Can Too Much Water actually KILL You?
Sunday, September 10, 2017
I spent last weekend in the hospital with hyponatremia (low blood sodium) and low potassium and magnesium. They padded my bed rails with blankets and put me on a heart monitor...my numbers were so low that seizures and cardiac arrest were real dangers. They got the potassium and magnesium levels improved with IVs but it was too dangerous to give me saline IVs. It can cause the fluid to leave your brain and can actually kill you. So they changed one of my diuretic meds and put me on a SEVERE fluid restriction. 1 Liter a day. That is two 16 oz water bottles...in a 24 hour period. I have Sjogrens which means I do not have saliva and my mucus membranes, including my eyes, were as dry as dirt. My windpipe was so dry that, when I breathed, it stuck together. I could barely talk as my mouth had not a drop of moisture in it. It was hell and it does not surprise me in the least that the only complaint that Jesus uttered on the cross was "I thirst" ...I understand that...when you are mouth breathing due to stress and pain ...panting...your mouth gets even drier.
I begged and I confessed, I cheated in those days of extreme thirst. I sneaked sips of water here and there....Finally my sodium level slowly climbed. They also had me on a "heart Healthy" diet there which meant reduced calories and fat and it made 1/2 the menu off limits to me. Finally after three days I made it home. When I left they told me I had to continue the 1 ltr /day limit (YEAH RIGHT!!!) ...I knew that no matter how motivated I was, I would not survive with that little amount of fluid. So I told myself I will do 1.5 liters and not count my AM coffee. And even that I could not really stick to the plan. I had labs done on Wednesday and I deliberately drank more than I was allowed to. You see, they had changed a medication that the nephrologist believed was at the root of the problem. I thought, "if I'm on a better med, and maintain the fluid restriction, I will not know which factor is the important one." SO I drank some beyond the prescribed parameters...still cutting A WAY back from the way I used to consume fluids but drinking at a tolerable level for me.
Wed's lab results were in when I saw my cardiologist on Friday and he gave me the good news that my numbers were still not in the normal range but were very close to that and he was happy with that. So my plan is to not drink anything unnecessarily...but if i am dry and miserable, I will have some water. I bought a one liter bottle and sip on that all day long....trying to put time between each sip.
Current diet wisdom makes it sound like the more you drink, the healthier you are. I"m here to tell you that it ain't necessarily so. Maybe I have kidney problems. Or maybe my meds are affecting my body's ability to flush water out and the result is that my body has so much fluid in it that the kidneys cannot handle the load and fluid backs up into my tissues. My stomach looked 9 months pregnant.....until I finally, on the new med, was able to get rid of some of it. And my weight?? I thought i was well into the 200's again and was heart broken over that. But once I got that fluid out, and my heart healthy diet did it's work....I was in the low 190's....very close to my first goal of weight loss.
Turns out that water, like medicine, can be abused and over indulged in. When my nephrologist asked me "How much do you drink?" and I told him "8 glasses a day" (actually I drank way more than that but was embarrassed to admit it) he said to me "WHY???" and I said "that's what you are SUPPOSED to drink" and he said to me, "But not YOU!!" I really wonder if I have some kind of kidney issue going on. When I see him in October I will ask him about that. But for now, I am glad to once more be in charge of what I drink. I have to drink wisely and with as much restraint as I can muster.
There is another factor at play here. And it is one you may not have heard of. There is a condition called "Psychogenic Polydipsia" which is a disorder when people are excessively thirsty and drink massive amounts of fluids daily. Not surprisingly, people with schizophrenia (SZ) are the most commonly affected. Partly this is because the class of AP (anti-psychotic) meds we take cause extreme thirst and a feeling of a thick, pasty tongue. Also since I stopped smoking, my water intake has really been a replacement for that habit. I'm never without a drink in my hand and never get into the car without a good supply of water with me. I enjoy drinking water and iced tea. and in a life where I have very little to bring me pleasure, I really zealously guard my "right" to drink what I want....But kidney failure is a high price to pay, isn't it?