Lifestyle Health and Wellbeing 30 Nov 2022 Death by drinking ex ...

Death by drinking excessive water

Published Nov 30, 2022, 4:01 pm IST
Updated Nov 30, 2022, 4:01 pm IST
Bruce Lee, the American martial arts legend and actor. (Photo By Arrangement)
 Bruce Lee, the American martial arts legend and actor. (Photo By Arrangement)

Bruce Lee, the American martial arts legend and actor,  made famous the quote “Be water my friend”, but excess water appears to have ultimately killed him.

The Way of the Dragon and Fist of Fury actor may have died as a result of drinking too much water. The study was published in the Clinical Kidney Journal said, “We hypothesise that Bruce Lee died from a specific form of kidney dysfunction; the inability to excrete enough water to mainatin water homeostasis.”

“Hyponatremia occurs when the sodium level in the blood, which is required for fluid balance, is unusually low. The imbalance causes cells in the body, particularly those in the brain, to expand.”

Is it possible to die from drinking too much water? “Yes,” says Dr. G V Rao, Director & Chief of Gastrointestinal & Minimally Invasive Surgery at the Asian Institute of Gastroenterology adding, “Water intoxication occurs when a person drinks more water than his kidneys can flush out. Although drinking enough water is known to be beneficial to health, drinking too much of it can result in water intoxication. Overhydration causes water intoxication because the electrolyte balance is disrupted and fluid accumulates in the body’s cells, causing them to expand, particularly the cells in the brain. This eventually leads to brain function disruption and death.”

“It is generally rare for someone to drink excessive amounts of water by accident, but it can happen, and several deaths have been reported due to excessive water intake. Hyponatremia can happen when there is excessive water intake either knowingly or accidentally. This makes it difficult for the kidneys to flush out the fluids and they begin to enter inside the cells,” explains Dr G V Rao.

Hydration Is Essential, but Can You Drink Too Much Water?

As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are no official guidelines on how much water a person needs to drink each day. The exact amount depends upon the body weight, level of physicial activity and climate.

“There is no set amount of water that is considered life-threatening, but it can be calculated in terms of how much water you drink per hour. According to research, the kidneys can eliminate about 20-28 litres of water per day, but only about 0.8 to 1.0 litres per hour. The National Academy of Sciences in the United States recommends that an average healthy adult consume 3.7 litres of fluid per day for men and 2.7 litres for women,” explains Dr G V Rao.

Dr G V Rao

Mistaken notion

Some people drink more water out of the mistaken belief that it will provide additional health benefits. “Excessive fluid consumption, on the other hand, has the potential to be harmful. Excessive fluid consumption can result from diseases such as uncontrolled diabetes mellitus or the rare diabetes insipidus. The most common reason, however, is psychological. This is referred to as psychogenic polydipsia. It can occur to varying degrees in people suffering from anxiety, mental health disorders, or severe mental illness. Excessive fluid consumption can result in dilutional hyponatraemia and even death in rare cases. However, these are extremely rare occurrences for a relatively common condition. It would be extremely difficult to murder someone by giving them too much water to drink!,” says   Dr Sanjay Sinha, consultant urologist and transplant surgeon, Apollo Hospitals.

Dr Sanjay Sinha

Water intoxication

* Bruce Lee passed away on July 20, 1973, at the age of 32. Two months before his death, doctors diagnosed him with cerebral oedema. He was given the painkiller Equagesic for a headache on the day he died. He went to his room for a nap, from which he never awoke.

* Matthew Polly, who wrote the biography Bruce Lee, A Life in 2018, refers to repeated water intake on the evening of Lee’s death

* Bruce had multiple risk factors for hyponatraemia, including that he was drinking high quantities of liquid and using cannabis — which increases thirst, says experts

* The condition can be fatal, with symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and headaches, as well as brain swelling, confusion, seizures, coma, and death in severe cases. Low salt levels in the bloodstream can also cause the body to go into shock.



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