QuickCheck: Is it dangerous to drink too much water?

Can drinking too much water hurt you?

IT'S a general rule of thumb that you should always stay hydrated. Saying water is essential for a happy and healthy life is an understatement as most folk won't last more than three days without it.

However, they do say that too much of a good thing is bad so is it the same for water?

Is it dangerous to drink too much water?



Depending on their age, sex and overall health, most people are between 55% to 78% water and our body absolutely requires it to function.

Water acts as the first building block of your cells, it regulates your internal temperature, it helps you metabolise your food and deal with waste after. It acts like a shock absorber for important organs such as your brain and even lubricates your joints to keep you moving.

You would think you couldn't drink enough water (and on hot days you sometimes feel you can't) but as with most things in life, it all boils down to a balancing act.

Yes, you do need water to carry on living but taking too much water can not only be detrimental to your health, but it can also be fatal.

Your brain requires a precise balance of solutes such as sodium and other electrolytes in your body to function properly.

Drinking a large amount of water in one go can upset this balance by literally diluting down your blood making it harder for your cells (and your brain) to absorb these solutes.

Not only that, this imbalance will cause your cells to be "saltier" than the fluids in your body, causing it to absorb the excess water (via osmosis) which will make it swell, this includes the cells in your brain.

This leads to a condition called water intoxication (hyponatremia) that causes symptoms such as headaches, personality changes, changes in behaviour, confusion, irritability, and drowsiness.

In extreme cases, if left untreated it can even cause death.

Saying that, accidental over-consumption of water is extremely rare and nearly all deaths related to water intoxication were the result of either water-drinking competitions or torture involving water.

A healthy pair of kidneys can eliminate about a litre of water from your body an hour, meaning you would have to drink far more than that in a short amount of time in order to see any negative effects.

In 2007, a 28-year-old woman from California competed in a radio station's on-air water drinking contest. She drank six litres of water in three hours and died later of water intoxication.

Part of the competition was that she couldn't use the toilet while participating so that had exacerbated the situation further.

All in all, thanks to Malaysia's hot and muggy climate you are more likely going to experience dehydration than water intoxication.

So especially now with the temperatures going up, it would be best to stay hydrated than worry about getting "drunk" on water.

Everyone is different so how much water you may need really depends on you. Someone who has a desk job and sits in an air-conditioned room all day will not need to drink as much as someone who works with his hands outdoors.

The rule of thumb is 3.7 litres for men and 2.7 litres for women, spread out over the course of a day. This of course is dependent on how old you are, your body size, weight and what you do all day so if you have any doubts or questions, it would be best to ask your doctor.


1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1770067/

2. https://www2.moh.gov.my/moh/images/gallery/Garispanduan/diet/km11.pdf

3. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/strange-but-true-drinking-too-much-water-can-kill/

4. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256

5. https://www.webmd.com/diet/what-is-too-much-water-intake

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