Saturday, 11 April 2020

Water Intoxication: How Drinking Too Much Water Can Actually Kill You.

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Water intoxication, also known as water poisoning or hyperhydration, is perhaps not something you would normally consider to be a serious problem. Like how could something as innocent-looking as water, with so much health benefits intoxicate? Well, actually it does. Water intoxication is a potentially fatal disturbance in brain functions that results when the normal balance of electrolytes in the body is pushed outside safe limits by overhydration.

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You must have heard people say that too much of everything isn't good, and that includes water. Under normal circumstances, accidentally consuming too much water is exceptionally rare. But In a hydration-obsessed culture, people can, and do drink themselves to death as a result of Water intoxication. It may sound funny but nearly all deaths related to water intoxication in normal individuals have resulted either from water-drinking contests, in which individuals attempt to consume large amounts of water (thanks to the friends they keep), or from long bouts of exercise during which excessive amounts of fluid were consumed. In addition, I heard drinking a lot of water when suffering from Urinary Tract Infection helps the 'healing process', but this also could lead to Water Intoxication.

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In my previous blog post, Let's Talk Hyperhidrosis: Excessive sweating, Types, Causes, Treatment, I explained how taking a lot of water can help manage the condition. However, taking way too much can...err... Kill you.

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Water is essential for Life Making up about 66 percent of the human body and it runs through the blood, inhabits the cells, and lurks in the spaces between the cells. But this water doesn't just remain stagnant. At every moment water escapes the body through sweat, urination, defecation or exhaled breath, among other routes. Replacing these lost stores is essential for maintaining balance but re-hydration can be overdone.

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Hyponatremia is a condition that occurs when the level of sodium in your blood is abnormally low. Sodium is an electrolyte, and it helps regulate the amount of water that's in and around your cells." Quantitatively speaking, it means having a blood sodium concentration below 135 millimoles per litre the normal concentration lying somewhere between 135 and 145 millimoles per litre. Severe cases of hyponatremia can lead to water intoxication, an illness whose symptoms include a headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, frequent urination and mental disorientation.

 Water Intoxication Causes

According to Scientificamerican, the kidneys control the amount of water, salts and other solutes leaving the body by sieving blood through their millions of twisted tubules. When a person drinks too much water in a short period of time, the kidneys cannot flush it out fast enough and the blood becomes waterlogged. Excess water leaves the blood and is drawn to regions where the concentration of salt and other dissolved substances is higher, and ultimately enters the cells, which swell like balloons to accommodate it. Most cells have room to stretch because they are embedded in flexible tissues such as fat and muscle, but this is not the case for neurones. Brain cells are tightly packaged inside a rigid bony cage, the skull, and they have to share this space with blood and cerebrospinal fluid. The issue boils down to sodium levels. One of sodium’s jobs is to balance the fluids in and around your cells. Drinking too much water causes an imbalance, and the liquid moves from your blood to inside your cells, making them swell. Swelling inside the brain is serious and requires immediate treatment.

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Sometimes babies can have issues. Their bodies are so tiny that they can't handle lots of water. That's why doctors say infants should drink only milk or formula.
Water Intoxication is more likely to occur in: Infants because of their low body mass, Marathon runners are susceptible to water intoxication if they drink too much while running and in people who perform activities that promote heavy sweating which can also lead to water intoxication when water is consumed to replace lost fluids.

 Water Intoxication Symptoms

According to Wikipedia, the onset of Water Intoxication, fluid outside the cells has an excessively low amount of solutes, such as sodium and other electrolytes, in comparison to fluid inside the cells, causing the fluid to move into the cells to balance its concentration. This causes the cells to swell. In the brain, this swelling increases intracranial pressure (ICP), which leads to the first observable symptoms of water intoxication: headache, personality changes, changes in behavior, confusion, irritability, and drowsiness.  These are sometimes followed by difficulty breathing during exertion, muscle weakness and pain, twitching, or cramping, nausea, vomiting, thirst, and a dulled ability to perceive and interpret sensory information.

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As the condition persists, papillary and vital signs may result including bradycardia (abnormally slow heart action.) and widened pulse pressure. The cells in the brain may swell to the point where blood flow is interrupted resulting in cerebral oedema. Swollen brain cells may also apply pressure to the brain stem causing central nervous system dysfunction. Both cerebral oedema and interference with the central nervous system are dangerous and could result in seizures, brain damage, coma or death.
If you notice the first set of symptoms and you're sure you overdosed on Water, get help right away because the condition can quickly lead to swelling in the brain, seizures, and coma. Get to an emergency room as soon as you can. Doctors there can inject concentrated salt water to ease swelling and reverse problems.

Water Intoxication Prevention

As dreadful as those symptoms may seem, water intoxication can actually be prevented if a person's intake of water does not grossly exceed their losses. The primary aim is to achieve Balance. Healthy kidneys are able to excrete approximately 800 millilitres to 1 litre of fluid water (0.21 - 0.26 gallons) per hour. However, stress (from prolonged physical exertion), as well as disease states, can greatly reduce this amount.

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Just drink as much water as required and don't let your friends challenge you into drinking more sachets of water than you can normally take, no matter the amount of money they dare  you with. Sometimes, it helps to have sports drinks instead of plain water if you know you'll be working hard. Sports drinks have sodium and other electrolytes. But too much liquid of any kind too fast can cause issues. We’ve always been told to stay hydrated while exercising, Bergquist says. But there's a fine line. It's important to listen to your body. If you're pushing fluids beyond the point it's comfortable, it's a sign it's time to stop drinking."

 Water Intoxication Cure or Treatment

Mild Water intoxication may require only fluid restriction. In more severe cases, treatment consists of:

Read More: Let's Talk Hyperhidrosis: Excessive sweating Disorder, Types, Causes, Treatment.
  • Diuretics to increase urination: which are most effective for excess blood volume. A diuretic is any substance that promotes diuresis, that is, the increased production of urine. This includes forced diuresis.
  • Vasopressin receptor antagonists: A vasopressin receptor antagonist (VRA) is an agent that interferes with action at the vasopressin receptors. Most commonly VRAs are used in the treatment of hyponatremia.
Like they say, "Too much of everything is not good". There is also a practice we're familiar with called Water Therapy. One form of Water therapy is the consumption of a gutful of water first thing in the morning in order to "cleanse the bowel". A litre to a litre-and-a-half is the common amount ingested. Hold on a second,  just because every T.v commercial and health book claim that Water Therapy works wonders doesn't mean you should take it to extreme levels. Water Intoxication is real. Thanks for reading,
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