What is Water Intoxication? Too Much Water May Lead to Hyponatremia & Other Side-Effects
Drinking too much water have detrimental effects on your health. (Photo Credits: Olichel/Pixabay)

Everyone has heard it a million times that keep sipping on water at regular intervals, keep reminders if you forget and during summers it is imperative to consume litres of water to prevent yourself from dehydration, also if you are exercising we are asked to keep ourselves hydrated always. But can there be too much of a good thing? Studies show that excess water can also have detrimental effects on your health. There is such thing known as water intoxication, caused by drinking too much water too quickly. Drinking more than one litre of water per hour can strain the kidneys and the heart. Overhydration can lower the sodium and potassium levels dangerously.

Here’s the Side-Effects of Drinking Too Much Water

Usually in a healthy person, the kidneys can excrete around six gallons of water a day but only close to one litre per hour. So, drinking more than one litre per hour consistently can cause overhydration. The most common side-effect is excessive urination but there are other dangerous side-effects.


Drinking too much water can lower sodium levels abnormally. This critical mineral should range between 135 and 145 mmol/L. But when it drops below 135 mmol/L, a condition called hyponatremia develops. The warning signs of hyponatremia are closely related to the symptoms of heatstroke and exhaustion. You might experience headaches, be hot or just feel crummy. Other symptoms include diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting. This condition is more likely seen in athletes who lose a lot of sodium through sweat. Drinking water further dilutes the sodium density. Certain cases have reported to deaths among the athletes. The symptoms can progress from mild to severe swiftly.

Swelling of Cells

Potassium and sodium ions act as electrolytes in the body and maintain fluid balance between your cells and your blood. When sodium levels drop due to excess water consumption, fluids shift from the outside to the inside of cells, causing them to swell. When this happens to brain cells, it can produce dangerous and potentially life-threatening effects. This is especially dangerous for neurons in the brain, where space is restricted by the skull. The result can be headaches, seizures, brain injury, coma and even death.


Low potassium levels in your blood means that you have hypokalemia. Potassium mineral is also known as electrolytes. They help move positively and negatively charged ions in and out of your cells, so your nervous system can trigger cell functions electrically such as muscle contraction and relaxation. Drinking too much water can lead to depletion of magnesium in your body – a mineral essential to maintain potassium levels. When the potassium cannot enter your cells for storage, your kidneys will eventually process it and flush it out through urine. Hypokalemia symptoms are low energy levels, muscle cramps, intestinal distress and muscle spasms. It can also lead to irregular heart rhythms and muscular paralysis.

Overwhelm the Kidneys

We all know that kidneys help filters toxins from blood. Overhydration can affect the glomeruli because your kidneys need to work overtime to filter the extra water from your blood. So, when you drink litres of water within an hour, your kidneys get overwhelmed. Drinking too much water is particularly dangerous when you have kidney problems. Research claims that it can cause chronic kidney disease progression. It may also spark an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Also, to work hard to remove excess water, it can lead to a stress reaction from your hormones. This could make you feel tired or fatigued. Moreover, the dilution of electrolytes could trigger exhaustion.

Strains the Heart

Drinking too much water can put undue strain on your heart due to the increase in blood volume and lead to seizures in some cases. Kidney function and other heart issues are closely related. Patients with cognitive heart failures or other heart issues that also affect the kidneys tend to retain more water in the body, compounding the problem. Overhydration can stretch the heart muscle fibres and result in heart failure.

Experts believe that you should drink water only when you feel thirsty and then stop. The colour of your pee can also determine if you are overhydrated. If it’s dark, you’re probably dehydrated but if your pee is clear you may be overhydrated. Issues of dehydration can also be dealt with by eating fruits like water melon, grapes, raspberry, banana, pineapple and other fresh seasonal fruits and juices. If you’re pushing fluids beyond the point it’s comfortable, it’s a sign that you need to stop drinking.