Water is an essential nutrient of all living things, necessary to all life on Earth. Countless research studies have explained the importance of drinking enough water.
A well-hydrated body thrives in myriad ways, including regulated body temperature, efficient digestion, heart health, and adequate nutrient balance.
So any problem with drinking water is cause for concern. For example, you may be asking yourself, Why is drinking water making me nauseous? To help those feeling nauseous after drinking water, I’ve explained why this happens and how to avoid it so you can enjoy every sip of water and its infinite benefits.
What Is Nausea?
Before you can be sure you’re feeling nauseous after drinking water, first let’s make sure nausea is what you’re feeling.
“Nausea is an uneasiness of the stomach that often comes before vomiting. Vomiting is the forcible voluntary or involuntary emptying (“throwing up”) of stomach contents through the mouth,” explains WebMD. According to Stanford Health Care, other symptoms and signs of nausea include “weakness, sweating, and saliva buildup” in your mouth. It’s usually a temporary unpleasant feeling.
Is Feeling Nauseous After Drinking Water Cause For Alarm?
Feeling sick after drinking water is more common than you might think, and if you’re reading this, it’s likely that you’re often nauseous after you drink water. Chances are it’s a minor, temporary sensation caused by a specific situation, such as an empty stomach, but it could also be a symptom of an undiagnosed disease.
In any case, this unpleasant sick feeling could hinder proper diet and nutrient intake and limit your daily routine. So, if you’re wondering what could be the reason behind this, keep reading. I’ve discussed some conditions below that can make you feel nauseous after drinking water.
Conditions That Can Make You Feel Nauseous After Drinking Water
Experiencing nausea can be a sign of dehydration, i.e. lack of sufficient water in your body. Extreme dehydration may necessitate immediate medical attention. Dehydration, nausea, and vomiting are interrelated and can often occur at the same time from a number of conditions, including common stomach viruses.
In cases of severe dehydration, it’s important to rehydrate gradually. You may feel dizziness or headache, along with nausea, when you drink water too fast in an attempt to increase your body’s hydration level.
Drinking water on an empty stomach
While studies suggest that drinking water on an empty stomach can aid digestion by flushing your system, some people may feel nauseous after drinking water on an empty stomach.
If you feel sick after drinking a lot of water on an empty stomach, it could be from diluted stomach acid (acid reflux). People who suffer from acid reflux may experience a bitter taste in their mouths. This bitter taste may also be accompanied by coughing, burping, bloating, heartburn, nausea, and vomiting, and these symptoms may worsen on an empty stomach.
Feeling nauseous after drinking water on an empty stomach is also a sign that you are hungry. Have a healthy snack and you may stop feeling sick soon after.
Drinking too much water too quickly
Often, nausea is a sign of dehydration. But one less common reason for nausea is drinking too much water. Drinking excessive water in a short time can lead to hyponatremia. Hyponatremia is an electrolyte imbalance characterized by a sodium level in the blood that is less than 135 mEq/L.
Your kidneys are in charge of filtering the water you drink and keeping the fluid levels in your bloodstream balanced. When you drink too much water, sodium levels fluctuate and your kidneys have to work even harder, causing a stressful reaction from your hormones that leaves your body stressed, and in extreme cases can be fatal. This condition is called “water intoxication.” As a result of water intoxication, you may experience nausea.
Drinking a lot of water in between and after meals
Drinking a lot of water between meals slows digestion because your stomach is busy breaking down the food. Additionally, drinking water after or with a meal causes stomach contents to expand.
Shonali Sabherwal, a macrobiotic counselor and a well-known expert on the subject, warns against drinking water during meals. She claims, “Our stomachs have an uncanny ability to predict when we will eat and begin releasing digestive juices immediately. When you start drinking water at the same time, you are diluting the digestive juices that are being released to digest your food, preventing them from breaking down food.”
To avoid stomach pain, it’s best to drink water in small sips steadily throughout your day, rather than drinking all your water for the day within a few hours and close to meals.
Insufficient electrolyte intake
Electrolytes are minerals found in blood, tissues, and other parts of the body. If the body has too much or too little water, hyponatremia, or electrolyte imbalance, can occur.
Common side effects of electrolyte insufficiency are headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Drinking too little or too much water can disturb your electrolyte balance in the body, making you feel nauseous.
Drinking contaminated water
Contaminants like pesticides, herbicides, algae, heavy metals, and chlorine in drinking water can cause nausea and stomach-related issues as well. Presence of methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE), a regulated contaminant of water, in drinking water also causes serious nausea and vomiting in people.
Drinking bacteria-contaminated water can seriously harm your long-term health, as well as causing acute cases of nausea, diarrhea, or food poisoning. You must ensure the removal of these contaminants from your drinking water to avoid nausea and other water-related diseases.
Morning sickness affects the vast majority of pregnant women. Many pregnant women experience morning sickness only during the first trimester, but some women experience nausea and feel sick throughout their pregnancies.
While drinking plain water on an empty stomach is usually recommended for people to flush out toxins early in the morning, due to morning sickness it can cause stomach pain and nausea for some pregnant women.
If you are nauseated after drinking water for an extended period, this might be a symptom of a stomach disease. Below are a few of the medical conditions of the gastrointestinal tract related to feeling nauseous after drinking water.
Viral gastroenteritis (stomach flu)
Viral gastroenteritis is a common infection of the intestine that causes watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea or vomiting, and, in some cases, fever. Severity varies among those with stomach flu, and if you feel sick after drinking water and you were exposed to someone with stomach flu, you could have a mild case.
According to WebMD, gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is “a digestive disorder that affects the ring of muscle between your esophagus and your stomach.” Stomach contents and acid can travel up the esophagus in patients who have reflux. As the acid level rises, it can cause damage and leave a bad aftertaste in the mouth. When patients have GERD, they often feel nauseous or vomit, as well as experiencing difficulty swallowing, coughing, and belching.
Giardia infection is caused by microscopic parasites found all over the world, but it is most common in areas with poor sanitation and contaminated water. Giardia infection causes stomach cramps, bloating, nausea, and bouts of watery diarrhea.
Food poisoning symptoms also include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, which can appear within hours of consuming tainted food. The vast majority of food poisoning cases are minor and self-resolving, though you’ll likely feel quite poorly for a few hours, up to several days.
Another cause of feeling nauseous after drinking water could be a peptic ulcer, which is a sore that forms when juices of the digestive system wear away the lining of the stomach. A peptic ulcer can develop on the stomach, duodenum, or lower esophagus lining. Symptoms may include indigestion-like pain, nausea, and weight loss.
Stress can also impact how food moves through your body, resulting in diarrhea or constipation. You may also feel nauseous, vomit, or have a stomachache. All of these symptoms may contribute to feeling nauseous after you drink water.
How Do I Stop Feeling Sick After Drinking Water?
Take slow and steady sips of water
When you drink a full glass of water at once, it stays in your stomach longer. However, if you take small sips slowly, it can absorb through the lining of your stomach easier, causing less disruption to the stomach and preventing you from feeling sick after you drink water.
Lack of water or loss of important electrolytes from the body via diarrhea or vomiting can cause nausea. Adding electrolytes to water can compensate for the loss of electrolytes from illness, exercise, or dehydration.
Try this recipe to energize yourself: Add a pinch of salt, ¼ cup of lime juice, ¼ cup of lemon juice, and 1⁄2 cup of coconut water in 2 cups of cold water.
Be wary of electrolyte drinks on the market. They’re not all created equal, and some are just flavored water that contains high amounts of sugar and will only dehydrate you further. Plain water with no electrolytes is better than a sugary beverage or sports drink that is barely water at all.
Eat more water-infused fruits and vegetables
If you don’t like drinking plain water or forget about it during your busy schedule, you should try water-rich foods like melons, cucumbers, soups, smoothies, and fruit juice (although be careful with that last one—juice can be high in sugar and lead to dehydration).
These foods will keep you hydrated, preventing nausea caused by dehydration. A well-balanced diet is the easiest way to prevent many minor health problems and ensure a well-functioning body.
Filtered, distilled, or bottled water
If you don’t have access to safe water, you should drink only filtered or purified water because your tap water may be polluted with contaminants and potentially harmful germs, causing short-term nausea and vomiting, as well as long-term stomach disease. Even tap water treated by municipal water systems may contain countless heavy metals and chemicals. Filters, distillers, and bottled water can help you drink water that is free of harmful elements.
Drink cold water
If you feel sick after drinking plain water or tap water, try drinking ice cold water instead. While room temperature water does have its benefits, some studies show that drinking cold water can help reduce symptoms of nausea. It can also help cool you down in hot weather!
Try carbonated water
Carbonated water, also known as fizzy water, may help to relieve nausea caused by stomach acid. When you drink carbonated water, the total acidity of your stomach acid should decrease, which can relieve nausea in as little as a few minutes. It is recommended that you drink carbonated water instead of fizzy drinks or soda, which typically contain high levels of sugars or artificial sweeteners.
Trust your body’s signals
The two most common causes of nausea after drinking water are being dehydrated for an extended period or drinking more water than is necessary, especially on an empty or very full stomach.
Also, the ongoing debate about how much water the human body needs daily leaves people perplexed. The amount of water you need each day is determined by factors such as your age, gender, activity level, and outside temperature.
However, trusting your body’s signals is a simple way to determine how much water you require. For example, the color of your urine can also indicate how well your body is hydrated. “When you’re hydrated, your urine will be a light yellow, close-to-clear color,” according to the Healthline guide to urine color.
Consult a doctor
Feeling nauseous after drinking water is common and not usually a cause for concern, but persistent nausea, especially combined with other symptoms, can be a sign of a stomach-related disease, chronic stress, or other illness.
Consult a doctor to avoid any further serious complications. A doctor will perform tests to either diagnose a problem or to reassure you that there is no need to be concerned.
I hope that after reading this article you have a better understanding of why you experience nausea after drinking water.
Small lifestyle changes can help you avoid this problem. As usual, be sure to get a well-balanced diet of nutritious foods and regular hydration. And if you’re still nauseous after drinking water and you don’t know what’s causing your nausea, consulting a doctor would be a wise decision.
Read more about treating your water in the treatment section.