Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? It’s not uncommon for us to think more of a good thing is always better, but sometimes you can have too much:
Drinking water – Two litres a day is about right. You will need more if you are into sports such as long distance running, or in a hot climate and sweating excessively or on long distance flights. However too much water can cause ‘water intoxication’ and make you feel confused etc., but this is a very rare situation. Let your thirst guide you. If you will be away from amenities e.g. on a long hike, always take more water with you than you think you may need. It is also important to replace electrolytes (salts), but sports drinks are not a good choice as are often very high in sugar. Coconut water may be a good option, but drink it slowly to prevent bloating. Also, the best way to find out if you have had enough fluids is to check the colour of your urine. Dark urine shows that you haven’t been drinking enough and clear urine shows that you are well hydrated.
Eating protein – The amount of protein you can eat also varies and depends on your general health. The recommendation of protein intake for adults is around 0.8g per kg body weight and to try not to go above about 1.5g per kg per day. Pregnant and breastfeeding women will tend to be towards the top of this scale, as will athletes and those on a low carbohydrate diet. (If you have kidney disease you may be advised by your doctor to limit your protein intake.) Fresh meat is better than processed meat and especially if organic/grass fed. Similarly, wild fish is a healthier choice than farmed. Also, plant-based protein such as lentils, legumes, quinoa, soy, mycoprotein and nuts can be a valuable source of protein in our diets.
Sleeping – Between six to eight hours per night is optimal for an adult. Having more sleep is not harmful, but can leave you feeling groggy and is generally not necessary.
Vitamins – The fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K are not readily cleared from the body and are more likely to accumulate, so it is these where it is more likely to overdo dosage. For water-soluble B vitamins and vitamin C, if you take too much they will usually be flushed out by your kidneys (which is why some people call such vitamins ‘expensive pee’.) Take care not to accidentally take the same vitamins from different sources. Many older people are given calcium with vitamin D by their GPs to reduce risk of osteoporosis. Some of these may also buy multivitamins which most commonly will contain vitamin D. Another way that people may get excessive levels of vitamins is if they have large quantities of a single type of food, e.g. vast quantities of carrots, which might lead to high levels of alpha and beta-carotene (vitamin A). This is an unusual scenario, but is one reason why it is best to have a range of fruit and vegetables. Why take vitamin supplements at all? If you have a well-balanced diet with plentiful fruit and vegetables it is most likely that you will get sufficient vitamins without the need for supplements (with the exception of vitamin D in the UK Winter). Those people who have a vegan diet are likely to have vitamin deficiencies and so need supplements to stay healthy. Vitamins A, C, D and E act as antioxidants, helping to reduce inflammation in the body and for you to fight infections. However, when you take supplements, they may compete with the action of your body’s own antioxidants. When you get antioxidants through your diet they are more likely to act in harmony with your bodies’ natural antioxidants. It is also very hard to overdose on vitamins taken through your foods. Great examples of foods supplying these vitamins include: Dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale and also orange and yellow fruits and vegetables for vitamin A; citrus fruits, blackcurrants, bell peppers and peas for vitamin C; oily fish, eggs and mushrooms for vitamin D (although the best source is sunlight acting on your skin) and extra virgin olive oil or avocados, nuts and seeds for vitamin E.
Sunscreen – It is rare for people to apply too much sunscreen. More often it is too little. Ideally try to find an organic formulation, because the chemicals you apply to your skin will be absorbed. It is also often recommended to allow about 15 minutes in a day without sunscreen to help to top-up your vitamin D levels. Take care not to allow your skin to burn.
Salad – It is almost impossible to have too much salad. Ideally, we are now recommended that about half the content of our main meals should be salad or cooked vegetables. However, some people with digestive disorders may find cooked vegetables cause less stomach pains than raw. A caution with salad leaves which are bought pre-washed is that there could be contaminants. Ideally re-soak these at home in fresh water. (A diet of salad alone would not be nutritionally complete.)
Sushi – Here it depends on the type of sushi. If it is raw fish wrapped in white rice you might ideally reduce quantities. The rice is a refined carbohydrate and will raise your blood sugar. Fish can provide omega 3, vitamin D, protein and selenium. However, to eat raw fish you need to know that it is very fresh and from a reliable source. Tuna fish can be contaminated with small amounts of mercury so this should only be eaten infrequently. Sashimi is a healthier choice than sushi, as it is not wrapped in rice. However, personally, I prefer my fish to be cooked. The trimmings, which are served with sushi, might be particularly healthy e.g. wasabi is made from horseradish and is a fantastic anti-inflammatory and pickled ginger is probiotic as well as being delicious.
Authors Dr Jackie Rose, an experienced GP who specialises in nutrition, and Eva Lasry, Nutritionist, head up the Nutrition Clinic at Private GP Extra. The service offers sound evidence-based medical and nutritional advice to help people achieve optimum health and wellbeing without using medication. Find out more here https://www.privategpextra.com/nutrition-private-gp-extra/