Have you heard of water intoxication?

Drinking too much water cause serious electrolyte Imbalance in the body which can lead to confusion, nausea, vomiting, seizures- and at times, coma and eventually death. Thankfully it is rare. But it is actually medically possible.

The brain, the heart, the kidney, the skin and all the body organs need water to function properly and perform effectively. However, drinking too much water can have a negative counterproductive effect on the brain and the body.

Excess water disrupts the normal body chemicals with the most profound impact on the body chemical called sodium. Sodium levels drop when you drink excess water. Normal levels should be at least 135. With excess water intake, it can drop as low as 125, which can cause brain cells to start swelling up- causing brain damage.

How much water is too much water?

Ideally you only need 3litres of water per day- maybe about 4-5litres per day if you live in very hot places or you do very stressful work which makes you sweat a lot. 3litres is about 4bottles of the 75cl bottled water they sell in traffic.

The only exception to taking 3litres a day of water would be people who have serious medical conditions like heart failure, kidney failure or liver failure where the body retains more fluids than it excretes. For them, the daily water requirement may be less to avoid overload.

So how exactly does water intoxication happen?

Water intoxication happens when you take more water than your kidneys can push out of your system. Ideally the kidneys help us excrete excess water from our body in the form of urine. This is how the body avoids water intoxication.

So how much water is too much water?

“Too much water” is taking more water than your kidney can push out. The kidney can not deal with anything more than 1litre per hour. Or maximum per day 28 litres of water. If you think about it well, this is extremely massive amount of water.

And that is why thankfully, water intoxication is quite rare among people generally. In a country like Nigeria I read that we probably have only about 100,000 cases per year out of almost 200million people. So it’s actually a very rare medical condition. And that is reassuring.

But in some particular situations, like soldiers at war deprived of water for long periods, like athletes in a marathon who feel very thirsty after running for hours, or in anyone deprived of water for a few days like in fasting – These people are prone to water intoxication.

That’s because after being deprived of water for long, once they see water- they may end up taking too much than is medically safe for them. Again, as stated earlier, for normal adults- about 3litres to 4litres of water per day is all that you need. Not more. Surely not less.

Symptoms of water intoxication

Muscle cramps,








Double vision,


Excess urination,

Difficulty breathing,

Becoming unconscious,

Finally death.

All of this are possible symptoms of water intoxication. So it’s actually quite serious.

Treatment is stop the water drinking (obviously), have the person monitored preferably in hospital, and sometimes medications and special drips may be given. The most important thing is pls speak with a doctor/go to a hospital if you or someone around you gets water intoxicated.

Thanks for reading.

Share for others.

Add your contributions as well – What you read or heard or saw about the topic.

Remember – too little water is bad for you, just as too much water.

That’s the takeaway lesson for today.

Do have a nice day. Have a blessed & stressfree one.

Water intoxication
Drinking too much water
Credit: Kent

Dr Olufunmilayo


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