What happens when you drink too much water


August 04, 2023 | 12:12 pm
2 min read

Drinking 2-4 liters a day is the ideal amount you should aim for

Water, the fundamental element of our existence, keeps us refreshed, rejuvenated, and running like a well-oiled machine.

However, as the saying goes, too much of a good thing can turn bad. Drinking excessive water can lead to water intoxication.

So, hold on to your water bottles, and let us find out what happens when you flood your body with too much water.

Why is water intoxication fatal?

Drinking too much water can dilute essential electrolytes like sodium in our blood, leading to a condition called hyponatremia.

Hyponatremia happens when sodium levels fall below 135 millimoles per liter.

Sodium helps balance fluid inside and outside our cells, but excessive water intake can cause cells to swell.

When this affects brain cells, it becomes a serious and potentially life-threatening situation.


Drinking too much water can cause brain cell swelling, resulting in headaches, nausea, and vomiting.

Severe cases can lead to muscle weakness, high blood pressure, confusion, and difficulty breathing.

This buildup of brain fluid is called cerebral edema and can affect the central nervous system.

In extreme situations, water intoxication can lead to seizures, brain damage, coma, and even death.

How much is too much?

According to a 2013 study, the kidneys can remove 20-28 liters of water per day, but they cannot excrete more than 0.8 to 1.0 liters per hour. Drinking beyond this limit can be harmful.

The study authors suggest that hyponatremia symptoms can appear when a person drinks 3-4 liters of water in a short period, but they did not specify the exact time frame.

Who is at risk?

While we may not consciously overdrink water, water intoxication is frequently seen in individuals participating in intense physical activities such as sports events or endurance training.

Athletes may unknowingly consume excessive amounts of water in an attempt to stay hydrated and enhance their performance.

Additionally, compulsive water drinking, known as psychogenic polydipsia, is more prevalent among individuals with schizophrenia.

How much water should you drink in a day?

The amount of water you need varies based on factors like age, weight, activity level, and climate.

Generally, it's recommended to aim for about two to four liters of water per day for adults.

But listen to your body's thirst signals and drink when you feel thirsty.

Stay hydrated, but don't overdo it. If you are unsure, consult a healthcare professional for personalized advice.

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