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The Danger of Drinking Too Much Water

Athletes who strive to consume water even though they are not thirsty could do harm by diluting the sodium in their bodies.

Elite athletes are well aware of the dangers of dehydration. That’s why they drink a lot of water and other fluids when exercising intensely for long periods of time.

They are rarely warned about the risks of overhydration. Athletes who drink even when they are not thirsty may disrupt the body’s capacity to maintain electrolyte balance.

When sodium levels in the blood drop too low, hyponatremia can become a life-threatening emergency. Symptoms of overhydration can include nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps, disorganized thinking and seizures.

Experts recommend that thirst is a good guide for healthy people to know when they need more fluids. Older adults may not be able to rely on thirst alone as a reliable guide, but they too should take care not to drink so much that their electrolyte balance is upset.

[British Journal of Sports Medicine, June, 2011]

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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