Beer potomania overview

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Editor-in-Chief: Suresh Samson, M.D., Yale Bridgeport Hospital

Overview

Beer potomania is defined as the development of hyponatremia or low levels of salt in the bloodstream, as a result of excess beer intake coupled with poor nutritional intake. This is a syndrome of binge drinking, poor nutritional intake, and profound hyponatremia.

Pathophysiology

The pathophysiological mechanism of beer potomania can be understood through an example. Imagine someone who binged on 4 liters of beer (which essentially means 4 liters of water) with ingestion of roughly 200 mosm that day. To place this in context, a normal American diet contains 750 mosm/day, and all of it is excreted in urine to maintain a steady state. As a result of the ingestion of this large amount of beer (i.e.free water), the patient's anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) (the hormone that causes the kidney to reabsorb free water) secretion is at its minimum to allow the kidneys to excrete maximally dilute urine. Since the maximal dilution that can be attained is 50 mosm/L, the kidneys will excrete all the 200 mosm in the diet in 4 liters of urine (50mosm/L X 4L = 200 mosm). This will indeed maintain his sodium level. If this person in our example drinks his 5th liter of beer without taking any further osmoles, then he will become hyponatremic. This is beer potomania.

Diagnosis

Laboratory Findings

A value of Uosm < 100 mOsm/kg is indicative of a complete and appropriate suppression of antidiuretic hormone (ADH) secretion, a finding seen with either primary polydipsia (including ‘beer potomania’) or reset osmostat.

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