Can drinking too much water be harmful to your health?
The advice “drink lots and lots of water” is one of the world’s longest-standing cliches, that no one would ever consider it to be dangerous or deadly.
Is there really such thing as over-hydration? In the case of marathon runner Frederic Lecao, there was. The athlete experienced cramps during some of his previous racing competitions and wanted to do everything he could to avoid that again.
Lecao recounted, “I was literally taking a sip every five minutes.” Lecao suffered the consequences of drinking too much water, which unfortunately were severe. “I was literally on the ground screaming in pain,” he said.
According to Lecao, he consumed almost 13 cups of water halfway through the marathon. “My whole body shut down.” In medical terms, Lecao suffered from what is called hyponatremia, a dangerous low level of sodium or electrolytes in the blood.
Dr. Scott Weiss explained that when there is too much water and the sodium levels drop, “there can be issues with the heart, there can be issues with the muscles, there can be issues with the central nervous system.”
It could have been worse for Lecao, and he is considered lucky. In another unfortunate report, a 28 year-old woman named Jennifer Strange was killed after drinking water in excessive amounts while participating in a radio contest to drink as much water as possible. A 17 year-old football player reportedly drank 2 gallons of water after practice and died a short time later.
Dr. Weiss suggests that there is no specific amount of water consumption that is going to work for everyone. However, he considers this guideline, “Two-thousand calories most people will take in on an average diet and with 2,000 milliliters, that’s really 2 liters. So really, 2 liters of water is normal for a day.”