The day I was told I drank too much water

Maintaining healthy ion concentrations may seem like a relatively easy task; as long as an athlete eats a balanced diet he or she should not have to worry too much. Being born with Nephrogenic Diabetes Insipidus (NDI)* at 18 months, however, has always made this difficult for me. My mom would meticulously monitor what I ate—reducing sodium intake is one way to combat NDI—and how much water I drank throughout the day. As I grew older and gained more control over my own diet I challenged myself to stick to my diet as best as possible. I thought it was best to eat as little sodium and drink as much water as possible. That all changed when I started running cross country.

I began running indoor and outdoor track in middle school and attained moderate success, so by the end of my freshman year of high school I decided to make the switch from playing football in the fall to become a year-round runner. My summer training went well and I thought I was in a good place once pre-season came around. But after the very first practice, I sensed something was wrong. For the first two weeks of the season I barely made it through a practice without feeling light-headed, dizzy and unable to think clearly. I thought it was dehydration, so I became more disciplined with my water consumption. At the worst of it, I found myself drinking eight liters of water throughout the day before practice. Despite these efforts, my symptoms showed no signs of improving.

It wasn’t until I made a trip to my nephrologist that I was able to resolve the issue. It turned out that rather than suffering dehydration from consuming too much salt I was consuming too little, and this was prohibiting the sodium-potassium pumps on my neurons from functioning properly. For the first time in my life, I was told to increase my sodium intake and eat a more balanced diet. Similar to the way Americans tend to think of all carbs or all fats as being bad, I thought that all salt was bad. At that point in my life, I had not yet learned that when it comes to dieting, moderation is key.


*NDI is a rare hereditary condition that affects the nephron (kidney cells) and their response to anti-diuretic hormone (ADH). In a normal nephron, ADH will cause the cell to reabsorb water lost during the blood-filtering process. Water isn’t used as efficiently as possible by the nephrons and therefore it is easier for NDI patients to become dehydrated.

This entry was posted in Exercise Physiology. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The day I was told I drank too much water

  1. Fearless Leader ugogal says:

    Hyponatremia! We will talk about this!

Leave a Reply