Can You Overdose on Water?

Water is an essential component in our life. It supports various human activities each day. Can you imagine living without water? It is definitely impossible. Human body needs water to optimize its internal system, especially the kidneys. How many water should you consume per day? The Institute of Medicine advises that women should consume about 2.2 liters per day, while men should consume 3 liters per day. However, the amount or the quantity of water people should consume depends on their unique situation. The climate, degree of activity, eating habit, and metabolism are factors that influence the level of water consumption.

Additionally, besides the above suggested amount of water intake for men and women. Some experts advised that the amount a person should drink per day is half of his or her body weight (in ounces). If your weight is 120 pounds, then you need to drink 60 oz of water per day. Normally, people tend to drink water when thirsty, after eating meal and after performing intense activities. It is rare for a person to drink without these reasons. But, sometimes it can be found that a woman, who follows diet program, drinks plenty of water to ‘kill’ the hunger.

This condition is also common on athletes who participate in a long-range endurance sport, such as cycling and marathon. In a long-range running event, runners have plenty of opportunity to get water bottles from the officials or even the spectators. Marathon runners move at a relatively slower pace than 100m or 400m athletes. As the result, their body processes water less. The risk is even higher if the event is held in a colder climate, as our body needs less water to cool itself down through sweat. Due to their small body mass, babies under 6 months may also suffer water intoxication if they get diluted baby formula too much in a single day.

When you take something into your body, it is better to do it in a normal amount because you can overdose on anything. Adverse affects will be felt immediately throughout your body. Water intoxication and hyponatremia can happen when people drink water in an excessive amount.

Water Intoxication and Hyponatremia

1. Water Intoxication

Water intoxication or water poisoning is a condition that happens when a person consumes water excessively. Like any other substances, water will have damaging affect when people consume it in a very large amount. It occurs due to electrolyte imbalance, which happens after water enters our body in large amount. Our body tries to correct the electrolyte imbalance by increasing the sodium concentration in the blood serum. Via a process called osmosis, large amount of water molecules flows into the cell, which makes it to swell and in some cases, bursts. Higher water contents inside the cells causes organs to swell, causing unfavorable consequences. For example, brain tissues may swell, which interrupt the nervous system and cause cerebral edema. It may cause seizures, shock, come and sometimes death.

It is ironic that the symptoms of water intoxication are similar to dehydration. People might be indicated to have water intoxication when these symptoms appear: headache, mental confusion, nausea, muscle cramps, slurred speech and fatigue.

How to Treat People With Water Intoxication?

First, the patient is advised to perform fluid restriction. During this process, he or she will be restricted to consume any fluid in a certain amount of time, with the aim to minimize the effects of water intoxication. It allows the patient’s kidneys to process the excess water as a part of the recovery process.

Healthy kidneys can process approximately 30 oz of water each hour. Water intoxication can happen if someone drink 60 to 90 oz of water each hour. Drinking a lot of water is not necessarily safe, because you need to take into account the processing capacity of your kidneys.

2. Hyponatremia

Hyponatremia (Low Serum Sodium) is another affect of extreme water consumption. It happens when there are more water molecules outside of the body cells compared to the inside the body cells. The affected individual may feel very thirsty and needs to drink a lot of water, to avoid overdose. It is suggested to consume sports drink, because it contains the beneficial electrolytes, which are unavailable in plain water. This is also a good solution for athletes, as they have higher risk of hyponatremia. Water overdose may cause your kidneys to work harder than usual. It is because water is running through your system faster than your kidneys can handle it. Additionally in this situation, your circulatory system can be severely overloaded, which badly stresses your cardiovascular system.

How to Deal With Hyponatremia?

There are several ways to deal with hyponatremia, these ways are to prevent hyponatremia from getting worse and to minimize the likelihood of permanent damages.

a. Hospital Treatment

Commonly, hyponatremia occurs when you have liver and renal problems. The best step is to follow the medical treatment provided by your hospital, because they will do proper correction to deal with the root cause of hyponatremia.

b. IV Fluids

Another treatment for hyponatremia is the administration of IV Fluids. This treatment has an aim to raise the sodium level in the patient’s body. Isotonic and hypertonic preparations are two alternatives that might be given and the amount given depends on the degree of the hyponetremia. However, the treatment should also take into account the risk of brain herniation. An abrupt jump in sodium dosage may cause the brain tissues to shrink. This situation is dangerous, because when the brain tissues shrink, they exert pressure on the brain stem.

c. Arginine Vasopressin Antagonist

The next possible treatment is with Arginine vasopressin antagonist. This treatment works by arranging the sodium level in your body and excrete the excess water through urine. Under certain condition, this treatment is not preferred, especially on people with congestive failure, liver and kidneys problems. The treatment is only effective on patients with low amount of sodium and excessive quantity of water in their body.

As a conclusion, either you have water intoxication or hyponatremia, you need to contact your doctor immediately and don’t wait too long after you feel the symptoms, to prevent or reduce the possibility of permanent impact. Can you overdose on water? The final answer is yes, you can have water overdose and it can cause a number of unfavorable effects.

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