Did you ever feel nauseous or sick after drinking a glass of water?
Have you ever asked yourself why that happens?
Well, there definitely is more than one possible explanation. So if you want to learn more, check out today’s post!
Nausea is not painful but it can be highly unpleasant and it often comes with an urge to vomit.
The purpose of nausea is to stop you from repeating whatever caused the discomfort. The physiology behind it has yet to be clarified, however, four pathways in the human body have been identified that can create a sensation of nausea or vomiting:
- Stimulation of the Central Nervous System (CNS) – Stimulation of the CNS can occur due to elevated intracranial pressure, irritation of the meninges (i.e. blood or infection), and extreme emotional triggers such as anxiety.
- Activation of the Chemoreceptor Trigger Zone – Located in our brain outside the blood-brain barrier, the chemoreceptor trigger zone is readily exposed to substances such as toxins and medications circulating through our blood.
- Triggering of the Peripheral Pathways – Triggered in the gastrointestinal tract and other organs, this could be a sign for toxins present in the gastrointestinal lumen. Other possible activators are distension of the gastrointestinal lumen from blockage or dysmotility of the bowels.
- Disturbances to the Vestibular System – Disturbances to the vestibular system in the inner ear can originate from movements causing motion sickness and dizziness.
Simply put, nausea is a non-specific symptom.
Reasons for Nausea After Drinking Water
Even finding the reason why you are feeling dizzy or like throwing up right after drinking plain water is like making a diagnosis for tiredness – there’s more than one possible explanation. One thing is for certain: Typically, drinking water should not cause nausea.
That being said, the following is a list of reasons that come into question.
1. A Full Stomach
It’s almost too simple, right? A full stomach is the most likely cause why you are feeling sick. Especially after you had a rich meal you should not try to force water into your stomach on top.
What’s more, your stomach might have difficulties emptying. Therefore, avoid drinking large amounts of water at once. Give your stomach time to release fluid into your small intestines before you drink the next cup. For all other questions make sure to consult a physician.
The second possible yet unlikely explanation is that you are drinking bacteria contaminated water. You heard right, bacteria are very common even in water supplies in the U.S. The question is are there enough potentially harmful germs to make your water unsafe to drink?
In the great outdoors, water too close to organic fecal waste might be contaminated with disease-causing microorganisms. But even if you are not on a camping trip, chances are that you get in contact with waterborne pathogens at home or in public.
Let’s take giardia as an example, a parasite that colonizes in the small intestines. Giardiasis is the most commonly diagnosed disease caused by intestinal parasites in our country. However, symptoms including nausea and vomiting usually first occur 1-3 weeks after exposure and not immediately afterwards.
Another parasite that can cause nausea among other symptoms such as abdominal cramping is cryptosporidium. Symptoms last anywhere between a few days to two weeks. So if your nausea eases off within a couple of hours, that’s probably a good sign.
By the way, both giardia and cryptosporidium are quite resistant against chlorine used for water disinfection.
Also, the only way for you to find out if you are dealing with bacterial contamination is through testing. You can either send a direct sample to an accredited laboratory or buy a test kit and do the analysis yourself.
3. Algae Outbreaks
Hot weather in combination with rain and chemicals from sewage treatment plants or agricultural runoff can lead to toxic algae blooms in lakes and rivers feeding our municipal water systems. The result: Poisoned drinking water.
Short-term exposures – via ingestion or skin contact – have been linked to sore throat, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and liver damage. And it was found that algae outbreaks are growing at an alarming rate. Back in 2010, the number of reported outbreaks was 3. In 2017, there were 169.
The only good news is that not all algae outbreaks produce toxins.
4. Antimony & Cadmium
Antimony and cadmium are metalloids or transition metals that may cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea in dosages above EPA drinking water limits.
The federal legal limit for antimony is 6 parts per billion (ppb) whereas the recommended health guideline defined by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) is 1 ppb.
For cadmium the enforceable federal standard that defines the highest level allowed in drinking water is 5 ppb. Current OEHHA guidelines are 0.04 ppb – that’s 125 times less.
On a side note: According to the EWG Tap Water Database, the utility with the highest water cadmium concentration in the year 2015 was the Garden Acres Mobile Home Park in Calabasas, OK with an average level of 13.7 ppb. That’s more than twice the legal limit. Second place went to the Crown King Water Company based in Glendale, AZ with 8.49 ppb.
For antimony, 2015 samples taken from the Quail Valley Water Dist-westside System in Tehachapi, CA contained an average of 11.3 ppb securing first place. Next came the Hanson Water Department in Hanson, MA with 9.00 ppb. Congratulations!
Chlorpyrifos is a widely used pesticide that can trigger nausea, headaches and dizziness in low dosages. It obviously originates from agriculture as one of the main contributors to the pollution of our drinking water.
In August 2018, the U.S. 9th Circuit court of Appeals ruled that the EPA must ban chlorpyrifos within 60 days from that date.
Between the years 2010 and 2015, MTBE, a toxic byproduct of petroleum refining, was served in form of contaminated tap water to literally millions of Americans. Its foul odor makes water undrinkable. Fortunately, health guidelines were not exceeded.
What’s shocking is that there currently doesn’t even exist a national drinking water standard.
Another issue with MTBE is that it migrates through groundwater and does not degrade easily. This has lead to extensive contamination of groundwater across the U.S., even forcing a number of public water providers to close drinking water wells.
Apart from nausea, MTBE has also been linked to dizziness, headaches and disorientation. It is absorbed rapidly by our intestines.
It Does Not Have to Be Serious (But It May)
The most likely reason why you are feeling dizzy or nauseous after drinking plain water is because your stomach is too full. This is by no means a serious issue you have to worry about. Next time, simply give your stomach more time to empty before taking the next sip.
If that doesn’t help, it’s best if you approach a doctor. You might also want to consider having your water tested for impurities such as microorganisms or chemicals to rule out a possible contamination. If your water tests positive, either stick to bottled water or use a drinking water filter.