If you’ve ever drunk a glass of water and felt an overwhelming sense of nausea, you’re not alone. In fact, it’s a surprisingly common complaint.
In fact, many homeowners experience this feeling after drinking water. While the cause of this sensation is not entirely known, there are several possible explanations.
This blog post will explore some of the potential causes of nausea after drinking water and offer suggestions on how to mitigate the effects.
Nausea – What Is It?
Nausea is the sensation of an urgent need to vomit. While it can also be experienced as general discomfort or queasiness, nausea is often accompanied by other symptoms, including headache, sweating, weakness, and coldness.
Though it can be unpleasant, nausea is actually your body’s way of protecting itself against harmful substances.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH, 1), nausea triggers vomiting, which removes toxins or poisons from the body before they have a chance to affect you.
However, in some cases, nausea can signal another illness or condition entirely.
Why would drinking water cause nausea?
The following explanations are some possible reasons you may feel nauseous after drinking water.
Dehydration is also known as hypohydration – the state of having too few fluids in your circulatory system and tissues. While mild dehydration occurs gradually over time and causes a general lack of energy and a dry mouth, severe dehydration can significantly impact a person’s health and cause nausea.
If you are in this state and drink a lot of water, you could experience the symptoms of hypohydration. These symptoms can include nausea, dizziness, and confusion.
One theory involves your stomach’s stretch receptors. These sensors tell you how full your stomach is.
When they are over-stretched by fluids like water, they can send an incorrect message to your brain saying that your stomach is too full. This may be experienced as nausea.
Another theory is related to your body’s autonomic nervous system. According to this model, drinking excessively cold or hot liquids could elicit uncomfortable reactions in the body like nausea because it activates one of two pathways in the nervous system: pressure-pain and temperature-pain.
In addition to affecting your autonomic nervous system, another theory is that the ions in water have some kind of effect on your body’s receptors. In particular, it has been proposed that too many negatively-charged ions could provoke a reaction.
As an example, the bicarbonate ion (HCO3-) stimulates acid production in your stomach and therefore may have a similar effect as drinking excessively cold or hot liquids.
It’s also possible that inflammation of the stomach lining or esophagus may play a role. This condition is called gastritis and can produce symptoms like nausea after eating or drinking.
In some cases, it may be caused by repeated and acute inflammation of the stomach and esophagus. This condition is called gastropathy.
Another explanation for this sensation – is the presence of mercaptans in water, also known as sulfur compounds. Sulfur smells bad and can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting.
Mercaptan is an organic compound with a very strong odor that has been identified as the same chemical used to manufacture stink bombs.
Luckily, not all water contains high concentrations of these chemicals, but homeowners who are sensitive may experience adverse reactions after drinking water.
Mercaptans are generally formed when chlorine interacts with organic materials during the treatment process or transportation of other substances. As was previously mentioned, they have a distinct smell that can be considered either “rotten eggs” or “garlic.” The more mercaptans present in your water, the stronger it will smell.
In some cases, nausea after drinking water may be due to the presence of a hormone called HCG. This is often produced in pregnant women and can cause symptoms similar to those experienced after drinking too much water.
Women experiencing morning sickness can also experience nausea after drinking water.
Your Sense of Smell
In addition to the mercaptan theory, there is another possible explanation for why you may feel sick after drinking water. It has been suggested that a poor sense of smell could lead to a negative association between water and being nauseous
If your ability to identify scents is diminished, this could contribute to a negative reaction after drinking water.
Water intoxication (Inadequate Electrolytes)
In some cases, nausea and vomiting can be caused by water intoxication or hyponatremia. This potentially life-threatening condition occurs when the level of sodium in your blood gets too low because you have been drinking large amounts of water.
In some cases, water intoxication can also be experienced almost immediately after drinking a lot of water. This may happen over a short period of time or even while exercising
The lack of electrolytes in your blood contributes to the development of hyponatremia and this condition is usually accompanied by symptoms like nausea and vomiting.
Electrolytes are chemical salts that conduct an electric current in your body. They help to maintain many processes like muscle contractions, fluid balance, and acid-base equilibrium.
If you experience nausea after drinking water, you should consult with a medical professional before increasing the amount of water that you drink in order to avoid complications.
There are a few other potential causes for this feeling of nausea after drinking water.
- A lack of aldosterone, a hormone that regulates sodium and potassium levels in your body. When aldosterone levels are too low, it can cause an accumulation of fluid by the kidneys which can lead to water retention. This excess fluid could make you feel nauseous after drinking water.
- Excessive neurotransmitter activity at the level of your brainstem or nervous system may be responsible for causing nausea after drinking water.
What to do about drinking water cause nausea
If you experience this sensation often while drinking water, consider seeing a doctor to determine its exact cause and whether there’s anything that needs treatment.
However, if the problem only occurs occasionally then here are some suggestions that may help reduce discomfort or prevent it from occurring altogether.
Don’t drink too much at once
When you drink large amounts of water, it can easily cause nausea or vomiting
Instead of chugging a gallon of water all at once, sip on it throughout the day to avoid overwhelming your body with fluid.
It’s recommended that women consume approximately 9 cups of water. throughout the day while men should aim for 15-16 cups per day.
If necessary, try drinking room temperature or slightly warmer water.
Taking time to allow bottles of cold tap water to get to room temperature before you swallow it can help reduce nausea after drinking water.
Drinking chilled beverages is often more likely to trigger negative reactions because the sudden shift in temperature can make them feel unpleasant as they travel through your digestive system.
Adding lemon or cucumber to your water
The high amounts of vitamin C present in lemons can help suppress symptoms of nausea that are brought on by drinking water
Cucumber is also thought to have this effect.
If you don’t want to drink warm or room temperature water, try adding a slice of lemon to a glass of cold water and see if it helps. Drinking flavored ice cubes may provide some relief as well
Make sure you have enough salt
See your doctor about increasing your sodium intake if you notice symptoms like bloating, diarrhea or vomiting after eating salty food.
This could be the sign of low-sodium syndrome which often manifests as intense nausea after drinking gallons of water per day even without other symptoms.
Chronic vomiting associated with this condition can also cause dehydration which only aggravates the problem by causing nausea after drinking water.
Drink cold beverages slowly
Avoiding large amounts of rapidly consumed ice-cold drinks may help prevent you from feeling nauseous in the future.
Shoot for sipping your drinks every 10 seconds or so to avoid overwhelming your body with too much fluid in a short amount of time.
If it’s difficult to sip slowly because you find that drinking cold water just makes you feel more nauseated, try drinking warm or room temperature fluids instead until your stomach settle down.
Purify/Distil Your Water
Plain tap water may contain chemicals, bacteria, or parasites that could cause you to feel nauseous even though distilling your water removes harmful impurities.
If you use a filtration system, it will remove contaminants from your water without actually changing its molecular structure. This means that water purification can also help to prevent nausea after drinking water because it won’t alter the molecular structure to create new toxins.
Distilling your water involves boiling it and then condensing the steam back into its liquid form through a special process so any pathogens are killed without removing any useful minerals from your tap water.
Keeping Your Body Hydrated
It’s possible that you may feel nauseous when drinking too much water because of common misconceptions about needing massive amounts of fluid in order to stay healthy.
In reality, however, most people get more than enough from their food sources so there’s no reason for them to drink huge volumes on a consistent basis as some diets recommend.
Simply replacing sodas or other sweetened beverages with water can help you avoid some symptoms of nausea that are associated with drinking too much fluid at once.
It’s better to gradually increase your intake of water until it matches the recommended daily amount rather than trying to drink a gallon of water all at once.
Sudden changes in diet can also trigger feelings of nausea even if you don’t actually have an upset stomach.
When people first start adjusting their eating habits, their bodies can react adversely as they begin to absorb more nutrients from food instead of processed items that most Americans tend to eat on a regular basis
Chances are that if you’re only able to drink small amounts of water without feeling nauseous, then most likely your body is simply unaccustomed to having so much fluid passing through it at once.
Drink Carbonated or Infused Water
Carbonated water, also known as sparkling water or soda water, is created by dissolving carbon dioxide in plain tap or drinking spring water.
The pressure causes it to form bubbles which are what make it bubbly and refreshing even without sweeteners.
Carbonation may help your stomach feel better because it’s known for its ability to settle nausea and acid reflux more effectively than other forms of fluid.
Infused waters are flavored with ingredients like cucumbers, lemons, limes, oranges, berries, and herbs to create a light drink that can be consumed all day long without getting sick of the taste.
Can drinking water make you vomit?
Nausea and vomiting are two different things, even though they sometimes occur simultaneously
If your stomach is completely empty when you drink water, then there’s a chance that you might feel nauseous afterward because of the sudden change in fluid level inside your gastrointestinal tract.
Drinking cold water may exacerbate nausea by making the contraction stronger since your body needs to work harder to warm up that fluid before it can be used for anything else.
Since this will only happen if your stomach is empty, it should pass within a few minutes without any harmful effects.
On the other hand, if nausea occurs soon after drinking water but you still have food in your stomach, then it’s likely that you’re simply getting sick because there’s too much fluid inside your body at the moment.
Although this may be uncomfortable, it shouldn’t last more than a few hours unless you continue drinking too much water without giving yourself time to recover.
What happens when I drink water on an empty stomach?
You should only drink water on an empty stomach if your goal is to soothe an upset stomach or nausea caused by another condition.
Otherwise, it will only be worse later on as the volume inside your gut continues to increase until the food is added back into your diet whether that’s in the form of small snacks or regular meals.
Symptoms of IBS often include digestive pain, cramping, bloating, and gas which can be exacerbated by drinking water of any kind.
It’s likely that your stomach is empty because it’s trying to digest something so the contents are flowing through your intestines without obstruction, but this can also mean that you’re feeling sicker than usual until the food comes into your system again.
If you ever feel pain in your abdomen after drinking water, then you should eat something or drink a carbohydrate-based beverage like juice.
What are the symptoms of drinking too much water?
If you feel like you’ve gone overboard with fluid, then there’s a chance that either your stomach is full of too much liquid or you’re simply sick because the sheer amount of fluid inside your body is making nausea worse.
When this happens, you should wait until it passes before drinking anything else to avoid exacerbating the problem.
Symptoms associated with drinking more than four liters (nearly 1 gallon) in one day may include:
- Bloating and gas
- Muscle cramps or spasms
- Fatigue and weakness
- Sodium depletion (which can lead to nerve and muscle problems like cramping and nausea)
- Muscle stiffness or twitches
If you’re bloated but not nauseous then it could simply mean that your belly needs time to adjust to all the extra fluid inside the gastrointestinal tract. This will subside as soon as your body becomes more efficient at absorbing, filtering, and passing it.
Even though bloating isn’t directly related to nausea, it’s still possible for them both to occur simultaneously since they stem from similar conditions caused by drinking too much water.
The symptoms are only temporary, but if you continue to drink water even when your stomach starts hurting then it can increase the risk of dehydration instead.
How do you know if your water is making you sick?
If you’re not sure why drinking too much fluid makes you feel nauseous, bloated, or fatigued, then it’s time to track down the root cause.
Before anything else, make sure that it really is water causing these symptoms by avoiding all other beverages for a day or two and seeing if there’s any difference in how you feel before and after each glass of H2O.
Symptoms associated with dehydration are often very similar especially since both can cause fatigue, lightheadedness, and headaches so be careful not to mistake one for the other.
The best way to know for sure is by drinking enough fluids to replenish your body’s stores instead of simply trying to avoid getting dehydrated in the first place.
As soon as you feel like your body isn’t absorbing the water fast enough, then it’s better to drink smaller amounts and take smaller sips more regularly instead of drinking an entire gallon in one sitting.
So why does water make you nauseous? Quite simply, because your body is just not used to it. Our bodies are able to extract all the hydration they need from food to keep our organs moist enough to work properly.
So when you drink pure water, your stomach can’t extract its moisture fast enough and may protest by being upset or giving you a stomach ache.
If you want to eat healthier and get your body used to drink more water, just add a splash of fruit juice to the glass.
Your stomach will become accustomed to it over time and start loving you for giving it more hydration!