There’s no argument that the human body needs water, but how much your body requires depends on multiple factors. Your body requires water for a wide variety of important tasks such as hydration, proper organ function and healthy skin. However, drinking too much water can have consequences.
Importance and Benefits
Your body relies on water for hydration. If your body isn't properly hydrated, it can't function properly. Organs such as your liver, kidneys and heart rely on water; tissues such as your skin and muscles all require water to function to a certain degree. Without enough water, your muscles would become fatigued, your organs could shut down and your skin would become dry and cracked. Water can even help control your weight and improve weight loss, by helping you to feel full even if you haven’t eaten very much.
Factors that Influence Hydration
The amount of water you need depends upon your current health, activity level, diet and environment. Certain health conditions, such as diabetes insipidus, require a person to drink more water than an average, healthy person. Your activity level can vary day to day, which will determine how much water you’ll need. If you’re performing hard, physical labor, your body will need more water than if you were just playing board games with your family. Eating certain foods, such as fruits, can provide some level of hydration as compared to eating crackers or bread, which can actually deplete water. Also, if you live in a hot, dry climate, you'll need more water than someone who lives in a cool, moist environment.
How Much Water is Healthy?
Since there are so many factors that can influence hydration levels, it’s hard to provide an exact amount that’s appropriate for everyone. The NHS recommends that the average person drinks approximately 1.2 liters of water per day, although your needs may be more or less than this. Your body will give you cues as to whether or not you are drinking enough water. Dark urine can indicate dehydration. If your body is properly hydrated, your urine should be light in color. Your eyes can appear to have dark circles under them if you are not properly hydrated. Thirst is often a key indicator. Thirst is your body’s natural way of letting you know that you need to drink more, but by the time you become thirsty, you’ve already lost a significant amount of hydration.
Dangers and Risks
Drinking more water than your body needs can result in death. Death typically only occurs in severe cases of drinking too much water, and usually only happens when you’ve consumed a large amount of water in a very short time. Drinking too much water can increase your blood volume significantly and can cause brain swelling, as well as make your heart work harder to handle the increased blood volume. Signs of too much water include dizziness, impaired concentration, urinating too frequently and even loss of sleep if you have to make several late night trips to the restroom.
Derek Buckner has been writing professionally since 2005, specializing in diet, nutrition and general health. He has been published in "Today's Dietitian," "Food Essentials" and "Eating Well Magazine," among others. Buckner is a registered dietitian and holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition and food science from Drexel University.