DR. HOOK- Big gulp: Don't (over) drink the water!

"Water, water, everywhere, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink." 

Gulp!  I read the Rime of the Ancient Mariner in ninth grade, and I still remember parts of it. Ms. Patrick-Brown was my quirky and incredible English teacher who said, "You will hear this over and over for the rest of your life."  

I remember when she taught us the meaning of onomatopoeia. She quacked like a duck, made creaking sounds, and made other noises to show us onomatopoeia means writing words to imitate sounds. My first use of onomatopoeia was "Laaaaaaaaaaaaa!" Okay, maybe not, but it should have been.

Could you imagine having water all around you but not being able to drink any of it? Oh, wait a minute. They made a movie about that called Water World, and it drowned in the box office.

I recommend that my patients drink plenty of water everyday— about 64 ounces, or eight cups. But you also get a lot of water in food–- meat is 70 percent water, and fruits are practically all water. A melon is even named after water; perhaps you've heard of it.  (By the way, it is by far my favorite fruit, and you can catch me thumping on every watermelon in the grocery store. In Korea, if you can choose a good melon, you can choose a good spouse. And let me tell you, I know how to choose a great melon!)

But can you drink too much water?

Jennifer Strange apparently died from drinking too much water in a "Hold Your Wee for a Wii"contest held by KDKN, a radio station in Sacramento, California. Whoever came up with this idea has water for brains. To win a video game, contestants were given 8-ounce bottles of water to drink every 15 minutes, but if they peed, they were out of the contest.  Sounds like a whiz of a contest, but not urinating can cause the kidneys to back up and eventually shut down. This can help contribute to water intoxication.

When the body blood gets too diluted with water, hyponatremia occurs– meaning sodium concentration drops. As the sodium level drops, the osmotic pressure of the blood drops. This causes the brain cells to soak up the water, leading to brain swelling.

As the sodium level drops, a person feels poorly, has a headache, and feels nauseous. If the sodium drops too low, the person can become unconscious— even go into a coma, have a seizure, stop breathing, and– well, yep, die.

Some mentally ill persons have polydipsia, drinking too much water. I have even seen a person drink water out of a toilet because the sink was turned off to prevent his sodium level from dropping again. Chugging too much water in a short period of time can lower the sodium in the blood. The faster the sodium drops, the more likely brain damage is going to occur. Interestingly, pre-menopausal women are more at risk of neurological damage due to hyponatremia, which might explain what happened to Jennifer Strange.

Hyponatremia can develop slowly over time. For instance, elderly people sometimes don't eat enough (and, therefore, don't get enough sodium) and then drink too much tea. Over time, sodium levels drop and forgetfulness, headaches, and so on occur.

Treatment consists of restricting water ingestion, but increasing the sodium too fast can lead to demyelination (stripping the nerves bare), which is a baaaaaad thing.

So how much water should a person drink everyday? The body regulates the thirst center and when to quit drinking. Overall, doing things in moderation is the best way to go. As for the stupid water contest, that radio station cannot push this tragedy aside like water under the bridge.