Can Drinking Too Much Water Cause Low Potassium?

young dark-haired woman drinking water
Woman drinks a bottle of water (Image: Eduard Titov/iStock/Getty Images)

Water is essential to human life, but drinking an excessive amount can lead to a potentially life threatening loss in the mineral potassium. Nutrition professor with North Dakota State University Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., states that excessive water consumption leads to a dangerous condition known as “water intoxication." This condition can lead to urinary loss of potassium.

Electrolyte Imbalance

Potassium is one mineral in a class of minerals known as electrolytes. They help move positively and negatively charged ions in and out of your cells so your nervous system can trigger cell functions electrically, such as muscle contraction and relaxation. Excessive fluid loss causes your body to lose electrolytes, leading to an electrolyte imbalance. While electrolyte imbalance is most typically associated with vomiting, diarrhea and sweating, increased urination may also flush potassium out of your body. A 1993 case study in the journal “Nephron” showed that water intoxication can exaggerate the body’s response to peptide hormones that flush sodium and water out of the body. The flushing of fluids leads to potassium deficiency, otherwise known as hypokalemia.

Magnesium Depletion

Drinking too much water can also lead to depletion of magnesium in your body — a mineral essential to maintaining potassium levels. Magnesium can be flushed out of your body through your urine the same way as potassium. Without adequate magnesium in your body, potassium has difficulty entering into your cells where potassium storage takes place. When the potassium cannot enter your cells for storage, your kidneys will eventually process it and flush it out through your urine.

Potassium Deficiency Symptoms

If your water consumption is leading to a loss of potassium in your body, you may begin to notice low energy levels, muscle cramps, intestinal distress and muscle spasms. If your electrolyte imbalance worsens, the symptoms may worsen as well, requiring immediate medical attention with supplemental potassium. Hypokalemia can lead to irregular heart rhythms and muscular paralysis.

At-Risk Individuals

If you take certain diuretics that remove potassium from your body, have alcoholism, experience regularly vomiting or diarrhea, have an eating disorder, low magnesium levels or congestive heart failure, you may be at risk for low potassium levels. Athletes and individuals who sweat a lot may also be at risk. You need to carefully monitor the amount of water you drink to prevent the loss of too much potassium. Drinking water only when you are thirsty can help to naturally regulate your intake. You may also try eating more fruits and vegetables, as they are high in water content but also contain essential minerals like potassium to prevent an electrolyte imbalance.

REFERENCES & RESOURCES
Comments
PARTNER & LICENSEE OF THE LIVESTRONG FOUNDATION

Copyright © 2018 Leaf Group Ltd. Use of this web site constitutes acceptance of the LIVESTRONG.COM Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Copyright Policy. The material appearing on LIVESTRONG.COM is for educational use only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. LIVESTRONG is a registered trademark of the LIVESTRONG Foundation. The LIVESTRONG Foundation and LIVESTRONG.COM do not endorse any of the products or services that are advertised on the web site. Moreover, we do not select every advertiser or advertisement that appears on the web site-many of the advertisements are served by third party advertising companies.