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Can you drown from drinking too much water?

Our amazing human bodies need water to survive. We can survive for around two months without food, but without water we’d likely die a death after a measly 8 days. Our bodies are mostly made up of water, around 70% in fact! [1]

But can we drink too much?

First, let’s look at why we actually need water.

Every system in our body needs water to survive. It makes up our blood, keeps our heart pumping, regulates our body temperature, lubricates our joints, delivers nutrients to trillions of cells, removes waste, prevents infections, and enables our body to function. Being well hydrated can also improve our sleep quality, brainpower, and mood. Boom!

On top of that, daily we lose about 1.5 litres of fluid when we pee, about 200ml in our poo and about 500ml when we sweat. We also lose water through breathing out (now we know why our face masks get a bit moist!).

“Treat your mind like a garden and keep it watered. A 2% decrease in hydration can lead to a 20% loss in energy, and in your capacity to think clearly, focus, and problem solve.” Martina Ratto, Cognitive Scientist

How much should we be drinking?

Most of us, as adults, need around 2 – 2.5 litres of water a day but this can vary depending on our body size, how much we sweat, what activities we’re doing, and whether it’s baking hot outside or more likely than not, drizzly and grey. A good indicator of whether we’re drinking enough is to check the colour of our pee!

That might sound slightly disgusting but the amber nectar that is our urine is a brilliant indicator of our hydration levels. If our wee looks more like ale instead of lemonade, then we're definitely dehydrated.

Healthy pee is 1-3, we need to drink more if our pee is 4-8. Saying that some medications and foods can change the colour of our pee. Beetroot, for example, can famously tinge our pee a delightful pink colour. If in doubt check with the pharmacist or GP.

What should we be drinking?

Plain water is the best bet, but if we can’t stand the taste of tap water, AKA ‘council-pop’, then we could add sugar-free squash to flavour, or slices of fruit to make it more interesting. Herbal or fruit teas, sparkling water, coconut water, milk or milk alternatives, and no-added-sugar fruit juices are other options.

Coffee and tea do count but watch out for the caffeine, as this can affect our sleep quality, or choose decaf.

Does alcohol count?

We wish! Unfortunately, not. Although technically, alcoholic drinks contain water, they are also diuretics. This means they make us pee more and that can cause dehydration, especially if we drink a lot in one go.

Water isn’t the only option…

Some foods are packed full of water, and include the added benefit of being nutritious and delicious:

  • Cucumber, 96% water

  • Tomatoes, 95% water

  • Spinach, 93% water

  • Mushroom, 92% water

  • Watermelon, 92% water

  • Strawberries, 91% water

  • Broccoli, 90% water

  • Berries, 87-92% water

  • Oranges, 85% water

So, snacking on fruits and vegetables, or blending them into smoothies, can be a great way of supporting our hydration (whilst giving us a kick of vitamins and minerals).

Finally, the all-important question:

Can we drown from drinking too much water?

We can’t drown but drinking too much water is possible, although exceptionally rare, and it can be life-threatening! Known as ‘water intoxication’ or ‘hyperhydration’, drinking too much water can cause the sodium levels in our blood to drop dangerously low.

British actor Anthony Andrews survived a case of water intoxication. He was performing as Henry Higgins in a revival of the musical My Fair Lady at the time and consumed up to eight litres of water a day.

Healthy kidneys can filter around 800ml to 1 litre of fluid water per hour, so we’d need to drink A LOT of water in a short space of time for it to be dangerous.


Best advice:

Keep an eye on the colour of your pee; if it’s dark drink more. We should drink when we’re thirsty, eat more fruit & veg, and absolutely, at all costs, avoid water-drinking competitions!


1. Survival time without food and drink (2009). PubMed.




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