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Can Drinking Too Much Water be Unhealthy or Even Dangerous?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Drinking too much water can be dangerous and has proven fatal. This may come as a surprise to dieters or to athletes who are told to be certain to get adequate fluids. The condition caused by drinking too much water is called water intoxication. It can have several possible effects, which can quickly cause an emergency medical situation.

While most people are safe drinking six to eight glasses of water a day, dieters or athletes may try to get an extra edge by drinking more. Especially high performance athletes like marathon runners may over-drink. This can result in an imbalance of the body’s electrolytes. An excess water can quickly deplete electrolytes like sodium compounds.

Rapid intake of too much water floods the inside of cells when sodium is depleted. This sodium depletion, called hyponatremia, can rupture the cells, either from extra pressure on the cells from without, or from pressure within flooded cells. As cells rupture in various parts of the body, certain symptoms emerge with rapidity. Severe vomiting and nausea are common. A headache may occur as the brain swells. A person may be confused or disoriented.

Symptoms progress and may include seizures, and coma. Untreated cases can and have resulted in death. The hazing incident in Chico, California that caused the death of Michael Carrington in 2005 was the direct result of drinking an excess of water. As well, Carrington was forced to perform exercises in a very cold basement. His death was noted as heart failure from water intoxication.

Runners have also collapsed by drinking too much water quickly. Some sports drinks replace electrolytes as they replace fluids. Yet not all drinks marketed as “sports drinks” are equivalent. Generally, a doctor will be able to tell one which drinks are the best when one is competing in sports. As well runners are now advised to drink when thirsty, instead of getting ahead of thirst. This helps reduce fluid intake to needed amounts in many cases, though most electrolyte replacing drinks are still better choices than water, which might be consumed in excess amounts to satisfy thirst.

Generally excessive water intake is defined as water consumed above what the kidneys can process in an hour. Extremely healthy kidneys would be able to process about 30 ounces (approx .9 liters) of water in an hour. A person with kidney problems or with only one kidney should drink much less, as per doctor’s instructions.

The person with healthy kidneys could develop water intoxication by drinking about 2 to 3 times what the kidneys can process. For a person with kidney problems or with one kidney, too much water might be defined as just an ounce or two over the recommended amounts.

For people with healthy kidneys it should be perfectly safe to drink two cups of water an hour, and for the dieter, even one cup an hour will fulfill requirements for getting plenty of water. However, drinking too much water in rapid succession can prove fatal and should definitely be avoided.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By anon1000930 — On Feb 01, 2019

I can't figure out if some of these comments are satirical or not. Your body will adapt to whatever amount of water you drink, but too much is not good because it flushes out needed electrolytes. Healthy kidneys can process about 30 ounces of water per hour, so you won't want to exceed 30 ounces per hour.

Conversely, 30 ounces is approximately what your daily minimum of water intake can be.

By ElaineMica — On Nov 12, 2015

It is widely believed that in some cases, such as athletes, people who live in hot, dry environments, and those with certain medical conditions-drinking a lot of water indeed helps, but no studies have been done to prove the benefits of this practice in average, healthy people.

By anon344918 — On Aug 14, 2013

An excess intake of water causes frequent urination so is it possible that this is also the reason for not getting pregnant?

By RainbowBlast — On Apr 01, 2013

That's true. I've looked online and people have been going on and on, offering Water Challenges and all that. They don't know what can happen. Of course if you drink too much water your tissues will break because it's too much. It's really not a good thing. So remember to never drink one gallon of water in an hour. You will die after that.

By anon327111 — On Mar 26, 2013

Wow what a load of crap advice! Usually, the problem people face is drinking less water and having all sorts of medical conditions. So unless you are so jobless to remember having a drink every hour and measure water every day, it will be much less than the amount you are going to consume.

And some idiot said you get gastritis by drinking water! Really? When your stomach is empty, acids that help digestion will be dissolved by drinking water, thus causing less damage to the stomach.

So every time you remember, drink a glass of water and you will be healthy.

By anon322949 — On Mar 02, 2013

I was born with polycystic kidney disease and unfortunately, one was as healthy as the other and went. I get urine infections a lot because I don't drink enough fluid. The past four weeks I have been drinking a lot more, but can only drink sparkling water instead of normal water, because that seems to make me vomit and I can't keep it down. I just want to know, exactly, how many normal sized glasses of water I should drink each day?

By anon304410 — On Nov 19, 2012

How much is too much water if you have one kidney?

By bpshakya — On Jul 09, 2012

What are the limitations of all poisonous elements in water?

By anon271135 — On May 25, 2012

I have one kidney and cyst on it, my question is how much water is safe to drink for me? I heard that more water reduces or stops the cyst's size/growth.

By anon261015 — On Apr 13, 2012

Is it possible for a person to drink forty ounces of water in an hour?

By anon179099 — On May 23, 2011

@mistyblue: I have the same problem. i drink like three or four bottles of water in the morning, and a whole lot more in the rest of the day.

Something that helped me for a while is to fight the first few minutes when you want to drink water, and after a few minutes your body will stop telling you that you need water and start using the water that's in your stomach.

This happened to me when the college cafeteria ran out of water. At first i felt really thirsty, but after i was forced not to drink the water i felt like i needed, the thirst went away and even for the rest of the day i drank way less water than usual. I hope this was helpful.

By anon178355 — On May 20, 2011

If you are drinking a lot of water and still feel thirsty, you might want to check your blood sugar level.

About five liters of water per day is normally prescribed in many countries, so don't freak out.

Don't have water along with your meals, because water dilutes (in a layman's language) digestive juices produced in your stomach. You should drink nothing with your meals. Drink plenty in between though - after one hour. Don't drink water right before your meals too. Give it about half hour.

By anon167609 — On Apr 13, 2011

It can be if you live in a land-locked state like Colorado where all the drinking water is recycled toilet crapwater. I think it's poisoning people's brains out here from the behavior I have observed! Either that, or they're possessed by aliens!

By frogholler — On Feb 14, 2011

I think that drinking half your body weight in ounces is the safest way to go. I did find that when I started drinking water a few years ago, it seemed to create a thirst for more so I had to be careful and pace myself. I also found that if you go to have blood taken, (at least with me) I have to make sure I am well hydrated or they have a hard time locating a good vein.

By anon148661 — On Feb 02, 2011

Three days ago, with the wish of re-hydrating myself, I drank a lot of water almost three days in a row. The result is that I feel an immense pressure in my kidneys and all the organs near them.

My digestion seems to have stopped and overall, I feel awful.

What is the recommended action to take in my case? I am really feeling sick and the pain very strong that I feel my kidneys are going to explode.

Please, any advice will be very welcome. best regards. --Daniel

By anon143494 — On Jan 16, 2011

I drink 2 litres of water in eight hours every weekday while at work. Is that too much in such a short time?

By anon131772 — On Dec 03, 2010

From what I just read, drinking a lot of water is bad, so my question is, what can I do to stop drinking too much water? because I drink way too much water. I drink to the point that I feel bloated and my stomach feels super full but yet I'll still keep drinking water then my stomach starts hurting. I need help how can I stop?

By anon106516 — On Aug 26, 2010

I drink a lots of water. sometimes I'm really not thirsty or need it; I just drink it. I'm getting really worried about that? is it bad to drink too much water?

By anon73829 — On Mar 29, 2010

Dear Mistyblue: The more you drink water, the more thirsty you will feel. But, it doesn't mean that your body really needs all that amount of water. You can gradually lessen the amount of water you drink, half glass less every day.

Also, drinking water just before, during or right after a meal is bad for the digestion as water dilutes the digestive acids in the stomach, and leads to slow digestion.

In the long run, one can have gastritis or ulcer due to drinking water during digestion. One shouldn't drink more than 1.5 liters of water unless one is an athlete since most of the food contains liquids in them.

Also, adding a teaspoon of honey or lemon helps digestion of the water. I'd suggest taking a look at the second chapter of the book "Fiber menace" by Konstantin Monastyrsky. The author describes how water can lead to damage if consumed excessively.

By anon61862 — On Jan 23, 2010

mistyblue, try keeping something other than water with you all the time. and if you're an athlete, have like vitamin water or a gatorade with the water.

By anon40781 — On Aug 10, 2009

Which is healthier to drink water while standing or sitting?

By sg2009 — On Apr 27, 2009

I used to drink 3-4 lit of water daily, but recently when my uric acid count reached 7, I started drinking 6-7 lit of water daily(half of it by breakfast i.e. by 8 am)for the last 3 months. Now I have noticed that my stomach becomes upset daily 2-3 times up to lunch time(i.e 1 pm). After that it is OK. Now my query is: Is this condition due to excessive water intake?

By piebenga — On Feb 20, 2009

Well, I have a question about drinking too much water. I drink a lot I mean a lot of water, sometimes I'm really not thirsty or need it I just drink it. I'm getting really worried about that? My husband tells me to stop drinking so much water, but I really can't. Is there something I could do?

By anon20162 — On Oct 26, 2008

dear mistyblue, exactly how much water do you drink everyday? Do you drink half of your body weight in ounces? That is approximately the proper amount most people should drink. As an example, a female that weighs 120 pounds should drink 60 ounces of water a day. If you drink a glass or 2 per hour that is perfectly acceptable.

By anon1661 — On Jun 11, 2007

my dad is 61 years, he has emphysema. He has already quit smoking for several years but he always complain of dryness in his throat. He can finish 5 gallons of water in a day. Can this kill him?

By mistyblue — On May 03, 2007

Well, I have a question about drinking to much water. I drink a lot I mean a lot of water, sometimes Im really not thirsty or need it I just drink it. It's like my drug you know? Im getting really worried about that? My husband tells me to stop drinking so much water, but I really can't HELP? Is there something I could do, to stop drinking so much water?

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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