.

Consuming excessive amounts of water can result in peripheral edema, pulmonary edema or even breathing difficulties for these patients.

Chiang, 68, was troubled by overactive bladder and nocturia. During a medical checkup of his suspected prostate problems, he discovered that the culprit was his excessive water intake.

He had been drinking four or even five liters of water per day, exceeding the recommended daily amount. When he adjusted his fluid intake, his urinating pattern returned to normal.

Our bodies need to be replenished with water after exercising and sweating.

However, loading the body immediately with a massive amount of clear water will further lower its sodium level as electrolytes are lost in sweating.

In severe cases, patients may suffer from water intoxication. They may become emotionally unstable and their muscles cramp. The condition may even be life-threatening.

Athletes tend to opt for electrolyte drinks instead of clear water to avoid a plunge in their body’s sodium level.

Those who don’t exercise a lot but drink a lot of water and run to the loo frequently are at risk of getting diabetes.

There is also the case of Mr. Law, a 72-year-old diabetes patient. After a long-distance flight a few years ago, his whole body became swollen.

He was diagnosed with acute kidney failure and he needed to receive peritoneal dialysis every day to survive.

In an interview with his doctor, Law admitted having unhealthy practices such as overworking and staying up late when he was still young.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 12

Translation by John Chui

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Chair of Renal Medicine and Yu Professor in Nephrology, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine of the University of Hong Kong

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