According to a new study, the ‘rule’ of drinking 8 glasses of water each day may not apply to everyone. The key, researchers believe, is to listen to one’s water, drinking only when thirsty or when it gets difficult to swallow. The research, the team revealed, is the first of its kind to suggests that every person’s water needs are different, and should be taken into consideration to prevent water intoxication due to over-drinking. Speaking about the find, scientists Michael Farrell said:
If we just do what our body demands us to we’ll probably get it right – just drink according to thirst rather than an elaborate schedule.
Don’t fret just yet. As pointed out by the scientists, a daily intake of around eight glasses won’t likely cause much harm, given that some people might require more water than others. Over-drinking, however, could lead to what is known as ‘water intoxication’. Also called hypnoatremia, the condition is associated with alarmingly low levels of sodium in the patient’s bloodstream, resulting in nausea, chronic fatigue, seizures, coma and even death.
To understand the body’s inherent fluid regulation mechanism, the team worked with 20 individuals, asking them to describe the amount of effort required to swallow water in two, specific cases: after an intense workout and following excessive water intake. According to the researchers, the participants had to expend three times more effort to swallow after drinking too much water, as opposed to what happened when they were thirsty.
The sign, the team believes, is the body’s own way of regulating the ingestion of water by making it more difficult for the person to actually drink. Talking about the amazing discovery, which was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Farrell, a researcher at Australia’s Monash University explained:
Here for the first time we found effort-full swallowing after drinking excess water which meant they were having to overcome some sort of resistance. This was compatible with our notion that the swallowing reflex becomes inhibited once enough water has been drunk.
With the help of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the scientists recorded the brain activity in each of the participants before and after drinking water in both cases. They found over-drinking to be directly linked with increased activity in the brain’s right prefrontal areas. Their examination also revealed that during times like this, the frontal cortex is responsible for suppressing the body’s natural swallowing inhibition.
Despite its small size, the study is important as it could help enhance our understanding of the process of fluid regulation in our body. This could in turn help reduce the dangers associated with over-drinking, by encouraging people to make better choices when it comes to water intake. As pointed out by the team, the study also showed that elderly people in general drink less what than is actually needed. Farrell went on to say:
There have been cases when athletes in marathons were told to load up with water and died, in certain circumstances, because they slavishly followed these recommendations and drank far in excess of need.