Just got into a little tiff, as I often do, with a friend. The subject? Water poisoning. He said it was impossible to drink too much water, I distinctly remembered reading that too uch of anything can be bad, even water, something about athletes getting water intoxication… and we placed a 1$ bet (although I would have wagered much more). Anyway, I’m not having tremendous luck with google. Does someone want to back me up, find me a dependable cite/site? The graver the consequences the better, folks.
Can I Overdose on Water?
By Elizabeth Somer , MA,RD
You would need to chug down about three quarts of water or more all at once to come down with a case of true water intoxication. It does happen, but so rarely that I couldn’t find statistics on the number of cases. These people become drowsy, lightheaded, and weak. They have trouble coordinating bodily movements and thinking straight, looking and feeling as if they just stumbled out of the local bar. But the water-intoxicated can’t just go home and sleep it off. They must get treatment or risk going into convulsions, a coma, or even death.
Q. I am a runner and would like to know whether it is possible to drink too much water?
A. Yes, there is a condition known as “water intoxication.” It is usually associated with long distance events like running and cycling. And it’s not an unusual problem. For example, water intoxication was reported in 18% of marathon runners and in 29% of the finishers in a Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon in studies published recently in the Annals of Internal Medicine and in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise respectively…
Adults and larger children cannot normally drink enough water to cause water intoxication.
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Water intoxication occurs when a person swallows enough water to lower significantly the concentration of salt (sodium) in the blood. The causes the brain to swell, which in turn produces a decreased level of consciousness progressing from lethargy to stupor to coma.
Can too much water harm marathon runners? Reuters Health recently reported just that. When runners collapse or get sick at the end of a long race, it seems logical to give them fluids. Sometimes, however, water is the last thing these athletes need, researchers report.
In the current issue of Annals of Internal of Medicine, investigators report ( Report 1 and Report 2) on marathon runners who developed brain swelling as a result of “water intoxication.” All had taken in too much water during their races, causing sodium levels in the blood to drop. From there, according to Dr. J. Carlos Ayus, excess water is absorbed into blood and fluid builds up in the brain. Eventually, fluid accumulates in the lungs, and athletes become breathless and nauseated.
So, looks like you just won a dollar. Don’t spend it all in one place.
Thanks! Time to collect my sweet, sweet dollar.
As a probably useless anecdote, at the hospital where I work we had a patient with schizophrenia who also exhibited polydipsia. That is he was compelled to drink constantly and would often end up extremely low blood electrolyte levels necessitating treatment. The nurses had to watch him like a hawk to prevent him from drinking.