Excess water consumption can lead to brain dysfunction

Sodium levels can become dangerously low if your body can't process all of the fluids you take in. This can lead to a condition called hyponatraemia or water intoxication. Headaches, vomiting, confusion, seizures and even death can result from hyponatraemia

Excess water consumption can lead to brain dysfunction

From centuries, we’ve been taught about water and its benefits along with the role it plays in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. However, many people are unaware of the fact that pushing yourself over a certain limit can damage the human body. The idea behind having a low intake of salt and over intake of water can be confusing to people leading them to overdose on the amount of water they consume.

Excessive consumption of water can lead to a condition known as hyponatraemia (water intoxication), in which levels of sodium in the blood become dangerously diluted leading to complications such as convulsions, coma and even death.

 Excess water consumption can lead to brain dysfunction
Dr Vajrapu Rajendra

This is exactly the same thing which happened to a 40-year-old woman Reema (name changed) who is working as a fashion designer. She found herself plagued by headaches and dizziness and blacked out one morning at her home. She was immediately rushed to Aware Gleneagles Global hospitals with mimics of coma and no signs of any medical conditions or diseases.

Doctors discovered that her sodium levels had fallen to a dangerous level and she was at a great risk of slipping into a coma or even death. The reason was hardly a mystery until the doctors found out her history.

The cause was not drugs or alcohol but a detox diet. Every day she drank six litres of water and avoided consuming salt. Following a health message from a programme which she saw on T.V. every morning, she had decided to cut down the intake of salt and only used lemon juice as an alternative instead.

Normally, sodium levels in a human body should be around 135 to 145 milliequivalents per litre (MEQ/L), but her sodium level reduced to 98. This affected her well-being leaving low sodium levels in her blood and symptoms such as brain dysfunction. If ignored, it would lead to fits, severe brain damage, and coma or might have even resulted in her death.

Her sodium level was improving gradually as she was given supplements which helped in enhancing her fragile health condition.

The idea that you need to drink five or six litres of water a day is an urban myth. Too much of anything exceeding the limit will kill you. Having a balanced and healthy diet with regular exercises will enhance your well-being.

“How much water do I need to drink?” “How much sodium should be taken?” are some questions that might come to your mind. Typically, intake of water depends on your size, weight and also on your activity level and where you live. However, the colour of urine is a good indicator of how much fluid we need.

Sodium intake differs in every person with existing health conditions. According to dietary guidelines, an upper limit for sodium consumption is of 2,300 milligrams per day for adults.

And if you are 51 years of age, having health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic disease, it is recommended to lower the intake to 1,500 milligrams per day. It is been known for decades that high salt intake increases blood pressure and low intake of salt have beneficial effects in chronic kidney diseases.

The author is an MD (NIMS), FNB (SGRH, N.Delhi), EDIC (UK), HOD and senior consultant – Critical Care, Director – MICU