Water Deficiency.

I don’t have a cite. But for some time, some people, allegedly emboldened by the experts, said water deficiency was a big problem in the U.S. Then more recently they said (again after consulting with the ‘experts’?) that they were conflating the facts. Water deficiency was no problem, at least not as big a deal as they said it was.

Anyway you will notice that I put this in GQ, because I only want the solid facts.

What are the risks of water deficiency? What if you have too little? What if you have just enough? And what (gasp) if you have too much?

Thank you for your kindly replies:).


I’m going to kick things off by googling “water deficiency” … and, oh, it looks like you’re talking about dehydration.

Maybe I was the only one who had never heard “water deficiency” before, maybe not. But I thought you were talking about the depletion of the aquifer.

Do you mean dehydration? The effects of dehydration are well known.

If you you are sufficiently water deficient, you die. If (gasp) you have too much, you die.

Also, water deficiency makes it harder to lick safety envelopes.

Dehydration is what people experience in the desert:). I use the term ‘deficiency’, because I mean when people aren’t getting enough.

A comparable question would be, what happens when you don’t get enough Vitamin C. But I am not talking about Scurvy.

Hope this clarfies:).

Ok, but that’s still considered dehydration.

Even scurvy isn’t a binary thing. Symptoms get progressively worse over time depending on the level of insufficiency of vitamin C and the amount of time involved, which can be as long as months. If you don’t get enough vitamin C, that’s basically scurvy. If you aren’t getting open sores, that’s because it hasn’t gotten bad yet. Fortunately, it doesn’t really take a lot of C to stave off scurvy.

And that’s the same situation with dehydration. Symptoms get progressively worse over time and the progression depends on the level of insufficiency.

As for “too much” water, it generally isn’t a problem. Our bodies have a fair number of ways of dealing with that, like full stomachs (people tend not to drink more if they feel full) and urination. Of course, there are cases of excess water consumption, but these are quite rare and are almost always associated with something else, like marathon running or an underlying disease. Almost always, if a person has a problem with their water intake, it’s too little rather than too much.

Yes, but the medical field uses the term dehydration, so that’s what you’re going to find if you do any research on the topic.

You may get into a coma or die and there are some athletes who die because of drinking too much water.

This publication goes into detail of deaths of endurance athletes from water related issues :

Some salient points :

  1. Currently, there is scientific agreement that overhydration resulting from drinking too much water is the primary cause of hyponatremia in athletes.

  2. There seems to not be a single case of death resulting from sports-related dehydration in the medical literature.

  3. There seems to not be a single case of death resulting from sports-related dehydration in the medical literature.

  4. The incidence of hyponatremia appears to be between 13% and 15% among endurance athletes.

An interesting article! Water Resources in the Southwest

Holy hell I hate the term “some people”.

Are you asking should you get 8 glasses of water a day? Here go check what the Mayo Clinic says.

In short, you’re probably fine, yes you can have some more and you’ll be fine, and no do not drink so much you die…though perhaps the rest of the gene pool will thank you.

The term dehydration tends to be used in a sloppy fashion by many docs, and most medical trainees.

Literally it means lack of water. In practice, though, isolated water loss or lack of water is uncommon and is almost always associated with lack of salt (sodium). So it is the rare patient who lacks only water but has adequate salt (sodium).

The distinction is important from a clinical perspective since the symptoms and treatments are different.

Lack of water leads to elevation in the concentration of sodium in the blood. This leads to changes in brain function and can cause confusion (delirium), coma, and even death. It tends to occur in people who are unable to access water and/or people who can’t tell others they’re thirsty. The classic example would be someone with dementia or with a brain injury such as a stroke.

On the hand, lack of salt (sodium) leads to lower blood/plasma volume (‘hypovolemia’) and thence low blood pressure. The kidneys are particularly susceptible to damage in this situation, but any organ can suffer. The concentration of sodium in the blood can be low, normal, or high depending on whether or not there is associated water deficiency (and depending on whether there has been a separate stimulus to hold on to pure water, i.e. it is ADH mediated).

Treatment of isolated salt (sodium) deficiency is usually by giving ‘normal saline’, an IV solution containing physiologic concentration of sodium. By and large, this is done quickly, over hours. Giving such a solution does not correct the associated water loss (if any).

Treatment of pure water deficiency with IV water (actually glucose and water) must be done slowly, over days. The reason for this is that during the period of water deficiency (when there were high blood concentrations of sodium), there would have been a tendency for water to leave the brain (following the osmotic gradient). To avoid this, the brain generates new osmoles in order to hold on to its water. If you give too much water during such a circumstance it will quickly lower (dilute) the concentration of sodium in the blood. If this happens, the brain (with its new osmoles) will act like a sponge and suck water from the blood. This leads to brain edema (swelling) which can be fatal.

As a rule, hypernatremia%20relative%20to%20electrolyte%20content.) (high blood concentrations of sodium) means lack of water.

Hyponatremia (low blood sodium) indicates an excess of water in the body relative to sodium, and almost always occurs NOT because of excess water intake but because the body is holding on to the normal amount of water it takes in. Indeed, if everything else in the body is working normally, a person needs to ingest about 12 liters of water a day to become hyponatremic. That is a huge amount.

It’s not just athletes. About 10 to 15 years ago or so a radio station held a “hold your wee for a wii” contest. A woman drank two gallons of water in order to win a wii for her kids. She left the contest complaining of a headache and died shortly thereafter.

If I recall correctly, what basically happens is that your cells swell up with water. It’s often called “water intoxication” because as the brain cells swell, increased cranial pressure produces symptoms similar to intoxication from alcohol or other substances (slurred speech, confusion, etc). Swollen brain cells can cut off the blood supply to the brain, or put excessive pressure on the brain stem, resulting in permanent brain damage or death.

Andy Warhol died of complications after surgery to remove his gall bladder. His family later sued, citing evidence that the hospital had given him too much fluid, causing his death by water intoxication. The suit was settled out of court.

Others have died as well, usually the result of some sort of drinking contest or excessive water intake caused by drug use.

There are thousands of hydration drink makers pushing their agenda over the Internet and you will find many many articles as to how hydration is important.

However, there is one simple fact no one can deny : The human body has evolved over millions of years of evolution and hence knows when to drink water. It’s called thirst.

If you want to get more scientific, then here is a quote from a very rigorous study:
“ There is no published scientific evidence to show that drinking beyond the dictates of thirst – that is drinking ‘to stay ahead of thirst’ during exercise – produces a more beneficial outcome than does drinking according to the dictates of thirst”

Cite : https://www.karger.com/Article/Fulltext/322697#

So if you are an otherwise healthy individual, drink when you are thirsty and no more.

Agree on your post. There are lots of myths promoted by the sports drinks industry. In the spirit of the SD, we need to bust them :grinning:

I guess a counterpoint is - if you are thirsty, you do not have enough water in your body.

They Urban Myth / health nut claim I recall from about the early to mid 90’s was the “drink 6 glasses of water a day”. The problem was, this was the health nut thought that drinking any other additives with your water - coffee, cola, etc. - was not healthy. (“If it feels good it must be bad”) However, I recall some study at the time checked whether coffee was, as some claimed, a diuretic - and found that the amount of water coffee made your body get rid off was a LOT less than the total water you took in with a cup of coffee. The diuretic effect was irrelevant. Of course, if you are drinking stuff which encourages water to leave your body, be sure you drink enough water in some form.

According to the OP: Water deficiency is not dehydration. It’s something else, like a vitamin deficiency. :dubious: That he’s heard about from some people, but has no cite.

We have one post discussing drought conditions in the southwest.

Maybe JimB is looking for something along the lines of: well I drink water, but not enough, but I’m not dehydrated, or at least I don’t feel like I’ve been in the desert.

Is this what you’re looking for?

7 Signs You're Not Drinking Enough Water - Healthcare Associates of Texas.

Excuse me?

It’s like saying people die of lead poisoning when they get shot. :slight_smile:


I was recently listening to a medical podcast on the this topic and the Dr. commented that for people hiking & exercising in high heat, as a preventative measure to preclude the sodium deficiency you mention, it was critical they get electrolytes in their water during the excersize (i.e. not just plain water). He recommenced drinking sports drinks to supplement some of their water consumption so they don’t get into a salt deficiency situation (or diluting them into your water if you don’t want the sugar.)

The host mentioned she’d been hiking in AZ and she’d consumed over 2.5L of water but still became disoriented etc and the rangers rescued her. When they got back to the station, they gave her a Gatorade and she felt better within 10 minutes. They gave her the same advice about electrolytes.

I frequently go on long cycling trips (+100km over 5hrs) in high heat. It’s not uncommon for me to drink +4L of water in that time, in spite of that I’ve had issues with lightheadedness. Now I add electrolyte drops to my water bottles and it seems to help a lot.

This is an one example I buy in Canada: The Kraft Heinz Company