They say we learn something new every day. And I must say that today, Tuesday, October 21, 2008, I have found that to be true.
While casually talking to a friend, the subject of moderation came into view. Somewhere in the conversation, he goes, "you can die from drinking too much water". Floored and shocked, I didn't believe him, chalking his rant up to "something that could happen as a freak accidental death".
But then I got curious. Was he serious? Could you really die from drinking too much water? I talked briefly with a co-worker on the subject who also agreed and even shared a personal story with me of how a few times she'd drink water until her head hurt and she'd feel sick and overly full.
But I was still curious and I went online and found a few links on the subject.
And lo and behold…you can drink too much water. Drinking too much water can be fatal. Who knew? Well, apparently everyone that I asked knew of this information….'cept me. It happens. I'm left out of the information loop at times and I'm stuck researching trying to catch up. Life goes on.
Here's what I found out though.
Water – Informative:
Question: Can You Drink Too Much Water?
Answer: You've probably heard that it's important to 'drink plenty of fluids' or simply 'drink lots of water'. There are excellent reasons for drinking water, but have you ever wondered if it's possible to drink too much water. Here's what you need to know:
Can You Really Drink Too Much Water?
In a word, yes. Drinking too much water can lead to a condition known as water intoxication and to a related problem resulting from the dilution of sodium in the body, hyponatremia. Water intoxication is most commonly seen in infants under six months of age and sometimes in athletes. A baby can get water intoxication as a result of drinking several bottles of water a day or from drinking infant formula that has been diluted too much. Athletes can also suffer from water intoxication. Athletes sweat heavily, losing both water and electrolytes. Water intoxication and hyponatremia result when a dehydrated person drinks too much water without the accompanying electrolytes.
What Happens During Water Intoxication?
When too much water enters the body's cells, the tissues swell with the excess fluid. Your cells maintain a specific concentration gradient, so excess water outside the cells (the serum) draws sodium from within the cells out into the serum in an attempt to re-establish the necessary concentration. As more water accumulates, the serum sodium concentration drops -- a condition known as hyponatremia. The other way cells try to regain the electrolyte balance is for water outside the cells to rush into the cells via osmosis. The movement of water across a semipermeable membrane from higher to lower concentration is called osmosis. Although electrolytes are more concentrated inside the cells than outside, the water outside the cells is 'more concentrated' or 'less dilute' since it contains fewer electrolytes. Both electrolytes and water move across the cell membrane in an effort to balance concentration. Theoretically, cells could swell to the point of bursting.
From the cell's point of view, water intoxication produces the same effects as would result from drowning in fresh water. Electrolyte imbalance and tissue swelling can cause an irregular heartbeat, allow fluid to enter the lungs, and may cause fluttering eyelids. Swelling puts pressure on the brain and nerves, which can cause behaviors resembling alcohol intoxication. Swelling of brain tissues can cause seizures, coma and ultimately death unless water intake is restricted and a hypertonic saline (salt) solution is administered. If treatment is given before tissue swelling causes too much cellular damage, then a complete recovery can be expected within a few days.
It's Not How Much You Drink, It's How Fast You Drink It!
The kidneys of a healthy adult can process fifteen liters of water a day! You are unlikely to suffer from water intoxication, even if you drink a lot of water, as long as you drink over time as opposed to intaking an enormous volume at one time. As a general guideline, most adults need about three quarts of fluid each day. Much of that water comes from food, so 8-12 eight ounce glasses a day is a common recommended intake. You may need more water if the weather is very warm or very dry, if you are exercising, or if you are taking certain medications. The bottom line is this: it's possible to drink too much water, but unless you are running a marathon or an infant, water intoxication is a very uncommon condition.
Water – Fatal Story:
On January 12, 2007, a 28-year old Californian wife and mother of three children died from drinking too much water. Her body was found in her home shortly after she took part in a water-drinking contest that was sponsored by a local radio show. Entitled "Hold Your Wee For A Wii," the contest promoters promised a free Wii video game machine to the contestant who drank the most water without urinating.
It is estimated that the woman who died drank approximately 2 gallons of water during the contest. When she and other contestants complained of discomfort and showed visible signs of distress, they were laughed at by the promoters and even heckled.
Addendum: All that for a Wii though? I hope they gave the family the Wii at the end, because if that isnt winning, I dont know what is.....
And all this time, I was always taught that drinking water is important, our bodies are made of ¾ water and we should drink at least 8 glasses of water a day, and blah blaah. I used to feel bad about not drinking enough water, too. I always hated its flavorlessness and opted for juice and Gatorades instead. When I was in high school, I ran cross country and had to drink fluids all day long. Did I drink water? Nope. Gatorade and Powerade were my drinks. I couldn't stand water.
When I got to college, my mom made me keep a bunch of water in my dorm, buying me bottles that I ended up giving away or drinking over a span of 4 or 5 months. I really couldn't do water.
And it all paid off. I actually saved my own life, come to think of it.*
Forget water. Unless it's Vitamin Water.
*Ok I'm quite aware that in order to die from water intoxication, it must be in the most severe of circumstances. I was just saying for the sake of….