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Too much of a good thing

Posted Feb 01 2013 3:12am

Time to get serious. You hear it everywhere. I certainly do. Water is so good for you, drink lots of water, you can never have too much water. Well, actually, you can.

water-drinking-aug09 Let me tell you a little story. 6 years ago, my mom was the epitome of an obsessively healthy eater and runner. Our “junk food” in my house was goldfish. Nothing with trans fats or hydrogenated oils entered the doors, or our stomachs. I hated it. There was a period where we only ate brown rice pasta and she drank around 15 plastic water bottles a day.

One weekend, my dad and brother were away skiing and she became violently ill. I don’t do well around sick people so I holed away in my room while she took care of herself with saltines and gatorade on the couch. We thought it was a typical bug but it wasn’t going away. Her friend took her to the hospital (I was only 15) and it turned out that her electrolytes were virtually nonexistent, her salt was totally depleted, and her potassium was dangerously high. 

They decided it was from drinking too much water. After staying in the hospital for a couple of days, she was okay. She had to pour salt on everything, limit her water to 4 plastic bottles a day (and they had to be diluted with tea or something), and she couldn’t eat any foods with potassium. Gone were her massive salads at lunch, tomatoes in anything, and potatoes went out of style. She said buh-bye to her running days. She developed a really funny back problem where she couldn’t stand up straight after sitting and walked around bent over for a few minutes to stretch out which caused more than a few laughs from my dad, brother, and I. The doctors concluded that her body’s chemicals were totally imbalanced as a result of overhydrating and that it had affected her entire body.

This article in Shape Magazine lists the symptoms of overhydrating:

Screen Shot 2013-01-30 at 11.18.58 PM

You probably think that’s the end of it, right? Lesson learned? Don’t drink too much water. We thought it was, too. Until this past October when my family came down for my cross country meet. I was so excited, I talked about it for weeks. After my meet that Saturday, she became really sick again. We thought it was too much water, not enough salt, because her body had developed a sensitivity to it. She spent the entire weekend on my couch. I hated seeing her sick and I was devastated. I refused to leave the house which drove my dad and brother insane. It’s also part of the reason I went home in October. My mom went straight to the hospital from the airport that Monday and had more tests done. Once again, her salt was dangerously low.

They found test results from her hospitalization six years ago that stated she had Addison’s disease . It slipped right through all of the specialists she saw about her random ailments. Her unnaturally tan skin? Addison’s. Her crazy salt cravings? Addison’s. Her funny walk? Addison’s. Her tiredness? Addison’s. The high potassium? Addison’s. But nobody caught it. 

I didn't draw this. I just wish I did.

I didn’t draw this. I wish I did.

Now you probably want to know what happened after. She acts and feels ten years younger. She has to wear a bracelet like you would if you had a penicillin allergy or were diabetic and take medicine daily, but her weird tan is going away, she can walk straight, and is even able to start running again. She still has to be careful because traumatic situations can send her into adrenal shock, which eventually can lead to death, but now that it’s under control, I honestly can’t remember a time where she had this much energy. She has her life back, and she didn’t even know it was being taken from her.

I know this isn’t what you might have been expecting from this post. It wasn’t supposed to be about Addison’s disease at all. It’s still about the dangers of overhydrating. I personally have to monitor my water consumption, especially when I’m around my mom because she is on my case about it constantly, just in case. I still drink about my body weight in water every day, but I add salt to a lot of foods to help compensate for what I’m sweating out.

Be Smart. Drink Water in moderation. Like everything else in life, don’t overdo it.

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