ISLAMABAD  – Excessive water in your system can dilute your body fluids so much that the sodium levels become life-threateningly low.

Water may be the elixir of life, but it sure can send your health into a tailspin, even endangering your life, if you drink too much of it. While packaged water, juice and cola companies hard-sell their thirst-quenchers to you through TV and print advertisements, the truth is that drinking too much water can do you more harm than good.

Due to excessive water consumption, people have died of overhydration, which goes by the name of Exercise-Associated Hyponatraemia (EAH). In simple terms, it means that you have drunk too much water and the excess has diluted your body fluids so much that the sodium levels have become life-threateningly low, causing cells to swell. That includes brain cells leading to loss of consciousness, seizures and even coma and death. For long-distance runners, this can be a particular hazard. With half-marathons and marathons being all the rage, runners while practicing mhe temptation to tank themselves up with too much water. Water intoxication is always on the cards if you believe you have to ‘stay ahead of thirst’ by drinking excessive quantities of fluids. To do so is entirely unphysiological. Drinking more water than you need increases your total blood volume and also pressures you kidneys into working overtime so as to filter excess water out of your circulatory system.

It is, however, incredibly rare for someone to die of dehydration in a temperate climate, not even sportsmen who sweat a great deal. The right way to drink water is on your TV screen. When Tennis legends Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal play five gruelling sets of tennis in the baking sun, sweating profusely, how do they drink? They sip. They may sip at every end change, but they certainly don’t gulp. While exercising, you should balance how much water you drink to how much you are sweating out. All runners should know that overconsumption of fluids, whether it’s water or sports drinks, can be fatal. EAH due to excessive hydration has caused at least a dozen deaths worldwide and there have been more than 1,600 documented cases of it around the globe.

The International Marathon Medical Directors Association advocates ‘drinking to thirst’ and no more. That means 0.03 litres per kilogram. So, for a 100 kg person that’s a maximum of three litres.