Is there such thing as drinking 'too much' water?

Image: iStock

We’re all well aware of the dangers of dehydration — but have you ever considered the other end of the spectrum?

While you’ve been worrying about getting your eight glasses a day, drinking too much water (yes, it’s possible) carries risks of its own. This is because when you consume too much water, your body’s levels of sodium can drop significantly.

“Overhydration can cause you to develop hyponatraemia which means the blood is diluted causing you to become very sick and potentially die via seizures or cardiac arrest,” explains Sydney-based GP Dr Harry Nespolon.

Symptoms can include disorientation, confusion, nausea and vomiting.

Watch: The easiest green smoothie recipe. (Post continues after video.)

Fortunately, it’s unlikely you’d develop the condition simply from drinking an extra water bottle, with those who have pre-existing conditions like chronic heart disease or heart failure which causes the body to retain too much water at greater risk. Even in these situations, it’s extremely rare.


That said, it’s not advised to test the limits.

“There was a very infamous US radio show a few years ago where they getting their contestants to drink the most water in order to win a games console. I think the ‘winner’ died after,” says Dr Nespolon.

So what’s the amount you should be drinking?

Your recommended daily intake isn’t actually fixed, rather it depends on a whole host of factors such as the ambient air temperature and how much physical activity you’re doing. (Post continues after gallery.)

“A hot day and vigorous exercise requires quite a lot of water,” says Dr Nespolon.

“The recommended allowance is one and a half to two litres a day for adults and one to one and a half litres a day for children.”

Keeping hydrated is essential to help the body regulate your temperature (hello sweat!), digest and process food, absorb nutrients and also at the other end to pass waste.

It’s not just a lack of water that can cause the feeling of dehydration.

On hot days in particular you must stay hydrated. Image: iStock


"People who have psychogenic polydypsia or beer potomania (excessive beer consumption) think they are thirsty all the time, but the most important cause of thirst is actually diabetes," says Dr Nespolon.

With these rare conditions, the patient constantly feels like they have a dry mouth so compensates by an unnecessary higher intake of fluids — something that can be an early sign of diabetes.

While we have all at some point experienced mild dehydration, neither ends of the spectrum are anything to joke about. It's important to listen to your body; just going by your thirst works as a guide or even check the colour of your urine, which at its optimum should be pale yellow.

Have you ever suffered from overhydration?