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article imageStudy warns against dangers of drinking too much water

By Alex Ritman     Jul 2, 2015 in Health
Experts writing in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine are advising endurance athletes to drink water only when they are thirsty.
Scientists recommend that those undertaking rigorous physical activity should listen to their body and consume fluids only when needed. Over-drinking, especially when playing sports in extreme heat, can lead to a potentially life-threatening condition known as exercise-associated hyponatremia (EAH), or "water intoxication.”
Hyponatremia occurs when there are dangerously low levels of sodium in the blood. When athletes take in excessive amounts of water or other fluids, the body’s ability to remove those fluids as sweat or urine may become compromised. This leads to excess fluid retention in the body, which in turn dilutes the sodium in the athlete’s body.
The symptoms of water intoxication usually begin with headache, vomiting, confusion and seizures. As the brain swells, these become worse, and if left untreated can become deadly. The danger for athletes is that these symptoms don’t normally occur until levels become extremely low.
Announcing their findings at the 3rd International Exercise-Associated Hyponatremia Consensus Development Conference, researchers stressed that death from EAH could be prevented “if we just listen to our bodies.”
“Using the innate thirst mechanism to guide fluid consumption is a strategy that should limit drinking in excess and developing hyponatremia (low blood sodium) while providing sufficient fluid to prevent excessive dehydration.”
Lead author of the report, Tamara Hew-Butler, DPM, PhD, of Oakland University, said that the team’s “major goal was to re-educate the public on the hazards of drinking beyond thirst during exercise.”
The release of the findings was prompted by the deaths last year of two high school football players from EAH. Dr. Hew-Butler hopes that the recommendations, coming “just before sports’ training camps and marathon training begins within the United States,” will warn athletes and coaches on the dangers of forced hydration practices.
“Every single EAH death is tragic and preventable, if we just listen to our bodies and let go of the pervasive advice that if a little is good, more must be better,” Hew-Butler said.
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