Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti aka Fela Anikulapo Kuti aka Abami eda released the album Expensive shit in 1975, the reverse side of same was titled Water no get enemy (literally translates Water does not have an enemy). But unfortunately, the afrobeat legend didn’t point out that Water itself can be the enemy! It could bear diseases (like cholera and typhoid), cause flooding when it rages and one could actually be ‘’drunk’’ on water (water intoxication)!
Ms LPO has been a health freak over a decade, always first to try out medical tips (both orthodox and unorthodox) picked from the web and friends. The latest on her hands is called water therapy. She started with consumption of 5 litres over 2 hours per day and has progressively increased the volume to 10 litres over same duration for 2 weeks, presently, she drinks about 15 litres over 2 hours (as prescribed by the water therapist). Over the last few days she has developed headache, vomiting, weakness, drowsiness and double vision. She eventually landed in hospital where doctors diagnosed her of water intoxication!
What is water intoxication?
Also known as water poisoning, water intoxication is the disruption of brain function due to drinking too much water. All the cells and organs in the body need water to function properly. However, excessive water consumption can lead to water intoxication. Over-hydration and water intoxication happens when one drink more water than the kidneys can get rid of via urine. But the amount of water isn’t the only factor. How long you take to drink the water also counts. You have a greater risk of developing water intoxication if you drink a lot of water in a short period of time. The risk is less if you drink the same amount over a much longer period of time.
So how much water is too much to drink?
To determine how much you need, consider your body weight, physical activity level and climate. A good rule of thumb is to listen to your body and drink when you feel thirsty. This should be enough to maintain good hydration levels. However, relying on thirst alone may not work for everyone. Athletes, older adults and pregnant women may need to drink some extra water each day.
When someone has normal/healthy kidneys they should be able to pass a urine quantity of about 800 milliliters to 1 liter of fluid per hour (about 1 and half to 2 sachets of water).
Drinking much more than this amount (especially over a short period) will cause an imbalance of electrolytes and likely some early symptoms associated with low blood sodium/salt (hyponatremia). Also remember that if someone is heavily exercising (such as running a marathon or training or a sport) while also drinking lots of water, they will hold onto even more water because their body is experiencing a stress response..
Water intoxication is not likely to happen unless someone drinks a large volume of water within a short period of time (1-2 hours).
Causes and Risk Factors
“Water fasting,” “water only diet” or “detox diet” as a weight loss method
Water drinking contests
Psychological disorders with excessive thirst (psychogenic polydipsia)
Marathon or triathlon running, cycling or hard physical work, lasting for more than 5 hours, in a hot climate in combination with excessive drinking
Aspirin, ibuprofen or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may stimulate sodium loss through the kidneys and thus increase the risk of hyponatremia in athletes
Disorders with low blood sodium levels as in advanced kidney failure, adrenal insufficiency, congestive heart failure, syndrome of inappropriate ADH secretion (SIADH), thiazide diuretics
In infants: feeding an infant with formula diluted with water
Symptoms can occur from as little as 0.8-1 gallons (3-4 liters) of water in a short amount of time.
Water intoxication results from the swelling of cells.
When brain cells swell, pressure inside the skull increases. Excess fluid accumulation in the brain is called cerebral edema, which can affect the brain stem and cause central nervous system dysfunction.
This pressure causes the first symptoms of water intoxication, which include:
Severe cases can produce more serious symptoms, such as:
Increased blood pressure.
Muscle weakness and cramping.
Inability to identify sensory information.
In severe cases, water intoxication can cause seizures, brain damage, coma and even death.
Bottom line: Drinking too much water increases pressure inside the skull. This can cause various symptoms and even be fatal in severe cases.
The best way to prevent water intoxication is to make sure you don’t drink way more than you sweat out. But it could be hard to measure. It is advisable to drink until you don’t feel thirsty, then stop. Or check the colour in the bathroom. If it’s dark or deep yellow, you’re probably dehydrated, and you should drink enough to quench a thirst at a time. Straw colour (almost clear) is ideal, but peeing out crystal clear water is crossing the red line! It helps to have sports drinks instead of plain water if you know you’ll be working hard. Sports drinks have sodium and other electrolytes. But too much liquid of any kind too fast can cause issues. It is good to stay hydrated while exercising, but there’s a thin line of separation from the abnormal. It’s important to listen to your body. If you take water to the point that it makes you uncomfortable, please stop immediately.
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