Can you actually burn out your kidney's?

While watching the movie “bringing out the dead” there was this crazy character who was always thirsty and they said somethng to the effect that he burned out his kidney’s by contantly drinking water.

Is this possible, can a person actually do this? This concerns me since I do tend to drink a lot of water. Not constantly but you get this picture.

Any doctors out there? Not the ones who play one on TV or when the signifigant other feels like it is ‘naughty nurse’ night but a real doctor.

My guess is no, water seems pretty harmless… but my question (as I take a swig of beer) is can you burn your kidneys out with alcohol???

Take it from someone that didn’t drink enough and had three kidney stones. DRINK IT! ALOT OF IT!

With pathological amounts of water or fluid ingestion, on a chronic basis (litres and litres per day for weeks or months), you could impair your kidneys’ abililty to concentrate your urine. This is usually reversible.

Your more likely to hurt your urinary system by not drinking enough.

It does not sound like Karl knows anything about water or kidneys.
In general, “kidney stones” are not due to water restriction. Drink as you feel comfortable, that’s how people did it for millions of years. You can’t “overdrink”, just stay near a bathroom.

Exactly what in my post do you disagree with?

  1. How the kidneys work:

Simplisticly, you can think of kidneys acting like a coffee filter. Solids above a certain size (blood cells & proteins) get left inside blood vessels like coffee grounds, while the liquid passing through the filter contains dissolved solids like salt, sugar, and waste products like urea & creatinine. Large volumes of liquid filtrate is produced, then the kidneys reabsorb most of this so the body doesn’t have to replenish everything at this rate. Normal kidneys filter about 125 ml of liquid each minute, but all but 1 ml is reabsorbed, so that a typical person has a 24 hour (=1440 minutes) urine output of about 1.5 liters.

To do this reabsorbtion effectively, the urine must pass through the medulla of the kidneys, which has a very high concentration of salt and other solids before flowing down the ureters into the bladder.

  1. Most people can handle much higher than normal quantities of water simply by reabsorbing a smaller percentage of filtered volume. Over time, the body adapts to this by letting the concentration of salts in the medulla fall lower, towards the normal concentration of blood. Nephrologists would call this washout of the medullary concentration gradient. If a person did this, and suddenly stopped their excess fluid intake, their kidneys would not be able to reabsorb as much fluid as normal, and they would be at risk for dehydration and heat injury.

  2. On a more acute basis, drinking too much water suddenly can cause your sodium (salt) level in your bloodstream to fall rapidly. Because tissue levels don’t fall as quickly, the tissue is more concentrated than the blood, and in the capillary beds, fluid diffuses out of the blood vessels, and into the tissue by osmosis. This causes severe problems in the brain. Low salt levels there can cause confusion and seizures, and if the excess fluid moving in causes the brain to swell, it can result in coma or death.

This sequence of events is called water intoxication and is described further in the following links:

**Karl: Exactly what in my post do you disagree with?[/a]
With pathological amounts of water or fluid ingestion, on a chronic basis (litres and litres per day for weeks or months), you could impair your kidneys’ abililty to concentrate your urine. This is usually reversible.
I presume, you used “pathological” as a synonim for “large”?

ACHF outlined the basics of renal filtration. By itself, hemodilution does not “impair” kidneys’ ability. And kidneys do not “concenrate urine”. Primary urine, perhaps. See ACHF’s about reabsorbion.

Karl: Your more likely to hurt your urinary system by not drinking enough.
It’s not likely. Becoming thirsty is more likely.
There are six quart/day or more beer drinkers. They drink beer every day, for life. They are alcoholics, but usually have normal kidneys.
ACHF, the runners’ water intoxication is interesting. I think the non-SAIDs could have contributed to it, at least in some cases. Do use think that hemodynamic shift(s) played a role? I mean, the redistribution of blood flow, from kidneys to muscles, lungs and heart? And even away from the brain with resulting disturbance in the hypothalamus? Or is the latter thought far-fetched?

[hijack]peace, e-mail me. Thx, Sam [/hijack]

Sorry, but you don’t have email in your profile. I apologize if this is verboten.

Ah shucks. You saw right through me.

BTW, do you know what hemodilution is? And, pray tell, what concentrates urine if not the kidneys? While you’re at it, what do you suppose could happen if you become thirsty and didn’t drink enough? Or would you speculate that the hypothalamic thirst mechansim is irrelevant? Redundant? After all, as you say, “blood (might) be shifted away from the brain” and cause a “resulting disturbance in the hypothalamus”.

Karl, I’ll try to explain myself. Either you did not choose your words or I misunderstood…
“Hemodilution”: Yes, I do.
**Karl: what concentrates urine if not the kidneys? **
Concentration generically means increasing the solutes or decreasing the solvent. The primary urine (the original ultrafiltrate) is concentrated by kidneys, ~100 times. Again, this is not urine (the straw-colored fluid we pee out). In scintific or quasiscientific discussions words count, it ain’t politics :-).
If you become thirsty and do not drink enough, hemoconcentration occurs. It means hypernatremia, among other things.
What’s “hyponatremic thirst mechanism” A typo?
Your last sentence: correction: I didn not “say” it, I only suggested.

Sam, I didn’t give my email address because I want to be “unreachable”; I do not want to say “more anonymous”, as I do not think “anonymity” has degrees. What’s so private that you can’t ask here? Who knows you? I asked pretty embarassing questions here. After all, you may create a new profile/identity in your mail, register here under a new name and voila!

KG, pardon me if I’m interrupting your fun, but aren’t you an MD? At least in the medical profession in some way? Or am I thinking of some other poster? I remember thinking that you chose your handle as an indication of your profession (physicist, with an interest in magnetism) and being surprised at finding that you’re in the medical field.

Or have I gone completely senile already?

peace [hijack] I simply wanted to know what slang dictionary you used to find your post in dykes.

I didn’t know how else to contact you; simply ran a search, tracked you down to your last post, and arrived here. Messing up this wonderfully interesting thread by the way.

I dunno, maybe its because I’ve taken A&P, and my paramedic class has covered renal function, but both KarlGauss and ACHF made perfect sense to me.

But, I could be plugging in info as needed to make sense…

Sam, I overvalued myself.
I found both “i” and “y” spellings in:
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate® Dictionary & Thesaurus and in

Slang & euphemism, abridged edition, Richard A. Spears, Signet
New American Library,P.O.Box 999, Bergenfield, NJ 07621

Lynn: No, you’re not senile.

I am an MD - an endocrinologist.

And, I am sorry for being less than polite above.

  • Karl

Well, I admit that I was sort of wondering just how deep a hole peace would dig…but I did want to keep this thread in this forum.

I’m a diabetic (type II, and I take insulin with a pill), I’ve had serious high glucose levels, and I’ve heard stories about brain damage from repeated episodes of such, which is why I’m always sort of worried that I’m going senile.