Salt water is any water that has been contaminated with salt and other trace minerals, such as mercury or arsenic. Water from the oceans is an example of water that has a high content of salt. Properly prepared salt water can be a source of drinking water or as part of a cleansing regimen. It also can help post-concussion patients suffering from increased blood pressure. However, in most cases, drinking salt water is not healthy for you.
Salt water, or saline water, is defined as any water that contains dissolved salts. The content of the dissolved salts helps determine the classification of the salt water. Concentration of salt in water is measured in parts per million, or ppm. Fresh water has less than 1,000 ppm, while highly saline water, like water from the ocean, has approximately 35,000 ppm of salt, the U.S. Geological Survey says. People often use salt water for mining, thermoelectric power and other industrial purposes. You can purify salt water to produce potable water.
Many of your bodily functions require a strict balance between water and other chemicals, according to Argonne National Library. One of the most important chemicals is salt. The body attempts to equalize the concentration of salt with respect to total body water. Therefore, the more salt you have, the more water you require. If excess salt enters the bloodstream, your body releases water within its cells. When you drink salt water, your body is forced to release water from cells to counteract the surplus influx of salt. This decreases the amount of water your cells can use--and cells need large amounts of water to maintain structural integrity and survive. Chronic or excessive salt water intake can cause your body to lose its normal water and salt equilibrium.
Your kidneys are responsible for filtering excess chemicals from your blood. When you ingest salt water, you increase the amount of salt that your kidneys have to filter from the blood. To flush out the salt, the kidneys require large amounts of water. The water, along with the filtered salt, is excreted in your urine. This excess water loss can cause dehydration. Over a long period of salt water consumption, the excess water will overwhelm your kidneys, and they will begin to fail. This can lead to serious complications and even death.
Within hours of drinking salt water, you may develop symptoms that are associated with the high level of salt that is in your system, an article in the "Western Journal of Medicine" reports. An initial development is a severe and persistent diarrhea. Your intestines can only absorb a set amount of salt in a given time period. Salt water contains so much salt that excess salt is often left in the lumen of the intestine. This causes water to flow out of the cells and into the lumen. As the contents of your intestines becomes more watery, you will develop diarrhea.
Increased urine output is also an acute symptom of salt water ingestion. The salt filtered by the kidneys requires large amounts of water to be properly excreted. This large volume of water will significantly increase your urinary output. Both of these symptoms lead to massive water loss.
Long-term intake of salt water leads to severe dehydration, which can cause serious effects. Your body tends to lose great amounts of water in response to chronic salt water ingestion. You could begin to have hallucinations and become delirious. Often, you will lose consciousness and suffer from seizures, Hydrommisions International explains. Your body cannot function without water, and by the time you lose 15 percent of your total body water, you are at a high risk for coma, brain damage and death.
- U.S. Geological Survey: Saline Water
- U.S. Geological Survey: Saline water use in the United States
- Hyrdomissions.org: FAQs
- Argonne National Laboratory: Drinking Salt Water
- "Western Journal of Medicine"; Severe Hypernatremia from Sea Water Ingestion During Near-drowning in a Hurricane; December 1997; R.J. Ellis
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
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