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What happens if you only drink water forever?

Drinking only water and no other beverages or liquids may seem like a healthy choice, but there are risks associated with relying solely on water for hydration over a long period of time. Water is essential for life and health, but it does not provide all the nutrients the body needs. Drinking water exclusively, with no variation, could lead to serious health consequences over time.

What are the short-term effects of drinking only water?

In the short term, drinking only water is generally safe for most healthy people. The body can function normally on water alone for several days or weeks. Here are some of the short-term effects of drinking only water:

  • Feeling hungrier: Water contains no calories, so you may feel hungrier than usual when not consuming any beverages with calories like juice or milk.
  • Mild dehydration: If you are sweating a lot or ill,plain water may not fully hydrate you. You may need an electrolyte-containing sports drink to replenish salts and minerals.
  • Loss of nutrients: By drinking only water, you would miss out on nutrients found in other beverages like vitamin C, calcium, and antioxidants.
  • Low energy: Some people report feeling tired or lethargic when relying only on water for hydration.
  • Headaches: Dehydration from lack of electrolytes can sometimes trigger headaches.
  • Constipation: Water helps soften stool, but lack of nutrients could make constipation worse.

For most healthy people, these effects are temporary and can be reversed by adding other fluids and foods back into the diet. But continuing to drink only water for weeks or months can lead to more concerning health effects.

What happens after 1 month of only drinking water?

After about one month of drinking nothing but water, more severe health implications start to manifest:

  • Electrolyte imbalance: Drinking only water leads to lower sodium levels in the bloodstream, a condition called hyponatremia. This electrolyte imbalance can cause nausea, headaches, fatigue, muscle weakness, cramping, restlessness, irritability, and confusion.
  • Nutrient deficiencies: Lack of nutrient intake from other beverages starts to create deficiencies in vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that are important for everything from bone health to immune function.
  • Digestive problems: The digestive system relies on electrolytes and fluids from various sources. Long-term water-only intake can disrupt digestion, leading to issues like chronic constipation.
  • Poor kidney function: Drinking excessive amounts of water puts strain on the kidneys. Risk of kidney problems is higher in those with pre-existing kidney disease.
  • Low blood pressure: Dehydration coupled with lack of electrolytes from other fluids can cause blood pressure to drop too low.
  • Fatigue and lethargy: Lack of nutrients causes tiredness, weakness, and general malaise.

After about one month, the risks of relying solely on water for hydration start to outweigh the benefits. At this point, it’s important to add some additional fluids back into your diet.

What happens after 3 months of only drinking water?

After three months, the cumulative effects of electrolyte imbalance, nutrient deficiency, and poor digestion take a major toll:

  • Heart problems: Electrolyte imbalance disrupts heart rhythm and function. Water-only intake for months may lead to dangerous heart arrhythmias and even cardiac arrest.
  • Bone loss: Lack of calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, and other nutrients leads to a weakening of bones over an extended period.
  • Hair loss: Nutrient deficiency can trigger telogen effluvium, a condition that causes rapid hair shedding.
  • Loss of muscle mass: Without electrolytes and proper protein intake, muscles break down over time.
  • Depression: Deficiencies in nutrients like B vitamins are linked to worsening mood and depression.
  • Kidney failure: Excessive water intake taxes the kidneys. Those with chronic kidney disease are at high risk of kidney failure if they drink only water for months.
  • Seizures: Significantly low sodium and chloride levels caused by drinking only water can lead to seizures in some people.
  • Coma: In rare cases, extremely low sodium levels and fluid shifts in the brain induced by drinking only water can lead to coma.

After 90+ days of water-only intake, the risk of hospitalization and severe complications is very high. Water is important, but it’s not enough to sustain the body alone.

Long-term effects of drinking only water

Over the long term, meaning a year or more, drinking nothing but water has profound effects on health:

  • Death: Electrolyte imbalances like hyponatremia can eventually be fatal if left untreated for long periods. Water intoxication deaths are rare but can happen.
  • Brain damage: Extremely low sodium levels can cause fluid to shift into brain cells, leading to swelling, seizures, coma, and brain damage.
  • Circulatory failure: Deficiency of electrolytes, particularly sodium, causes low blood pressure. Over time this can progress to circulatory collapse.
  • Osteoporosis: Lack of calcium over many months or years softens bones and leads to osteoporosis, increasing fracture risk.
  • Loss of teeth: Long-term nutrient deficiencies manifest in oral health problems like loss of teeth.
  • Neuropathy: Lack of B vitamins and other nutrients causes damage to nerves leading to numbness, weakness, and nerve pain.
  • Anemia: Deficiency in iron eventually causes anemia, a lack of healthy red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body.
  • Infertility: Nutrient deficiencies and electrolyte imbalances can disrupt hormones needed for fertility in both men and women.
  • Poor wound healing: Chronic vitamin and mineral deficiencies impair the body’s ability to heal cuts, bruises, and wounds.

Sustained water-only intake for a year or longer can be devastating to long term health. Almost every body system is negatively impacted by severe, chronic nutrient and electrolyte deficiency.

Can you drink only water forever?

It’s extremely difficult to drink nothing but water indefinitely. Side effects and health complications will eventually appear and worsen, so that very few people can tolerate water-only intake for more than 1-2 years maximum.

Prolonged water-only intake means zero intake of:

  • Electrolytes (sodium, potassium, chloride)
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Phytonutrients
  • Fiber
  • Protein
  • Healthy fats

Lack of these nutrients, even with sufficient water intake, will eventually cause severe malnutrition. The body cannot survive and thrive with water as the only input.

While water is the healthiest beverage, it works best alongside other fluids and foods to promote optimal health. For most people, drinking only water forever would be extremely difficult or impossible to sustain.

Who is at greatest risk from water-only intake?

Some groups are especially vulnerable to the effects of drinking exclusively water:

  • Infants and small children: Babies have much higher electrolyte and nutrient needs relative to their size.
  • Pregnant women: Nutrient needs spike during pregnancy to support mother and developing fetus.
  • Elderly: Ability to maintain fluid/electrolyte balance decreases with age.
  • Athletes: Need for electrolyte replenishment is higher with intense activity.
  • People with eating disorders: Those purposely restricting intake are at high risk.
  • Individuals with kidney disease: Impaired kidney function makes fluid balance harder.
  • People taking medications: Some meds like diuretics and laxatives require electrolyte monitoring.
  • Those with prior heart or bone conditions: Already at greater risk of complications.

For these populations, it’s critical to include electrolyte-containing fluids and nutrient-rich foods in the diet alongside water. Water-only intake puts them at much higher risk of health crises.

Tips for staying hydrated with water safely

Here are some tips for meeting your fluid needs through water without going overboard:

  • Aim for the recommended intake of around 2 liters of total water per day from food and beverages combined.
  • Include some electrolyte sources like milk, herbal tea, broths, or coconut water.
  • Eat fruits and vegetables with high water content.
  • Limit water intake to no more than 3-4 liters per day unless directed by your doctor.
  • Avoid excessive water intake if taking medications that increase urination.
  • Monitor your urine color; light lemonade color means you are well hydrated.
  • Don’t guzzle large amounts of plain water in a short period; drink at a moderate pace instead.


Drinking water as your sole intake is not advisable or sustainable in the long term. Water is a healthy beverage that works best alongside other fluids and foods to meet your full nutritional needs. Aim to incorporate water as part of a varied, well-balanced diet for optimal health.