How Much Is Too Much? (Water Intoxication/Hyponatremia)

Essay by Shoryuken April 2009

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How Much Is Too Much?

Water is essential to nearly all life forms on earth. Water also plays a role in the development and creation of the many functions of the human body. Many people do not realize it but have always wondered if there were consequences in consuming too much water. A condition known as hyponatremia or water intoxication is a result from the dilution of sodium in the body. Hyponatremia may also occur when a dehydrated person drinks an excessive amount of water without the aid of electrolytes. Electrolytes are salts that conduct electricity and are found in the body fluid, tissue, and blood (Nephrology). Hyponatremia can have several effects on the body including a state of coma, confusion, extreme fatigue or weakness, and in some cases, death. Water intoxication is common among babies or infants less than six months old and in athletes that partake in excessive exercise or activities which induce sweating.

Infants may also receive the condition of hyponatremia by drinking diluted infant formulas. Athletes may also suffer from water intoxication by sweating too much. Sweat contains H²O and electrolytes. Studies have shown that hyponatremia occurs in athletes during an extended period of exercise, usually in excess of four hours. Hyponatremia is more common among women then men. Athletes who drink a lot of water before and during exercises or activities in hot, humid climates are more at risk to hyponatremia. A study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine of four hundred eighty-eight runners in the 2002 Boston Marathon found that sixty-two, or more than eight percent, had a serious fluid and salt imbalance from drinking too much water or sports drinks without adequate sodium (USATF). Extended amounts of research of different genders and weight class reported that athletes with a smaller...