We are constantly told to drink approximately eight cups of water a day, the ideal amount to keep us healthy and hydrated for any average adult. This amount increases when we decide to exercise, play sports, spend hours in the sun or have a health condition that dehydrates us and forces us to drink an excess of water.
However, there are some cases in which we can drink too much water, which leads to an excess of hydration or water intoxication. In these cases, our bodies contain too much H2O in the bloodstream, which dilutes the amount of electrolytes we need and can create serious side effects that could be lethal. It is essential to control our water intake, especially during sports or extreme exercise, and make sure we are getting enough and not too much.
We do not need to undergo a hard training or be a professional athlete to find symptoms of water poisoning.
Anyone with diluted amounts of sodium in the bloodstream can be a victim, and other cases of water that is becoming very abundant in our bodies is when we are taking diuretics or have hormonal imbalances. For these cases, do not hesitate to call a nurse or doctor for professional advice. For mild to moderate cases, this guide will teach us what water intoxication is and what we can do to treat and prevent it.
What is water poisoning?
It is often referred to as dilutional hyponatremia, or simply hyponatremia. Essentially, it is when we have too much water (H2O) in our bloodstream, diluting the amount of electrolytes our bodies need to function properly. Electrolytes are minerals in our bloodstream that create positive (+) and negative (-) charges, isolating ions inside and outside of each and every one of our cells to maintain homeostasis.
In other words, they maintain the balance of most functions between the cells of our body and regulate the amount of water that enters each cell. Among these is sodium, the main electrolyte that is located in the fluids that surround the cells. They help the normal functions of muscles and nerves, keep us hydrated and are often lost through sweat during strenuous exercise.
This is the reason why athletes have a greater risk of being poisoned by the same water they drink to hydrate themselves. During exercise, we lose essential sodium, increase water consumption and dilute electrolytes in the bloodstream. Electrolytes not only help with muscle and nerve functions, but are also needed to control a wide range of important biological tasks including, but not limited to:
- Cardiac arrhythmia
- The respiratory rate
- Body temperature
- Ion transport
- Neurological function
- Thought / memory
- Energy production
- Glucose absorption
- Transport of fluids through the cells.
What are the symptoms of hyponatremia?
Because electrolytes, especially sodium, help our body control so many divergent functions within our biology, there are several varied symptoms we can have when our water / sodium homeostasis is out of balance. They can vary from mild to severe, depending on the amount of sodium that has been exhausted from the bloodstream or the amount of excess water that has been consumed. When exercising or training while drinking excess water, it is important to look for any of these symptoms of water poisoning. They include:
- Muscle cramps: It usually occurs during or after a workout because sodium is lost through sweating.
- Fatigue: Without the proper amount of electrolytes in the bloodstream and brain to help us send messages from cell to cell, our bodies begin to feel weak and numb.
- Nausea vomiting: Due to the inability of our cells to communicate properly, our bodies can tell us to eliminate excess fluid in our system by vomiting or simply give us a feeling of nausea. In fact, vomiting decreases the amount of electrolytes along with excess fluid, and in doing so acts against us.
- Headache: As water increases in our bloodstream and causes our brain cells to swell, the pressure begins to build up in our skulls, creating a headache.
- Disorientation / dizziness: When our brain cells swell with water to a more serious level, the pressure begins to “confuse” the communication between them. The low sodium content also leads to low blood pressure, which makes it difficult for inflamed brain cells to get enough oxygen to function properly.
- Confused speech: This symptom usually accompanies disorientation or vertigo when the brain fails to obtain the necessary oxygen and its cells become inflamed, creating a buildup of pressure in the skull.
- Convulsions: This only occurs in extreme cases of hyponatremia, when the brain does not function properly because the swelling and pressure increase to a degree that is almost fatal.
In extreme cases of hyponatremia, our brain cells begin to swell with water, since reduced amounts of sodium can not form ionic barriers that prevent water from flowing out. Then a comma may arise, and in some cases death. It is important to look for more than one of these indicators and observe any pre-existing health condition that may be the real cause of a symptom. Mild cases usually consist of headaches, fatigue and especially muscle cramps, which can be easily treated by replenishing the electrolytes in our body.
What causes hyponatremia?
The main cause of having insufficient electrolytes and sodium in our system is extreme exercise, training or sweating while in the sun or around machinery (in factories) all day long. These instances make us sweat the sodium that maintains our sodium / water homeostasis at the correct levels within each cell of our body. In addition to this, athletes and workers tend to drink excessively the amount of water they need to stay hydrated, but in fact, they will consume too much, which dilutes the amount of electrolytes in their systems.
However, we do not have to be athletes or just drink a lot of water to have a case of H2O poisoning. Any way we create an imbalance of sodium in our bloodstream can cause problems. If the symptoms are not detected or ignored for a prolonged period of time, the serious consequences can seriously affect our body.
Here are several ways in which we can derive a case of hyponatremia:
- Medicines: The most common medications that alter the balance between water and sodium in our bloodstream are diuretics. Some antidepressant, antiepileptic and anticancer drugs also produce unbalanced side effects.
- Kidney problems: The kidneys help the body regulate H2O homeostasis. When it can not do its job, water can drastically increase or decrease in the bloodstream. When water increases, the symptoms of hyponatremia become evident as the amount of sodium is diluted.
- Heart problems: When the heart can no longer maintain the homeostasis of antidiuretic hormone levels, the body receives the wrong signals and does not excrete excess water from the bloodstream. The same unbalanced hormonal condition causes thirst, which causes an increase in water intake. This leads to the dilution of circulating sodium.
- Liver problems: In general, patients with cirrhosis also have hyponatremia due to their inability to excrete the water they have drunk, and the reduced amounts of sodium due to the accidental stimulation of endogenous vasoconstrictors and antidiuretic hormone.
- Inappropriate antidiuretic hormone syndrome (SIADH): The above conditions mention all the diuretic hormones. What they do is control the excretion of water. When excess water enters our body and this hormone is unbalanced, we can not release excess H2O. This syndrome can not be caused by lack of sodium.
- Chronic; severe vomiting / diarrhea When our body loses much of its liquid by vomiting or diarrhea, we lose electrolytes along with it. In general, to hydrate, we drink liquids, but forget to replace our electrolytes. This can lower our sodium levels.
- Drink too much water: If we consume too much H2O for a short period of time without replenishing our electrolytes, especially sodium, the homeostasis of our bodies becomes unbalanced and the water causes our cells to swell with H2O.
- Dehydration: When we become dehydrated through vigorous work or being under the sun for too long, we sweat the sodium we need and the depleted amounts of sodium can cause muscle cramps.
- Hormonal changes: Sometimes, our body undergoes hormonal changes and the mixed signals can create a “confusion” in our body, which can lead to retaining too much water or eliminate excess sodium.
- Hypothyroidism: Because the thyroid controls some hormonal changes in the body, these hormones can also fail and affect the levels of sodium and H2O in the body.
How to diagnose hyponatremia
Before being 100% sure that we are experiencing hyponatremia, the best way to diagnose ourselves is to ask ourselves what our previous activities have been, what we have been eating and if we have been ingesting too much H2O. . When consulting the lists of symptoms and causes, mark those that may apply to you and your lifestyle. Rarely, people who do not get enough sodium but continue to drink normal amounts of water may begin to feel symptoms.
If we experience more than one of the listed symptoms, or if we have compromised or experienced any of the causes, then our diagnosis is likely to be correct and we need to replenish our electrolytes immediately.
In general, athletes who fail to recharge electrolytes in their bodies are victims of hyponatremia, but these cases can usually be corrected if they show up in time and the electrolytes are consumed. Poisoning our body with water takes a lot – up to gallons of H2O before we begin to experience side effects. Vomiting will induce as the body tries to get rid of excess water, so there are stories about people training to run marathons until they pounce.
While training or running the marathon itself, it can be easy to swallow gallons of water if the event takes hours / days. We have been experiencing more severe symptoms, such as dizziness, disorientation, difficulty speaking or convulsions, it is advisable to consult a doctor immediately before the condition becomes fatal.
Treatment of hyponatremia
When experiencing less severe symptoms of hyponatremia, the best way to return our body to healthy homeostasis can usually be done by drinking less H2O and quickly replenishing our electrolytes. Currently there are many drinks on the market that can hydrate and replenish our electrolytes:
- Orange juice
- Lemon juice
- Apple juice
- Coconut water
- Chocolate milk
- Vitamin water
- Gu electrolyte beer
- Pay attention to sports energy drink
If we do not like drinks that contain too much sugar or strange ingredients and we are looking for a more natural homemade drink that fills the electrolytes, we can also prepare ourselves with oranges, lemons, honey and salt. Combine cup of orange juice ,? cup of lemon juice, 2 cups of wter, 2 tablespoons of honey and 1/8 teaspoon of Celtic sea salt. Once well mixed, the mixture can be drunk and hydrated and the electrolytes replaced.
Food can also help us balance our sodium / water homeostasis. Just check the label: if you have a good amount of sodium or sodium chloride, the effects of hyponatremia can easily be reversed.
Foods that are excellent for reversing the effects include:
- Table salt
- Cow meat
- Canned food with salt additives.
- French fries
Keep in mind that the consumption of these drinks or food is only a good solution. We are aware that our case of hyponatremia is mild to moderate. Serious cases should be considered and those of us who experience worsening symptoms should be transferred to a hospital to be evaluated. Sometimes, the best and fastest way to solve hyponatremia is by placing an IV, with the necessary electrolytes that are placed directly into the bloodstream. Only then can more fatal cases be controlled, as our brains become inflamed and professional medical attention is needed.
This is especially true if we are experiencing other health problems that could be the cause of the low level of sodium in the blood. Only doctors can perform the correct evaluation and treatment procedures.
Prevention of hyponatremia
We have already taken the first step towards prevention when reading about hyponatremia: education! By educating ourselves on how water can poison our bodies if it is consumed too much, we now have the necessary knowledge for the future to ensure that this does not happen to us or to those we love.
Sharing this information with other people can create a domino effect in prevention, so you should take care of your family, friends with health problems, teammates and exercise partners, teaching them the importance of electrolytes and the risk of diluting our blood with too much water. When more people are aware, less will make a mistake without education.
Now, we must make sure to consume water in moderation. Normally, eight glasses of water per day are ideal for adults, give or take a cup according to our body weight and the environment in which we live. If we live in a sunny / warm place and sweat all day, drinking a little more water The recommended should be good to maintain hydration. If we exercise or train for a sporting event, drinking energy drinks containing electrolytes is a better option than water before, during or after training or the training session.
Drinking water during exercise should be fine, as long as we do not overdo it. As soon as we begin to feel the symptoms of hyponatremia, replace the electrolytes immediately with an energy drink or eat a food containing sodium.
The next step in prevention is to make sure we are treating any previous medical conditions that we have knowledge of and to consult our doctor to confirm that we have not developed any new ones. Also, keep in mind the medications we are taking (especially diuretics) and consider any side effects low in sodium in the blood. Often, hyponatremia can arise in people who are not athletes who have drunk too much water, but have a health condition or take medications that have led to low levels of sodium in their body.
Any condition that implies hormonal imbalances must be taken into consideration and monitored and adequately maintained by implementing the next step towards prevention, which usually consumes enough electrolytes.
Eat and drink enough fluids and foods with electrolytes: this is the step that both those of us with health problems as well as adults and healthy children should make sure to do. In many cultures, this is easy to make as salt; Sodium chloride is abundant in most of the foods we eat. Just make sure you do not consume too many foods with sodium, which can also cause health problems that affect our hearts, bones and kidneys.
Now that we know why excessive water consumption is a bad thing, the low level of sodium in our bloodstream is not healthy, and how to prevent both events from occurring, we are prepared to perform vigorous exercises and train in the right way. Being aware of our body and its needs helps us to understand the actions we can take that can put it in danger, which leads to symptoms that could be life-threatening.
Drinking too much water, not taking enough electrolytes, not properly maintain our medications and health conditions can lead to hyponatremia. And while milder cases are easily treatable simply by increasing sodium intake, more serious cases should be evaluated by professionals in case there are underlying factors that need to be addressed.
REMEDIES AND TREATMENTS