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Water intoxication

Category: Illness or disabilities


Involuntary and voluntary

Introduction and description


Water intoxication, also known as water poisoning or dilutional hyponatremia, is a potentially fatal disturbance in brain functions that results when the normal balance of electrolytes in the body is pushed outside safe limits  by overhydration i.e. over-consumption of water on its own or in other drinks.

Under normal circumstances, accidentally consuming too much water is exceptionally rare. Nearly all deaths related to water intoxication in normal individuals have resulted either from water drinking contests in which individuals attempt to consume large amounts of water [or other drinks such as  beer or cola], or long bouts of intensive exercise during which electrolytes are not properly replenished, yet huge amounts of fluid are still consumed.

‘Water cure’, a method of torture in which the victim is forced to consume excessive amounts of water, can also cause water intoxication.

Water, just like any other substance, can be considered a poison when over-consumed in a specific period of time. Water intoxication mostly occurs when water is being consumed at a high quantity without giving the body its proper nutrients it needs to be healthy.

Water is considered the least toxic chemical compound, with a LD50 of 90 g/kg or more in rats.

And water intoxication can give you spiritual experiences.


At the onset of this condition, fluid outside the cells has an excessively low amount of solutes (such as sodium and other electrolytes) in comparison to that inside the cells causing the fluid to shift through (via osmosis) into the cells to balance its concentration.

This causes the cells to swell. In the brain, this swelling increases intracranial pressure (ICP). It is this increase in pressure which leads to the first observable symptoms of water intoxication: headache, personality changes, changes in behavior, confusion, irritability, and drowsiness.

These are sometimes followed by difficulty breathing during exertion, muscle weakness, twitching, or cramping, nausea, vomiting, thirst, and a dulled ability to perceive and interpret sensory information.

As the condition persists papillary and vital signs may result including bradycardia and widened pulse pressure. The cells in the brain may swell to the point where blood flow is interrupted resulting in cerebral edema. Swollen brain cells may also apply pressure to the brain stem causing central nervous system dysfunction. Both cerebral edema and interference with the central nervous system are dangerous and could result in seizures, brain damage, coma or death.


Infant and baby over feeding - It can be very easy for children under 1 year old to absorb too much water, especially if the child is under nine months old. Because of their small body mass, it is easy to take in a large amount of water relative to body mass and total body sodium stores.  If you give a baby a botle of water to suck on the whole time it may well over hydrate as it will be looking for the taste of milk, and wanting to suck too.


Frenetic exercise - Marathon runners are susceptible to water intoxication if they drink too much while running. This is caused when sodium levels drop below 135 mmol/L when athletes consume large amounts of fluid. "This has been noted to be the result of the encouragement of excessive fluid replacement by various guidelines". This has largely been identified in marathon runners as a dilutional hyponatremia. Medical personnel at marathon events should be trained to suspect water intoxication immediately when runners collapse or show signs of confusion.

Being in conditions of extreme heat - Any activity or situation that promotes heavy sweating can lead to water intoxication when water is consumed to replace lost fluids. Persons working in extreme heat and/or humidity for long periods may drink far too much water but not take in electrolytes leading to electrolyte imbalance.

Taking drugs - according to Wikipedia "People using drugs such as MDMA (often referred to colloquially as "Ecstasy") may overexert themselves, perspire heavily, and then drink large amounts of water to rehydrate, leading to electrolyte imbalance and water intoxication – this is compounded by MDMA use increasing the levels of antidiuretic hormone (ADH), decreasing the amount of water lost through urination".   In yet other descriptions there is the added rider that it is the combined effects of MDMA and the dancing that actually does the harm along with the heat in the venues.

Mental problems - Psychogenic polydipsia is the psychiatric condition in which patients feel compelled to drink large quantities of water, thus putting them at risk of water intoxication. This condition can be especially dangerous if the patient also exhibits other psychiatric indications (as is often the case), as the care-takers might misinterpret the hyponatremic symptoms.

Intravenous nutrition - When an unconscious person is being fed intravenously (for example, total parenteral nutrition) or via a nasogastric tube the fluids given must be carefully balanced in composition to match fluids and electrolytes lost. These fluids are typically hypertonic, and so water is often co-administered. If the electrolytes are not monitored (even in an ambulatory patient) either water intoxication may result.

Pharmaceuticals - Some neurological/psychiatric medications (Oxcarbazepine, among others) - Benzodiazepines , Anti-psychotics, and Epilepsy drugs -  have been found to cause water intoxication. It is sometimes difficult to know whether the mental condition is caused by the drug and water intoxication or not.  There are indications that many other pharmaceuticals may also cause this condition as the body tries to rid itself of what it perceives to be a threat - a toxin.

Diabetes - Patients with diabetes insipidus are particularly vulnerable due to rapid fluid processing.

Kidney disease - Water intoxication can be prevented if a person's intake of water does not grossly exceed his or her losses. Healthy kidneys are able to excrete approximately 1 litre of fluid water (0.26 gallons) per hour. However, stress (from prolonged physical exertion), as well as disease states, can greatly reduce this amount.

How it works

In essence all spiritual experiences are from the Brain damage - temporary or permanent - that result from the fluid and pressure on the brain.

Water intoxication is a form of Nutritional deprivation.


Related observations