Drinking urine can kill you

Inquired: Death From Water Poisoning - More Than A Nasty Headline?

The dose makes the poison, as the saying goes. This also applies to normal water, says Prof. Matthias Girndt, kidney specialist at the University Hospital in Halle. You can actually poison yourself in water if you ingest too much of it. The kidneys can regulate additional water intake to a certain extent. But this mechanism can also be overwhelmed. Overtaxing means that the body can no longer keep the salt concentration in the blood at a normal level. The kidneys can no longer keep up with the excretion of fluids and a dangerous concentration gradient develops between blood and body cells.

The liquid tries to compensate for this concentration gradient - keyword osmosis: If the salt concentration outside the cell, i.e. in the blood, drops sharply, the water flows into the cell and it swells. This is especially a problem with the brain because the brain has no room to expand. The result is dizziness and headaches, so symptoms similar to those of dehydration. In addition, there are convulsions and even life-threatening comatose states.

When does the body refuse to produce urine?

The fatal thing: The kidneys are also controlled by salts, especially sodium. If the signal now comes that the salt content is dropping in the blood, urine production is reduced in order to keep the little salt in the body, explains Antje Gahl from the German Nutrition Society.

In order to avoid further salt loss, the body puts in a lock, so to speak, in which the body says: 'From now on I will no longer produce urine' and then the body begins to overwater.

Antje Gahl, German Nutrition Society

It is difficult to say how many liters of water this process begins at what time span. According to nutrition expert Antje Gahl, there are no exact figures: "It depends on the physical condition whether a lot of fluids are sweated out through exercise or heat and so on. Studies have shown that a healthy body can cope well with an extremely large amount of water over several days . It was found that drinking amounts of up to ten liters per day does not change anything. I think that is quite a large amount. "

Headline: "Death from water poisoning" - what's behind it?

Ten liters. A death from water poisoning haunts the media every now and then. In the United States, a woman participating in a competition has died. The aim was to drink as much water as possible as quickly as possible. 6.5 liters during a program without going to the toilet meant her death. Absolute quantities are obviously not the problem at all - what matters is how much time I give my body to cope with these quantities, says kidney specialist Prof. Girndt: "If you drink large quantities in a very short time, it is more difficult for the body handle it as if it were spread over time. "

Who actually has to protect themselves from too much water intake

However, water poisoning plays almost no role in everyday medical practice. Heart, kidney or liver patients have to be very careful with drinking quantities. Diabetics whose blood sugar levels have gotten out of control are always and constantly thirsty. Mentally ill people who have an obsessive compulsive need to drink: They all run the risk of ingesting too much fluids. Healthy people can safely forget about the phenomenon of water poisoning.