We all know sugary and fizzy drinks can wreak havoc on our health, and they are found everywhere. From TV commercials promoting diet soda to the enticing menu presented to us at our favorite restaurant, artificially sweetened drinks lie everywhere. The good news is there are healthy drinks out there, even if healthy beverage options may seem limited.
Thankfully, there are many more healthy drinks for you to choose from than you might think — so you won’t go astray from your health goals. These beverages can not only do your health great favors, but can spice up your palette so you won’t grow bored and throw in the towel to living a healthier lifestyle.
So what are the top 20 healthy drinks around, and what makes them so healthy? I’m glad you asked.
Hot chocolate, a popular and cozy drink enjoyed during the cold season, can actually do wonders for your health — if you chose the right chocolate, of course. Dark chocolate contains tryptophan, which is an amino acid precursor to serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for having a positive mood and feeling happy. Reduction in blood pressure, cholesterol and improved insulin sensitivity all have been associated with this tasty delight. (1)
2. Lemon Water
Lemons offer more than pleasant smells and sour flavor. The bright yellow fruit comes with potential uses from cleaning and scenting your house to improving your health. Add flavor to your water, help skin conditions, improve hair or add years to our life by utilizing the benefits of lemons. Of course, lemons are known for having high amounts of vitamin C, with a single lemon offering you approximately 51 percent to meet your daily vitamin C needs. (2)
3. Cranberry Juice
Most people think of cranberries as a delicious addition to holiday celebrations in the form of cranberry juice, sauces, stuffing and decorations. Cranberries are rich in health-promoting materials that are essential for all-around wellness. They’re known to store constituents that protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease, and that’s not even half of what cranberries are capable of. They can improve oxidative stress, inflammation and urinary antibacterial adhesion activity to prevent urinary tract infection. (3, 4)
4. Green Tea
Tea is the second most widely enjoyed beverage in the world behind only water. Green tea made from unfermented leaves reportedly contains the highest content of powerful antioxidants called polyphenols, making it one of the top healthy drinks around. Antioxidants are molecules that fight free radicals, which are cell-damaging compounds that damage DNA and even cause cell death. Research points that free radicals contribute to the aging process, as well as the development of a number of medical conditions, including cancer and cardiovascular disease. (5)
Dandelions are everywhere, visibly present throughout most of the year. They make the ground healthy by restoring its mineral health to the depleted soil. Dandelion leaf is used for arthritis, gout, gastric headaches, edema and skin ailments — plus it’s excellent for detoxification due to its action on the liver. The whole plant, especially the roots, is roasted and can be used as a coffee substitute. The high inulin content, especially during the fall season, makes dandelion root a good food source for beneficial gut bacteria. (6)
6. Stinging Nettle Leaf Tea
If you’ve ever gone outside to gather stinging nettle leaves by mistake with your bare hands, you know it feels like you’re being attacked by a group of angry bees. Ouch! Despite it being painful to the touch, this underestimated plant is a powerhouse of benefits.
Stinging nettle is beneficial as a liver tonic and rejuvenator. It has supportive effects on circulation, the immune system, urinary tract, nervous system, respiratory tract, digestive tract and endocrine system. Its high magnesium content may be the reason for nettle tea’s ability to reduce leg and menstrual cramps.
7. Turmeric Tea
Turmeric has been rising quickly in popularity worldwide, especially the golden milk drink. Curcumin is one of the main active constituents in turmeric that gives it its benefits. It is commonly combined with bromelain or black pepper for increased absorption and anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric has been long used in the Chinese and Indian medicine as an anticancer agent, protecting against wide variety of conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, toothaches, rheumatoid arthritis, sprains and wounds.
8. Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
Red raspberry leaf tea has a long history in women’s health, particularly during pregnancy and labor to help prevent postpartum hemorrhage. Due to its drying effects of tannins, the leaves are used as a mouthwash in tonsillitis, diarrhea, skin conditions, abrasions and urinary tract infections. Red raspberry leaf is high in nutrients, including B vitamins, calcium and iron, which can help ward off all sorts of conditions. (7)
Thanks to the benefits of raspberry nutrition, red raspberry leaf tea joins the list of healthy drinks.
9. Watermelon Juice
Watermelon is a natural source of most powerful antioxidants. Perhaps no other fruit is as crunchy, thirst-quenching and hydrating than watermelon. It provides a good serving of vitamin C and vitamin A, particularly through its concentration of beta-carotene. The beautiful red color is a source of a potent carotene antioxidant known as lycopene, which may help reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Surprisingly, watermelon contains a higher concentration of lycopene than any other fruit or vegetable known. (8)
10. Parsley Juice
Parsley is a fairly small Mediterranean herb that leaves a nice presentation on your plate. Drinking parsley juice can decrease the risk of cancers, such as breast, prostate and skin cancer. The high amount of flavonoids, known as apigenin, makes it a strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory herb. Folate in parsley encourages cardiovascular health by reducing pro-inflammatory homocysteine, and parsley offers protection from an extensive selection of disorders, including asthma, atherosclerosis, diabetes, colon cancer and more.
11. Blueberry Juice
Blueberries are an excellent choice to add to your diet because they not only taste great, but they have the highest antioxidant capacity of all fresh fruit. Blueberry drinks improve glucose control and decrease blood cholesterol, lowering the risk of heart disease and diabetes later in life. Anthocyanin, an antioxidant found in blueberries, is a very effective immune builder and antibacterial agent to prevent infections.
Blueberries are surprisingly high in iron, and their vitamin C content reportedly improves night vision, helps build collagen and maintains healthy gums. A handful of blueberries consists of the recommended daily fiber intake to help keep your body regular, and the manganese helps the development of bone and converts carbohydrates and fat into energy. (9)
12. Tart Cherry Juice
Tart cherries contain high levels of phytochemicals, including melatonin, a hormone important in regulating sleep cycle. (10) Cherries also are an excellent source of phenolic compounds, known for their anti inflammatory and antioxidant activity. Phenolic compounds may help yield a protective effect to muscle damage and pain before and during strenuous exercise. (11)
13. Blackstrap Molasses Drink
Blackstrap molasses has a long tradition as a health food and remedy for all sorts of ailments, known for having a low amount of sugar and a high nutrient content. Blackstrap molasses drink is a good source of calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese and potassium. Mixing one tablespoon in water with lemon provides 70 percent of your daily iron requirement, making it the greatest plant-based source of iron available. It contains a small amount of the cancer-fighting mineral selenium as well and is a completely delicious and nutrient-dense sweetener. Look for unsulfured blackstrap molasses from organic sugar. (12)
14. Coconut Water
Is coconut water good for you? Yes, which is why it’s among this list of healthy drinks. It’s rich in carbohydrates, chloride, potassium and sodium and viewed as a hydrating drink of choice in various parts of the world. (13)
Kefir is a probiotic drink that provides that healthy gut bacteria. It, along with other probiotic drinks, promotes efficient digestion by achieving a healthy gut flora, fighting against pathogens and boosting energy levels. Probiotic drinks are “pre-digested” as the sugars in the beverage have been broken down, making them easier to digest creating less work for the pancreas which secretes digestive juices.
Studies have shown that they can help alleviate symptoms constipation, yeast infection, diarrhea, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, candida and ulcers. (14)
16. Plant-Based Milk
Are you allergic to cow’s milk and want another non-dairy choice? Plant-based beverages choices, such as almond, coconut, hemp, oat, quinoa and rice milk, may be for you. Almond milk has more vitamin E since it’s made from grounded almonds. Hemp milk made with ground, soaked hemp seeds and water, delivers a significant amount of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids and protein. (15)
Coconut milk has monolaurin, a molecule responsible for antimicrobial properties. Oat milk is rich in fiber and iron and, like rice milk, higher in carbohydrates so these two plant-based milk choices are not the best option for those with diabetes. Choose fortified nondairy milk alternatives with calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12. Look for unsweetened and reduced sugar options, and limit those with a significant amount of protein. (16)
17. Aloe Vera Juice
The gel of aloe vera has been used extensively in beauty products for years. It’s also been used internally to alleviate arthritis, constipation, coughs, diabetes, headaches and ulcers . One of the constituents, aloe-emodin, has been shown to possess potential anticancer properties as well. Add aloe vera to water, with lemon, and your favorite organic sweetener for a refreshing and tasty drink. (17)
18. Holy Basil Tea
In Ayurvesda, holy basil, or tulsi, is known as “the queen of herbs” and is recommended for conditions such as fever, cough, arthritis, ringworm, and insect, snake and scorpion bites. It’s a potent adaptogen, which are herbs to help your mind and body cope with physical and emotional stress.
Tulsi has been shown to prevent brain, kidney and liver injury by protecting against cellular damage caused by industrial chemicals, pharmaceuticals and pesticides. In additional to protecting against toxic chemicals, holy basil has been shown to protect against the damaging effects of heavy metals as well. (18)
19. Green Vegetable Drinks
Dark green leafy vegetables are nutritious, offering a large amount of vitamins A, C, E and K. The abundant amount of antioxidants called carotenoids protect against cellular damage and help prevent development of many cancers. They also contain a high amount of calcium, fiber, iron, magnesium and potassium. Importantly, dark leafy vegetables have little carbohydrates, cholesterol and sodium. (19)
Dark leafy green drinks supply a significant amount of vitamin K, which helps prevent inflammation and protect bones against osteoporosis. Leafy vegetables may best your best choice when it comes to cancer prevention due to the high amounts of antioxidants. Studies have shown that eating two to three servings of dark leafy greens per week may help lower the risk of certain cancers, especially breast, skin and stomach. The significant amount of folate can help prevent birth defects and improve cardiovascular health as well. Folate is crucial for proper DNA repair and replication and may help reduce the risk of breast, cervical and lung cancers. (20)
Like kefir, kombucha is a fermented, probiotic drink that does wonders for your health. It’s been shown to help prevent disease, support a healthy gut, potentially improve mental state, benefit the lungs, fight bacteria, manage diabetes, support heart health and maintain a healthy liver.
Benefits of These Healthy Drinks
Replenish vitamins and minerals
Protect teeth and gums
1. Digestive Aid
When you drink healthy beverages, you get more of the nutritional value because they are in their liquid form, making it easier for you to digest and absorb nutrients. Your stomach won’t have to work as hard to break the food down and pull out the nutrients you need. Liquids skip the chewing process, and the beverage reaches your digestive system at a faster rate.
Probiotic drinks are beverages that have been through the fermentation process. Healthy bacteria found in your gut feed on the starch and sugar in the drink, making lactic acid. Fermentation has been shown to preserve nutrients, including B vitamins, beneficial enzymes and many strains of bacteria while breaking the beverage down into an easily digestible form. (21)
2. Replenish Vitamins and Minerals
Although drinking clean pure water alone is great in most cases, it doesn’t contain high levels of electrolytes and minerals to replenish what was lost during times of illness and strenuous exercise. Since the healthy drinks are at a liquid state, they can be easily digested, making the electrolytes and vitamins easily accessible to help avoid electrolyte imbalance.
Healthy drinks like coconut water may be useful as an oral rehydration therapy, replacing fluid loss in patients who suffer from severe dehydration. With high antioxidant properties, coconut water can help neutralize free radicals resulting from long hours of exercising. (22)
3. Skin Care
Healthy drinks with large amount of vitamin C, such as lemon water, have heaping amounts of antioxidants. In recent studies, vitamin C was found to be the most plentiful antioxidant in human skin, protecting the skin from oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Vitamin C is essential for collagen synthesis, serving as a co-factor for enzymes responsible for cross-linking and stabilizing collagen molecules. The anti-inflammatory properties of vitamin C in healthy drinks may help with conditions like acne and rosacea. It can promote wound healing and prevent post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation as well. (23)
4. Healthy Teeth and Gums
People lack the enzyme L-glucono-gamma lactone oxidase required for the proper synthesis of vitamin C; hence, they must acquire it from natural sources, such as healthy drinks that contain citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables, strawberries, papaya and broccoli. Traditionally, vitamin C foods and drinks were carried by sailors on long journeys to avoid scurvy, a disease of bleeding gums.
Regular consumption of green tea may help your goal into having healthy teeth and gums. Research shows green tea may promote periodontal health by preventing bone loss, limiting growth of bacteria associated with periodontal disease and reducing inflammation. (24) The periodontal prevention effects of green tea has been credited by an antioxidant called catechin. Catechin may also help inhibit the acid-producing bacteria from causing dental caries. (25)
Healthy drinks are great way to feel and look healthier as they cleanse your body from harmful toxins. Healthy drinks are filled with powerful liver-cleansing, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ingredients known to energize and rejuvenate. (26)
Herbs, such like dandelion, lemon and stinging nettle leaf, have high volatile bitter components, isolating toxins in the body and flushing them out. Bitters also help stimulate gastric juices to promote better digestion, absorption and transportation of toxins. (27)
Don’t be swayed by packaging pleasing to the eye or hidden words — be sure what you are buying is the real deal. When fruit juice is “100% pure fruit juice,” one serving size equals one cup or eight ounces. However, fruit juices lack dietary fiber, which is needed to help keep blood sugar levels at bay. In this case, it is best to incorporate dietary fiber in addition to consuming fruit juices to prevent unnecessary sugar spikes. Fruit juices labeled “cocktails” are beverages filled with sugar and artificial coloring, and most fruit juice is full of hidden, unhealthy additives. (28)
When it comes to soft drinks, they rank the top of the list of being the most unhealthy beverage out there. With tons of sugar and no nutritional value, soda can put you on the fast track of gaining weight, overeating, being dehydrated and developing dental caries.
Reaching for a commercial sports drink after exercise can put your weight-loss goals on hold. Sports drinks are filled with artificial sweeteners, sugar and other additives. Lemon water or coconut water are better options. (29)
Energy drinks are common among college students to pull an all-nighter and increase concentration before exams. Most energy drinks are loaded with caffeine and sugar, giving you a short burst of energy but eventually tanking your energy levels fast. (30)
If you are prescribed medication, you should not use curcumin or turmeric without first talking to your health care provider. Turmeric drinks may interfere with the action of blood-thinners, diabetic drugs, or NSAIDS.
Dandelion drinks should be avoided when having conditions such as bile duct obstruction, acute gallbladder inflammation, acute gastrointestinal inflammation and intestinal blockage.
Final Thoughts on Healthy Drinks
Unhealthy drinks maybe shelved everywhere at your favorite grocery stores and restaurants, but healthy drinks are up and coming in popularity because many are taking an active role to better health.
There are a large variety of dark green leaf, organic fruit, tea and dark chocolate drink recipes that are not only delicious, but provide you with heaping health benefits.
If you want to improve your skin, go on a detox, replenish your electrolytes, healthy teeth and gums, and better digestion, healthy drinks will do the trick.
Unless you are juicing and making smoothies on your own, it is important to look at the nutritional value labels to ensure you are getting most of the fruit and vegetable and not purchasing drinks filled with sugar and artificial flavors.
If you were prescribed medication, consult your health care provider before consumption of some of the ingredients in healthy drinks as they can interact with your medication.
There’s no doubt about it, drinking enough water to stay hydrated is important for many reasons — such as preventing fatigue, regulating blood pressure and even controlling hunger. But can you have too much water?
The answer is yes, you definitely can. In fact, water intoxication (a severe form of hyponatremia) is considered to be a life-threatening emergency that must be diagnosed and treated promptly to prevent serious complications. Below we’ll look at the dangers associated with drinking too much water, plus how much water should actually be consumed daily for optimal hydration.
What Is Water Intoxication?
The definition of water intoxication is: “A lowered blood concentration of sodium (hyponatremia) that occurs due to the consumption of excess water without adequate replacement of sodium.” (1)
Water intoxication is referred to in a few different ways, including: hyponatremia, water poisoning, hyperhydration, or excessive water intake. All of these terms describe the same serious health condition that is caused by an electrolyte imbalance — specifically having too much water (H2O) in the blood in relation to sodium.
Hyponatremia means low sodium levels in the blood (the term, which has Latin and Greek roots, literally means “insufficient salt in the blood”). Water intoxication, or hyponatremia, is the opposite of hypernatremia, the condition that occurs due to dehydration (low levels of body water).
The Causes of Water Intoxication:
Because it’s preventable, you might be wondering in what types of situations is water intoxication most likely to occur? Studies have found that this condition commonly develops in hospitalized patients and those with mental disturbances, although it can also affect people who are otherwise healthy. Water intoxication has been described in several different clinical situations:
Compulsive water drinking is known as psychogenic polydipsia. This is most often associated with either mental illness or mental handicaps.
Water intoxication is commonly associated with a combination of drinking lots of fluids and also having increased secretion of vasopression (also called antidiuretic hormone), which causes the kidneys hold onto water.
Young people who are in good health, such as athletes or army recruits, might develop hyponatremia (overhydration) following heat-related injuries. They may drink a high volume of water to try to prevent dehydration, but this can backfire if they consume far too much. One study investigating hyponatremia in otherwise-healthy army recruits found that 77 percent of hyponatremia cases occurred in the first four weeks of training, and that most of the recruits who were affected had exceeded drinking two quarts of water per hour. (2) The authors concluded that “hyponatremia resulted from too aggressive fluid replacement practices for soldiers in training status. The fluid replacement policy was revised with consideration given to both climatic heat stress and physical activity levels.”
Accidental water intoxication can sometimes occur due to abnormal renal failure/kidney dysfunction, diabetes insipidus or gastroenteritis ( inflammation of the lining of the intestines caused by a virus, bacteria or parasites). In these situations hyponatremia is typically treated with gastric lavage, or stomach pumping/gastric irrigation. (3)
Iatrogenic causes of water intoxication are due to complications that occur when illnesses are treated by medical intervention, such as the use of intravenous fluids or electrolytes, elemental nutrition, nasogastric tube feeding, or when taking certain neurological/psychiatric medications. This is unlikely to affect people who have normal kidney function and are generally healthy, but it’s possible if they experience changes in antidiuretic hormone secretion, since this causes fluid accumulation.
In some cases, water intoxication has occurred due to “water-drinking contests” that lead people to consume large amounts of water despite becoming ill while they do it.
When people take the illegal drug called MDMA (or “ecstasy”) they put themselves at risk for electrolyte imbalance because the the drug makes them feel very hot, causes increased perspiration and increases thirst, while also causing more sodium to be lost via urine and sweat. This can lead to drinking large amounts of water/fluids, which in some cases may led to water intoxication. (4)
In rare cases, forced water intoxication has been recognized as a form of child abuse, which commonly leads to brain damage and can be fatal.
Signs & Symptom of Water Intoxication
While mild or moderate hyponatremia is commonly asymptomatic (it causes no noticeable symptoms), water intoxication is another story. The most common water intoxication symptoms can include: (5)
Headaches, confusion and disorientation.
Nausea and vomiting.
Impaired mental state and psychotic symptoms, such as experiencing psychosis, delirium, inappropriate behavior, delusions and hallucinations. Sometimes these symptoms can also contribute to water intoxication because the person doesn’t realize what is happening to them and doesn’t seek help.
Muscle weakness, cramping, twitching, aches and fatigue.
Severe drowsiness, seizures, respiratory arrest, brain stem herniation, and coma.
Because water intoxication messes with normal neurological functions and nerve signaling, it can manifest as a psychotic illness in its early stages that can go unrecognized by doctors. For example, if someone is admitted to the emergency room for water intoxication medical providers might mistake the patient’s symptoms for a high fever, seizure, or mental disorder such as chronic paranoid schizophrenia. Water intoxication doesn’t just affect adults; it can also occur in babies, especially those under 9 months old, and in children. Symptoms of water intoxication in babies or children can include: crying, changes in behavior, vomiting, twitching or shaking, irregular breathing, and, in severe cases, seizures, coma, brain damage and death.
Dangers of Water Intoxication
Why, exactly, is drinking too much water dangerous?
Some of the negative health impacts associated with water intoxication include:
Developing dangerously low sodium levels due to water flushing too much sodium from the body. Serum sodium concentration can fall to below 110–120 mmol/liter, when the normal serum reference range is about 132–144 mmol/liter. In severe cases sodium might even fall to 90–105 mmol/liter, which can cause a number of serious symptoms and potentially be deadly.
The kidneys becoming very stressed due to overhydration because they are responsible for regulating fluid levels. When you consume too much water in a short period of time the kidneys struggle to balance electrolytes in the blood, causing the body to become “waterlogged.”
Experiencing neurological impairment due to the movement of water into the brain cells, in response to the fall in extracellular osmolality. Hyponatremia causes cells to swell, and in the brain this swelling increases intracranial pressure (ICP) and cerebral edema. Unlike most other cells in the body, brain cells have very little room to swell and expand inside the skull, so even slight swelling can be dangerous. Swollen brain cells can cause central nervous system dysfunction, which is what causes seizures, brain damage, coma or death.
Damage to the heart valves, including left ventricular hypertrophy.
Fluid buildup in the stomach and abdominal organs.
Raised blood cortisol levels, due to the body experiencing a strong stress response.
Can water intoxication cause death — and, if so, how much water does it take to kill you?
While staying hydrated is important, there’s also such a thing as a fatal water overdose. In severe cases, hyponatraemia that is not treated can lead to seizures, coma and death. This is why experts say that early detection is crucial for preventing severe hyponatremia. How severe water intoxication becomes depends on how much and how quickly water was consumed, and the rate at which the sodium concentration in the blood falls. For water intoxication symptoms to be experienced someone would have to drink more than five cups of water per hour.
How Much Water Is Too Much?
Several factors can affect how well someone is able to excrete (remove) excess water from their body in order to prevent hyponatremia/water intoxication. For example, as mentioned above, being under a lot of stress and/or having existing medical conditions both take a toll on the kidneys and nervous system, which can increase the likelihood that water intoxication symptoms might occur.
So how much water is too much to drink within a short period?
When someone has normal/healthy kidneys they should be able to excrete about 800 milliliters to 1 liter of fluid each hour. This is equal to about 3.3 to 4.2 cups, 0.21 to 0.26 gallons, or about 0.84 to 1.04 quarts per hour.
Drinking more than this amount will cause an imbalance of electrolytes and likely some early symptoms associated with hyponatremia. Also remember that if someone is heavily exercising (such as running a marathon or training or a sport) while also drinking lots of water, they will hold onto even more water because their body is experiencing a stress response.
Water intoxication is not likely to happen unless someone drinks a large volume of water within a short period of time (one or two hours). Water intoxication can be prevented if a person’s intake of water does not grossly exceed their water losses via urine or sweat.
In one case study, water intoxication was the cause of a 64-year-old woman dying due to severe hyponatremia. She had drank 30–40 glasses of water within several hours before going to sleep. Because she was experiencing delusions, she kept drinking more and more water even though she was vomiting and not feeling well. (6)
In 2014, The Daily Mail reported that a 17-year-old high school football player died from water intoxication after drinking four gallons of fluids to stop cramps during practice. (7)
A 2002 investigation of several military cases of water intoxication and three deaths that have occurred as a result of overhydration and cerebral edema found that all cases were associated with more than five liters (usually 10-20 L) of water being consumed during a period of a few hours. (8)
In 2007, Scientific America published an article that mentioned a 28-year-old women who died after competing in a water-drinking contest in which she consumed an estimated six liters of water in three hours. (9) The same article pointed out a 2005 study that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine that states “one sixth of marathon runners develop some degree of hyponatremia, or dilution of the blood caused by drinking too much water.”
Treatment for hyponatremia and water intoxication comes down to regulating fluid levels in the body, specifically raising sodium levels. Intake and excretion of salt versus water must be balanced. Keep in mind that while sodium/salt might have earned a bad reputation — mostly because it’s found in highest concentrations in processed foods — sodium is actually an essential nutrient. For example, some of the roles that sodium has include:
Helping to regulate the amount of water in and around your cells.
Allowing your muscles and nerves to work properly.
When it does occur, water intoxication treatment involves:
Gastric lavage, or stomach pumping/gastric irrigation.
Sodium correction therapy.
Use of intravenous electrolytes.
Diuretics to increase urination and excess blood volume.
Vasopressin receptor antagonists.
The Importance of Hydration
Even though drinking too much water and experiencing overhydration can be very dangerous, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t drink water regularly throughout the day. Dehydration (or hypernatremia) causes its own set of health problems. In fact, many dehydration symptoms are similar to the symptoms of water intoxication.
Water (H2O) makes up more than 60 percent of the human body, so it’s no surprise that we need a steady supply of water to function optimally. (10) Everyday we lose water through a combination of urine, defecation/bowel movements, sweat and exhaled breath. Staying hydrated is important because it helps prevent symptoms like:
People who should be especially careful to drink enough water/fluids (but not too much) are:
Athletes, such as endurance athletes like marathons runners
Anyone who exercises for an extended period of time (more than 60–90 minutes), especially if they are exercising or competing in a humid, hot climate
People who eat a diet high in salt, or those who don’t drink enough water
Elderly people, who might not notice sensations associated with being thirsty
People recovering from illnesses such as a stomach virus or the flu that causes diarrhea
Anyone recovering from surgery
Infants, babies and young children who might not drink enough fluids if not given to them
How to Stay Hydrated Without Overhydrating
How much water is safe to drink at a time? To put this another way, how much water is too much to drink in one hour?
>To prevent hyponatremia from developing and potentially progressing to water intoxication, it’s important to:
Even during times of heavy sweating and exercise, limit fluid intake to no more 1 to 1.5 liters per hour (about 4–5 cups).
Drink according to your thirst. If you’re not thirsty at all, don’t force yourself to down water or fluids.
Aim to balance what you’re drinking with what you’re sweating. Drink the right amount of water in proportion to how much sodium you’re consuming and how much water you’re losing (through sweat, urine, etc.). Remember that water is not the only fluid that can cause an electrolyte imbalance: herbal tea, sports drinks, juice, etc. can also deplete sodium levels.
Eat a balanced diet that includes water-rich foods and also some sources of real sea salt.
Treat any underlying health conditions like intestinal inflammation, diabetes, kidney disease or renal failure.
Get help for mental disorders that might put you at risk.
In regards to how much water to drink daily, the most common advice is to drink eight, eight-ounce glasses of water per day. However, this is just a general recommendation and not necessarily the best amount for every person. In fact, according to a 2002 review published in the American Journal of Physiology —Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, there isn’t much scientific evidence to support drinking this amount. (11)
Each person is a bit different in terms of how much water they need, but overall it’s best to aim for about six to seven glasses or potentially more per day (8 ounces per glass). You might need less if you eat a water-rich diet, such as lots of fruit, salads and smoothies. And you might need more if you exercise frequently, live in a hot climate, are ill, or eat a salty diet. Rather than counting glasses of water, pay attention to how you feel. A good way to know if you’re drinking the right amount of water each day is to pay attention to the color of your urine: you want your urine to normally be a pale-to-medium yellow color, as opposed to clear or very dark yellow/orange.
In terms of the best water to drink, I recommend using a water filter at home rather than drinking contaminated tap water or bottled water. Why? A three-year study conducted by the Environmental Working Group found 316 chemicals can be found in tap water throughout the U.S! Using an at-home filter is your best bet because this helps remove toxins that might be lingering in the water supply. There are several different types of water filters, including:
Whole-house water filter
Choose the option that works best with your family’s lifestyle and that will be easiest to use consistently.
Proper Hydration In Babies & Children:
Parents might think it’s a good idea to give their young children water and other fluids to prevent dehydration, but when a baby is breast-feeding the mother’s breast milk or formula actually provides all the fluid healthy babies need. The Johns Hopkins Children’s Center advises parents with babies younger than 6 months old to never give their babies extra water to drink. If babies are thirsty, they need to drink more breast milk or formula. (12)
According to James P. Keating, MD, the retired medical director of the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Diagnostic Center, if a baby seems to need additional water then parents should “limit the child’s intake to two to three ounces at a time, and water should be offered only after the baby has satisfied his hunger with breast-feeding or formula.” (13) Older babies can be given small amount of water at times to help prevent constipation or if they are in very hot weather, but it’s usually best for parents to discuss this with their pediatrician.
Children up to about 8 years old should get water from hydrating foods in their diet (like fruits and veggies) or drink the equivalent of about five to seven glasses of water per day (eight ounces per glass). (14) Water or fresh-squeezed juice in small amounts is the best thing for children to drink when they are thirsty, rather than sugary fruit drinks, soft drinks, sports drinks, iced tea and flavored beverages.
Stats/Facts on Water Intoxication
Surveys have found that hyponatremia develops in 15–30 percent of all patients during hospital stays. Not all cases of hyponatremia will lead to water intoxication but a small percentage will.
A 2002 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that investigated hyponatremia in Boston marathon runners stated: “Hyponatremia has emerged as an important cause of race-related death and life-threatening illness among marathon runners.” (15) The study found that 13 percent of runners finished the race with hyponatremia, while 0.6 percent had critical hyponatremia (sodium levels of 120 mmol per liter or less). The analysis showed that hyponatremia was associated with “substantial weight gain during the race, consumption of more than 3 liters of fluids during the race, consumption of fluids every mile, a racing time of >4:00 hours, female sex, and low body-mass index.” The study also found that hyponatremia was just as likely to occur in runners who chose sports drinks as those who chose water.
It is difficult to say just how many water intoxication deaths occur per year, but the number is believed to be small (under 10 per year in the United States).
Precautions Regarding Water Intoxication
If you suspect that you or someone else is experiencing water intoxication, then visit the emergency room for help right away. Look out for sudden symptoms of an electrolyte balance like confusion and dizziness, especially after high-intensity activities or if you have conditions like low blood pressure and/or diabetes. Make sure you drink the proper amount of water during a hospital stay, after surgery, when partaking in a marathon/long-distance race, or during a bout of dehydration or illness (like a fever).
Final Thoughts on Water Intoxication
Water intoxication is a severe form of hyponatremia, an electrolyte imbalance caused by too little sodium in the body in proportion to water.
Water intoxication is most likely to occur when someone consumes more than 1.5 liters of water within an hour, especially if they are exercising intensely, have renal failure, kidney damage, diabetes, or a mental condition that affects their judgement.
Symptoms of water intoxication can include confusion, disorientation, nausea, vomiting, headaches and, in severe cases, brain damage due to swelling, seizures, coma and, potentially, death.
Hydration is important, but to prevent water intoxication and hyponatremia you should make sure to drink the right amount of water in proportion to how much sodium you’re losing, to manage underlying health conditions, eat a balanced diet, and pay attention to your thirst.