9 Telling Signs You’re Drinking Too Much Water, From Nutrition Experts
Most of us could stand to drink more water—but among those with the best hydration discipline, there can be too much of a good thing.
How is it possible to drink too much water?
Health authorities have educated us that drinking enough water is absolutely vital for our bodies to function properly. And it is—unless you drink too much of it. Though most people look out for the signs of dehydration, overhydration is equally as dangerous. Drinking too much water can result in water intoxication, also known as hyponatremia, causing the inside of your cells to flood due to abnormally low sodium levels in your bloodstream. In severe cases, water intoxication can lead to serious health problems such as seizures, coma, and, in rare cases, even death.
The good news is, there are plenty of clinical and behavioral signs that suggest you may be among the overzealous sipping set. If so, it’s likely you believe you’re just taking great care of yourself, and that’s definitely a solid goal… but, by chance, are you drinking too much water?
Read up on the signs of overhydration from recognized clinical leaders. Also, check out another popular probe: Is It Bad to Drink Water That’s Been Sitting Overnight—Or Longer?
You never leave the house without a water bottle and constantly have one in hand
If you carry around your water bottle all day and immediately refill it when it depletes, you may be drinking too much water. Constantly adding water to your body can result in low sodium levels in your blood, which, according to the Mayo Clinic, can cause the cells of your body to swell.
This can become particularly dangerous when your brain starts to swell, according to Tamara Hew-Butler, PhD, an exercise science professor at Oakland University in Rochester, MI. “Your brain can only swell about eight to 10 percent before it reaches the skull and it pushes your brain stem out,” says Hew-Butler. Clearly a concerning condition, with more information about it next.
You have throbbing headaches throughout the day
Headaches can be a sign of either overhydration or dehydration. When you drink too much water, the salt concentration in your blood reduces, causing the cells in the organs throughout your body to swell.
Yet again, this can cause an effect on the brain. When your salt concentration is low, your cells grow. Think of it like this: When you drink too much water, your brain actually grows in size and presses against the skull. This added pressure can cause a throbbing headache and more serious health problems, such as brain impairment and trouble breathing.
(Also consider exploring Do Wireless Earbuds Harm Your Brain? A Brain Cancer Doctor Sounds Off.)
You drink water even when you’re not thirsty
The best way to know if your body really needs more water is to be consciously aware of whether you actually feel a sense of thirst. “Our bodies are so programmed to fight against dehydration because we’ve always been living in fear of scarcity or not having enough,” Hew-Butler says, “so we have all of these built-in mechanisms to protect us against that.”
She adds: “One of these mechanisms that all animals have is thirst. Thirst is every body’s individual monitor that lets them know if they need more. The more water you need, the thirstier you get.”
On the other hand, here are unexpected reasons you might always feel thirsty.
You continuously drink water until your urine is clear
If you’re drinking a healthy amount of water, the color of your urine should be straw-colored to transparent yellow. Though most people believe clear urine is the healthiest sign of hydration, having urine with no pigmentation at all can actually be a sign that you’re drinking too much water.
For most people, eight to 10 glasses of water a day is considered a normal amount, per the Mayo Clinic. This suggestion varies depending on an individual’s height, weight, and exercise patterns. Here’s what drinking enough water does to your body.
You urinate frequently, including during the night
You may be drinking too much water if you find yourself often waking up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. According to the Cleveland Clinic, most people urinate between six and eight times a day.
If you find yourself urinating more than ten times a day, you may be drinking more water than your body needs. Other causes include an overactive bladder and caffeine. To prevent nighttime urination, have your last glass of water a couple hours before bed to give your kidneys time to filter the water through your body. (Frequent urination could be an indicator of diabetes insipidus, too.)
You feel nauseous and may experience vomiting
The symptoms of overhydration look a lot like those of dehydration, Hew-Butler explains. When you drink too much water, your kidneys reach a point where they’re unable to get rid of the excess liquid. That leads to water collecting in your body.
This can cause a number of unpleasant symptoms, often including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea (for which we’ve got a few home remedies).
You notice swelling or discoloration in your hands, lips, and feet
In many cases of hyponatremia, people will experience noticeable swelling or discoloration in their hands, lips, and feet. When all of the cells throughout your body swell, your skin will start to visibly swell as well.
People who drink too much water might gain weight suddenly due to swelling and excess water in the bloodstream. If you’re drinking more than 10 cups of water each day and notice swelling or discoloration in your hands, lips, and feet, consider cutting back on your water intake and see if your symptoms subside.
Also, did you know there are actually benefits of drinking plain, hot water?
Your muscles feel weak and tend to cramp easily
Having a healthy, fully functioning body is all about balance. When you drink too much water, your electrolyte levels drop and that balance is compromised. Low electrolyte levels can cause a number of unpleasant symptoms, including muscle spasms and cramping. You can prevent muscle problems by replacing a couple glasses of water a day with coconut water, which is full of electrolytes and 100 percent natural, or an electrolyte drink–our list has are several that nutritionists recommend.
You feel tired or fatigued
Your kidneys are responsible for filtering the water you drink through your body and making sure the fluid levels in your bloodstream stay balanced. When you drink too much water, your kidneys have to work even harder, creating a stressful reaction from your hormones that leaves your body stressed and fatigued. If you’re constantly drinking water and find yourself struggling to get out of bed, it may be because you’ve added unneeded stress to your kidneys.
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- Mayo Clinic: "Hyponatremia"
- Mayo Clinic: "Urine Color"
- Mayo Clinic: "Water: How Much Should You Drink Every Day?"
- Cleveland Clinic: "What Your Bladder Is Trying to Tell You About Your Health"
- Medline Plus: "Fluid and Electrolyte Balance"
- Mayo Clinic: "What Is Coconut Water and What's Behind the Hype?"
- National Kidney Foundation: "How Your Kidneys Work"
- Zhaoping Li, MD, PhD, director of the Center for Human Nutrition and chief of the division of Clinical Nutrition at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
- Cara Marrs, a registered dietitian nutritionist at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
- UCLA Health, Disorders of Sodium Balance
- Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, Hyponatremia-induced osteoporosis
- Nutrition Reviews, Acute and Chronic Effects of Hydration Status on Health