Hyponatremia - Bloating Mystery Uncovered

In runners, hyponatremia is a condition that presents as an imbalance of your blood chemistry caused by an excessive consumption of water which results in a dangerously low concentration of sodium levels. The most common cause for runners is drinking excessive amounts of plain water or over-diluted sports drink during exercise without sufficiently supplementing sodium levels.

Why is Hyponatremia Dangerous?

The imbalance caused by too much water and low sodium levels upsets the pressure balances in and around all of your cells. Your brain is quite sensitive to changes in temperatures (which is why fevers are dangerous) as well as changes in pressures. You essentially become bloated and your cells start to become engorged with water. Mild cases can cause headaches and nausea but as the condition worsens you would be throwing up and you would be disoriented. Ultimately, if the imbalance is not corrected by expelling fluid and adjusting sodium levels back to normal, hyponatremia can lead to death. There are actually several documented cases of death caused by the excessive ingestion of water or sports drink during marathons and ultras.

Measures to Avoid Hyponatremia

As pointed out above and in the runner's diet page, water is not only essential to our basic human survival, it is arguably one of the most critical determining factors to your running success. It’s important that you regularly consume small amounts of water during the day until your pee is clear. This is a good sign that you are well hydrated. If you are hydrated going into your runs, you will feel better and perform better and dehydration should not be a concern unless you are going to be working out for 45 minutes or longer. When you are running distances that take you beyond 45 minutes, you should be looking to consume a well balanced sports drink that delivers a proper mix of water, carb replacement, electrolytes and sodium. The absolute key thing however is to obey your thirst. Try to avoid drinking on a strict schedule but rather drink when you are starting to feel thirsty. Depending on the temperature and terrain you are running this may be as frequently as sipping every 15 minutes. You may also be a heavy sweater, in which case you’ll need to pay particular attention to fluid and sodium replacement. If you are training and running long distances such as marathons and ultra marathons , learning when and what to drink will be an essential part of your on-going training and learning what works best for you as an individual. If distance running is your game, it would be most beneficial for you to look seriously into sodium replacement tablets to compliment your fluid intake.

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