What happens if you drink too much water?


Basically, it is important to drink enough daily. 1.5 liters are recommended by the German Nutrition Society. When exercising it should up to three liters be.

If you drink more than is needed, the body excretes the excess water. However, if you drink extremely large amounts of water that are beyond the capabilities of the body, dangerous health problems can arise. A so-called Water poisoning can ultimately lead to death. People with certain medical conditions like Weak heart or kidneys reach a critical limit faster and, depending on the severity, may only drink a limited amount per day.


The body can regulate its water balance to a certain extent and excrete excess water mainly through the kidneys. If these regulatory mechanisms are overloaded, too much water remains in the blood. Beverages such as fruit juice spritzers and sports drinks are similar in the number of dissolved particles in the form of minerals to that of the blood and are then referred to as isotonic. Water, on the other hand, contains fewer dissolved particles than blood.

It is therefore called hypotonic. If you drink large amounts of hypotonic water, the blood is diluted, so that the concentration of minerals such as sodium falls. However, constant mineral concentrations are important for normal body function. If these are not reached, muscle weakness, concentration disorders and orientation problems occur initially. Other possible symptoms are nausea and headache.

In addition, there can be seizures and other disorders of the nervous system up to coma and ultimately death. A disturbed mineral balance also has dangerous effects on the heart. Cardiac arrhythmias can occur, which are also often fatal. As a further consequence of the reduced concentration of dissolved substances in the blood, more water flows into the cells, since there are more dissolved particles than outside.

On the basis of a physical principle known as osmosis, the water tries to balance the concentration. As a result, more water penetrates the cells and causes them to swell. This hinders their function or can even be destroyed. In addition, there is water retention (edema) in the tissue and organs.

Brain edema is particularly serious. But edema can also occur in the lungs and thus breathing becomes difficult. If the water intake is too high, the body paradoxically stops excreting water through the kidneys. Water can never be excreted in the form of urine alone, but only in combination with salt.

Since the low mineral concentration signals a lack of salt to the body, it tries to save salt. However, this only exacerbates the problem of overhydration. A vicious circle can arise because the body also signals thirst due to the mineral deficiency. It is not possible to say in general where the critical limit of excessive water intake lies and it varies greatly from person to person.

Even if a healthy body can compensate for an intake of up to 10 liters distributed over the day with a correspondingly large amount of urine, no more than 3 liters should be drunk unless one is exposed to extreme physical stress or heat. Caution is advised in the case of decreased kidney function. Depending on the severity, very little may be drunk. Likewise, patients with a weakened pumping function of the heart (heart failure) should not drink too much so as not to overload the circulation.

The general recommendation is to listen to your body and drink when you are thirsty. In contrast to some animals, humans are incidentally not able to drink in advance and store water supplies. The recommended drinking amount of around 1.5 liters should therefore be spread over the day. However, it is only a guide value from the German Nutrition Society.

Brain edema

A edema of the brain is a particularly dangerous consequence of excessive water intake. Like other cells, the nerve cells of the brain swell when they are supplied with too much water. However, this is particularly critical here due to the fact that the brain is limited by the bony skull. The swelling cells therefore have no space to expand.

Instead, the brain is squeezed. By narrowing the supplying blood vessels, the body can prevent the formation of Cerebral edema only counteract overhydration to a certain extent. In addition, the increasing pressure leads to serious consequences due to the brain edema. The first warning signs are headaches and dizziness.

Seizures can be triggered over time. If the pressure in the head continues to rise, the body falls into a coma. If the pressure in the brain areas responsible for breathing regulation becomes too great, there is even a risk of breathing failure. Brain edema can ultimately lead to death and must absolutely intensive care be treated.

You might also be interested in the following topic: Increased intracranial pressure


Edema is the term used to describe water retention in body tissue, usually in the legs or arms. There are several causes. If you drink more water than the body can excrete, it penetrates from the blood vessels into the tissue. Edema can also form in the lungs and brain due to the retention of water.

Edema occurs much more frequently, especially in older people Pumping weakness of the heart (Heart failure) or decreased kidney function. Extreme water retention, especially in the abdomen, often results from liver disease when it no longer produces enough proteins. Edema can also develop in allergic reactions.

What happens if you drink too much hard water?

That drinking hard water is unhealthy or dangerous is one widespread misconception. The common assumption that hard water contributes to the calcification of blood vessels is also wrong. The trace element is an essential component of lime Calcium, which are important functions in the human body, including the Bone building, Fulfills. The Main need However, the body covers it with foods such as milk or fruit and vegetables. Therefore, a recommendation to compensate for calcium deficiency with water that is more calcareous is not a good recommendation.

Calcareous water differs from less calcareous mineral water mainly through the taste. If you like this or do not find it annoying, you can safely drink lime-containing water from the tap. It should be noted, however, that straight in older homes exposure to the water Heavy metals such as should be excluded by lead pipes.

What happens if you drink too much distilled water?

Distilled water differs from normal mineral or tap water in that it is no minerals contains. It therefore does not contain any toxic components and it is first harmless if you drink it. Once ingested, it is mixed with minerals in the stomach anyway. But you drink exclusively or at least in large quantities Distilled water, the body loses important minerals such as sodium or potassium in the long run.

This can be explained by the fact that the body can only excrete water in combination with minerals. As a result, it can be too Deficiency symptoms come. This danger arises particularly with an additionally unbalanced diet as well as with stress that makes you sweat a lot. Of the mythIt is still widespread that ingesting small amounts of distilled water would lead to stomach bleeding and cells bursting. But this is not possible unless you ingest extreme amounts in a short period of time. On the other hand, some people view distilled water as a health product because it is free of pollutants like heavy metals or pesticides. The supposed purifying effect is Not scientifically proven. There is nothing against them occasional Using distilled water to brew tea, for example. The German Nutrition Society warns against the exclusive use of distilled water.

What happens if you drink too much water too quickly?

If you drink about five liters in a few hours, this can be enough to upset the body's salt balance. In particular, the sodium level drops due to a dilution effect. The kidneys are no longer able to excrete the excess water. Instead, it flows into the body cells so that they can swelling.

This is particularly serious in the case of the brain, as it cannot expand due to the limitation of the bony skull and instead the Pressure riseswhich, in the worst case scenario, can be fatal. In addition, at a certain point the body is no longer able to use its Regulatory mechanisms normalize the salt balance, making it life-threatening Arrhythmias can come.

There is a particularly high risk of drinking too much water in a short period of time during or after strenuous exercise. Because of the Salt loss test sweating causes the effects described to occur even more drastically due to an already existing reduced sodium concentration. For example, a woman died of brain edema in the Boston Marathon after drinking 16 cups of water at a water level.

Another example comes from college students in the United States. During a drinking competition with water, a student died in a short time due to excessive water intake. If they had drunk beer instead, at least one fatal cerebral edema would not have occurred because of its isotonic properties.