Water Addiction—Are you Drowning Yourself in Water?
I have a close friend. In his mid forties. Just him and a lovely wife. No children and no financial stress. Busy life, but very health conscious and active — I introduced them to the joys of a healthy and natural lifestyle – organic food, regular exercise, and herbal remedies.
One day I got a call from him while I was away on a trip. He told me that he was having frequent fits of abnormally heavy perspiration, dizziness and arrhythmia. That condition, he explained, was going on far a couple of months. He had got complete medical check up. Every thing came out OK. His heart, Blood Pressure and Cholesterol levels were all good. His doctor advised him that he was under some sort of stress, and should learn to manage his stress. But, he emphasized that he had no change in his lifestyle, and there was no stress that was not there before.
I was surprised, too. Upon my return, I went to see him. He was a looking a bit haggard and pale. I interrogated him to get a clue as to any new type of foods, vitamins, or habits that he might have incorporated into his daily regimen over the last few months. According to him, all was the same.
But, then I observed that he had drunk his second full glass of water in just under one hour that we were sitting together. I asked him if he were feeling abnormally thirsty. He laughed, and said that they had added that new ‘healthy’ habit to their daily routines – drinking a lot of water to detoxify and clean their internal system. His wife – the lovely little lady, also confessed that she had also joined the husband’s ‘water club’, and was feeling sort of lethargic, and a bit of palpitation lately.
I had found the reason for his newly developed condition. Excessive intake of water was leaching out the essential salts and minerals from the body, causing the depletion of electrolyte, resulting in arrhythmia, sweat and light-hotheadedness. I advised them to fall back to their old ways of water consumption – drink when feel the thirst. After a few days they called me to announce that those abnormalities had vanished, and they were feeling fine again.
The Water Craze
They were not the only one, there are millions more who are disrupting their body’s internal chemistry and damaging their organs by over watering themselves. Excessive water drinking may lead to kidney failure, lever damage, brain swelling, coma, and even death.
It is amazing to see people walking around with all type of water bottles in their hands. Totting the water-bottle has become a fashion statement – It is a sort of Me Too cry. Water bottles have emerged as the standard expression of being health consciousness and modern. Medical professionals – at the behest of the Healthcare Industry, along with the Bottled Water Industry, and, joining the band wagon, Health Journals, all have been promoting the myth that one can never drink enough water.
Specially the bottled water, particularly in plastic containers, is the breeding ground for bacteria. Also, considering the fact that the bottled water may be sitting in a warehouse or supermarket shelf for quite a few months, there’s really no way of knowing just what kind of pollutants you may pouring into your body.
The Water Damage
Your kidneys must work overtime to filter the excess water out of your blood circulatory system. Please realize that your kidneys are not the plumbing pipes, whereby the more water you flush through your kidneys, the cleaner they become; rather, the filtration system that exists in your kidneys is composed of a specialized type of capillary structure, called the ‘glomeruli‘. These glomeruli can get damaged by excessive wear and tear over time. Overburdening your filtration system, with large intake of water, may lead to kidney failure.
Ingesting more water than your body needs increases your total blood volume, and that puts unnecessary burden on your heart and blood vessels. Continuation of this condition may cause serious damage to cardiovascular system.
Over drinking may also lead to swelling in the ‘brain membrane. Since the bones that make up your skull hardly budge, the resulting pressure due to the membrane swelling causes an increase in intra-cranial pressure – Simply put, your brain gets squeezed under the pressure. Depending on how much water your drink in a short period of time, you may experience a wide variety of symptoms, ranging from a mild headache to impaired breathing. And, as it occurred in one of the tragic water-drinking contest recently, it is quite possible to die if you drink too much water within a short period of time.
Brian Membrane swelling also puts pressure on the brain’s neural system which leads to a behavior that resembles alcohol intoxication. Swelling of brain tissues can also cause seizures, coma and ultimately death.
Excessive consumption of water can lead to a condition known as hyponatremia (water intoxication), in which levels of sodium in the blood become dangerously diluted, leading to complications such as convulsions, coma and even death.
When too much water enters the body’s cells, the tissues swell with the excess fluid. Our cells maintain a specific concentration gradient, so the 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 — This is what hyponatremia is.
At the cellular level, hyponatremia produces the same effects as would result from drowning in the water.
Drinking excessive amounts of water flushes the body of necessary electrolytes, resulting in a rapid decrease in serum sodium (hyponatremia) concentration, and, also, the depletion of calcium (hypocalcaemia), potassium (hypokalemia).
The development of acute dilutional hyponatraemia causes neurological symptoms because of the movement of water into the brain cells, in response to the fall in extracellular osmolality.
In order to maintain the natural electrolyte balance, water from outside the cells rush into the cells via osmosis. Electrolytes are more concentrated inside the cells than outside, the water outside the cells is ‘less dilute’ since it contains fewer electrolytes (due to excess water intake). Both electrolytes and the water move across the cell membrane in an effort to balance the sodium concentration. Theoretically, cells could swell to the point of bursting.
Further, the electrolyte imbalance and the tissue swelling may cause an irregular heartbeat, allow the fluid to enter the lungs, and may cause fluttering eyelids.
Onset of such a condition requires immediate medical attentions. Saline (salt) solution administration is the common treatment for water intoxication. If treatment is given before the tissue swelling could inflict too much cellular damage, then a complete recovery can be expected within a few days.
Drinking Water Naturally
It is true that water consumption is necessary to maintain a healthy physical state. We can’t live more than a few days without water. As babies, we are approximately 75 to 80% water, and as we grow older, this percentage decreases until it is reduced to approximately 60 to 65% for men and 50 to 60% for women. The human brain is about 85% water and our bones are between 10 to 15% water. On an average we are 60 % water. We need to keep the natural water balance in our bodies, but not to over indulge.
The notion that one needs to drink five to six quarts (5-6 liters) of water a day to remain fit and to detoxify the body is just a myth. It is true, as a general guideline, that most adults need about three quarts of fluid each day. But, the key factor to remember is that most foods that we eat are already quite heavy in water content. If you eat plenty of foods that are naturally rich in water, such as vegetables, fruits, and cooked legumes and whole grains, you may not need to drink that much water. If you do not use much or any salt and other seasonings, your need for drinking water goes down even further.
Another suggested guideline to regulate the water intake, is to observe the color of ones urine. The color of urine is a good indicator of how much fluid we need. Too little water, and it will be on the dark side, about the right amount, and it will be of a pale straw color. But, take note: ingestion of vitamin pills , especially the vitamin B group, contribute to the darkening of urine color.
A logical guideline is to simply follow the nature – Drink as you feel the urge and thirst. Drink small amounts of water as you feel the desire for it.
Remember; in physical composition, we are very close to other animals on this planet. Animals hardly ever gulp huge quantities of water. Water is a necessity and not a statement of fashion or expression of health consciousness.
As a statement of caution – there are many medical conditions (like kidney stone formation etc.) that require larger quantities of fluid intake. Strictly follow your health provider’s advice in such circumstances.
— Enjoy A Glass of Real Milk – instead! —
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- National Ceanter for Biotechlogy InformationThe Hydration Equation: Update on Water Balance and Cognitive Performance – Shaun K Riebl, MS, RD, PhD Student and Brenda M. Davy, PhD, RD, FACSM, Associate Professor
- National Institute of HealthO’Brien KK, Montain SJ, Corr WP, et al. Hyponatraemia associated with overhydration in US Army trainees.
- Web MDCan You Drink Too Much Water?
- National Ceanter for Biotechlogy Information – The Journal of Clinical PathologyFatal Water Intoxication
- BERKELEY SCIENTIFICWater Intoxication – Nithya Lingampalli
- The Journal of Forensic ResearchTwo Autopsy Cases of Water Intoxication
- Science AlertNew Study Just Further Debunked The 8 Glasses of Water a Day Rule
- Pascal Saker, Michael Farrell, Gary Egan, Michael McKinley, and Derek Denton. Overdrinking, swallowing inhibition, and regional brain responses prior to swallowing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2016;