Does alcohol impact sodium levels in your body?

In this blog we will discuss the question “Does alcohol impact sodium levels in your body?”

We will also briefly touch upon what Potomania is, its causes, treatments, and its impact on the body. 

Does alcohol impact sodium levels in your body?

Yes, excessive alcohol consumption with a poor diet can lead to a reduction in the sodium levels in your body leading to a condition called Beer Potomania or medically known as Hyponatremia. 

Hyponatremia refers to a medical condition where the levels of sodium in the plasma of the blood is below 135 mmol/L. A normal blood sodium level is between 135 and 145 milliequivalents per litre (mEq/L).

it is the most common disorder related to electrolyte observed in people with alcoholism or alcohol addiction. 

It is also referred to as Potomania which means excessive alcohol drinking and in the medical field it is considered to be related to excessive beer consumption thus referred to as Beer Potomania. 

This occurs because beer contains every little sodium and an excessive amount of water. When there is an excessive amount of beer consumption and very little intake of sodium and protein rich foods, it can cause a dangerous reduction of sodium levels and an excessive amount of water in the body.

What are the symptoms of Potomania?

Hyponatremia or Beer Potomania, a syndrome of Hyponatremia, includes symptoms such as:

  • acutely altered mental state and in some cases psychopathological symptoms
  • muscle weakness, spasms, or cramps
  • loss of energy or fatigue
  • trouble walking
  • irritability or restlessness
  • confusion
  • nausea or vomiting
  • headache
  • seizures
  • inability to wake (coma)

When an individual is not a regular drinker and instead resorted to drinking these symptoms can be acute and temporary however, for an alcoholic or someone who is addicted to alcohol, these symptoms can be severe and even lead to seizures, coma, and death. 

For the kidney to function, it requires a certain amount of sodium in the body- A normal blood sodium level is between 135 and 145 milliequivalents per litre (mEq/L).

Without this level of sodium, they are unable to clear out excess fluids in the body and this excess fluid tends to retain and build up in your body and also cause cells to swell due to water retention.

Water retention can lead to excessive weight gain and cells swelling in the brain can lead to neurological symptoms of potomania and psychopathological symptoms. 

What causes Hyponatremia ?

Beer Potomania or Hyponatremia refers to a medical condition characterised by a dangerously low sodium level in your blood.

It is usually caused by high consumption of alcohol, usually beer, with a poor diet and is often observed in people with alcoholism and binge drinking habits. 

Usually, human beings get their required levels of sodium from their diet and this is important as it helps to regulate water levels in the cells of the body. However, when the sodium levels drop due to poor diet and excessive water intake from alcohol- this can lead to Hyponatremia. 

It is also possible that this level of sodium could be due to a decrease in electrolyte levels due to vomiting which can also be observed in people who tend to binge drink. 

According to Mayo Clinic, other causes of this condition include:

  • Certain medications such as water pills (diuretics), antidepressants and pain medications, can interfere with the normal kidney processes that keep sodium concentrations.
  • Heart, kidney and liver problems including diseases that impact the kidneys or liver can cause fluids to accumulate in your body.
  • Syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone (SIADH)
  • Chronic, severe vomiting or diarrhoea and other causes of dehydration.
  • Drinking too much water especially during endurance activities. 
  • Hormonal changes
  • Drug Ecstasy. 
  • Old age which may lead to more contributing factors for hyponatremia, including age-related changes, taking certain medications.
  • Conditions that decrease your body’s water excretion including kidney disease, syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone.

What happens when you drink alcohol when you have low sodium?

When someone with low sodium levels binges on beer or other alcoholic beverages, especially when they also have poor overall nutrition, the kidneys stop working well. 

For the kidney to function, it requires a certain amount of sodium in the body- A normal blood sodium level is between 135 and 145 milliequivalents per litre (mEq/L).

Without this level of sodium, they are unable to clear out excess fluids in the body and this excess fluid tends to retain and build up in your body and also cause cells to swell due to water retention.

Water retention can lead to excessive weight gain and cells swelling in the brain can lead to neurological symptoms of potomania and psychopathological symptoms as well as symptoms related to Hyponatremia such as:

  • acutely altered mental state and in some cases psychopathological symptoms
  • muscle weakness, spasms, or cramps
  • loss of energy or fatigue
  • trouble walking
  • irritability or restlessness
  • confusion
  • nausea or vomiting
  • headache
  • seizures
  • inability to wake (coma)

When an individual is not a regular drinker and instead resorted to drinking these symptoms can be acute and temporary however, for an alcoholic or someone who is addicted to alcohol, these symptoms can be severe and even lead to seizures, coma, and death. 

What are the treatments available for Hyponatremia or Beer Potomania?

Treating Hyponatremia or beer Potomania requires a medical diagnosis and treatment by a medical doctor. It is a tricky condition and requires a steady and delicate approach. 

While it can seem obvious that since the individual lacks sodium, the solution is to put sodium in their system- however this is dangerous as it can lead to a rapid increase in sodium levels leading to dangerous symptoms. 

A Rapid reversal of sodium levels can lead to a condition known as osmotic demyelination syndrome (ODS) which can cause serious neurological problems, including spasms, severe mental impairment, and coma.

People who have Beer potomania or Hyponatremia caused by alcohol consumption, have a high risk of osmotic demyelination syndrome (ODS) compared to people who have other types of hyponatremia causing the treatment of Beer potomania to become more complex.

The best recommended treatment for beer potomania or Alcohol Hyponatremia is a slow and gradual administration of sodium that is done carefully over a period for 48 hours- 3 days or more. 

In some cases, when you are asymptomatic, instead of an IV fluid of sodium the treatment might include a restriction of fluids and a diet that contains no fluids for at least 24 hours or more, in order to expel the fluids from the body naturally and subsequently build sodium levels. 

Treating Beer Potomania or Alcohol Hyponatremia is risky but not treating it can be life threatening since the expansion of the cells due to water or fluid buildup can lead the brain to swell up as well this can cause seizures, coma, and death.

Thus, despite the risk, it is very important that the condition is treated by a medical professional. 

Though it is a risky treatment and the condition is very serious, it can be managed by eating a healthy diet that is balanced and nutritious and provides you with your daily requirement of sodium.

It is also important that to manage this condition that alcohol intake must be reduced and eventually cut out- this treating one;’s addiction can lead to better prognosis of the condition. 

In the case that you are unable to eat due to another condition, it is important to discuss the use of meal replacement drinks with your doctor.

It is also important that you are honest about our drinking habits to your doctor for a more effective treatment and to reduce risks of complications during treatment.

Conclusion

In this blog we have discussed the question “Does alcohol impact sodium levels in your body?”

We have also briefly touched upon what Potomania is, its causes, treatments, and its impact on the body. 

FAQ related to Does alcohol impact sodium levels in your body?

Why is alcohol bad for health?

Excessive alcohol use can lead to chronic diseases and other serious problems including: 

  • High blood pressure
  • heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Liver disease
  • Digestive problems
  • Cancer

What are 3 types of hyponatremia?

The three types of Hyponatremia include:

  • Hypovolemic hyponatremia where there is a decrease in total body water with greater decrease in total body sodium. 
  • Euvolemic hyponatremia where there is a normal level of body sodium with increase in total body water. 
  • Hypervolemic hyponatremia where there is an increase in total body sodium along with a greater increase in total body water.

What happens when your sodium is too low?

Reduction in the sodium levels in your body leading to a condition medically known as Hyponatremia. Hyponatremia refers to a medical condition where the levels of sodium in the plasma of the blood is below 135 mmol/L. A normal blood sodium level is between 135 and 145 milliequivalents per litre (mEq/L).

Which organ is most affected by hyponatremia?

When someone has low sodium levels or hyponatremia, the kidneys stop working well. 

For the kidney to function, it requires a certain amount of sodium in the body- A normal blood sodium level is between 135 and 145 milliequivalents per litre (mEq/L).

Without this level of sodium, they are unable to clear out excess fluids in the body and this excess fluid tends to retain and build up in your body and also cause cells to swell due to water retention.

Hyponatremia is risky but not treating it can be life threatening since the expansion of the cells due to water or fluid buildup can lead the brain to swell up as well this can cause seizures, coma, and death.

What happens if you drink alcohol everyday?

Drinking alcohol everyday can cause fibrosis or scarring of the liver tissue which can also lead to an inflammation of the liver leading to alcoholic hepatitis which eventually lead to liver failure and death.

What is the major cause of hyponatremia?

Hyponatremia refers to a medical condition characterised by a dangerously low sodium level in your blood.

According to Mayo Clinic, other causes of this condition include:

  • Certain medications such as water pills (diuretics), antidepressants and pain medications, can interfere with the normal kidney processes that keep sodium concentrations.
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Heart, kidney and liver problems including diseases that impact the kidneys or liver can cause fluids to accumulate in your body.
  • Syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone (SIADH)
  • Chronic, severe vomiting or diarrhoea and other causes of dehydration.
  • Drinking too much water especially during endurance activities. 
  • Hormonal changes
  • Drug Ecstasy. 
  • Old age which may lead to more contributing factors for hyponatremia, including age-related changes, taking certain medications.
  • Conditions that decrease your body’s water excretion including kidney disease, syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone.

References

Corinne O’Keefe Osborn. What Is Potomania and How Is It Treated? Healthline. Retrieved on 9th March 2022. https://www.healthline.com/health/potomania

Hyponatremia. Mayoclinic. Retrieved on 9th March 2022. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hyponatremia/symptoms-causes/syc-20373711#:~:text=Hyponatremia%20 occurs%20when%20the%20 concentration,in%20and%20around%20your%20cells.

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