Nauseous After Drinking Water? Here Are 6 Reasons Why You Might Feel Sick

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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 (e.g. 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.

glass with water on tree stump

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.

2. Bacteria

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.

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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!

5. Pesticides

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.

Farmer Spraying Pesticides on Wheat Field

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.

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Questions? Don’t hesitate to ask – just leave a comment below!

About the Author Gene Fitzgerald

Gene Fitzgerald has been with BOS since the very beginning. She is head of content creation and has fully immersed herself into the home water treatment industry only to become an expert herself. Outside of BOS, Gene loves reading books on philosophy & social issues, making music, and hiking.
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Leave a Comment:

Sophia says July 2, 2019

I don’t have any of the above issues, yet water still give me symptoms of food poisoning. Everyone else in my state drinks the same water and they are fine. We don’t have problems with water. The problem is me. I can drink anything but water or water with juice powder added to it or even electrolytes powder.

    anum says May 10, 2020

    i just feel like throwing up even after a sip of water.. i was on medicines that keep my insulin low.. i am so annoyed.

Asril says July 13, 2019

Well, actually this is what was happened to me, nausea after drinking water/mineral water, and the bad news is, I am on 3 months pregnancy when I really need hydration from mineral water or infused water, hope you give me some advice, thank you.

    Gene says July 15, 2019

    Hey Asril,
    I’m very sorry to hear that. Honestly, I think you should consult a doctor. I wouldn’t feel comfortable giving you any other advice than that. Here at BOS we are just regular people, not trained health professionals.
    Wishing you all the best,

Krystal says July 31, 2019

When I was pregnant, plain water made me so nauseous. Any kind, tap, filtered, bottled, sparkling. I had to add fruit juice or something to it otherwise it would cause stomach pains and nausea so bad. Other remedies suggested to me, like B6 also made me nauseous.

The surprising thing was that I could drink water again just fine after I gave birth. This happened during both of my pregnancies.

    Gene says July 31, 2019

    Very interesting, Krystal. Thanks for sharing!

Lilly says October 28, 2019

I ate too much biscuits which made me feel bad so i drank water to flush out my system, later i threw up, was that a good sign? my water is purified.

    Gene says October 29, 2019

    Hey Lilly,
    Sorry, I can’t answer that question.

    Sofia says March 4, 2020

    Depends on if you wanted to throw up, and why so? Was it the guilt of eating more than u usually did or was it because you felt like it wasn’t healthy for you. If you felt bad about eating more than usual and wanted to throw up because u ate too much then there is unfortunately a likely chance that you may be suffering from bulimia. I suggest you talk to your doctor or someone you trust about it.
    Happy wishes <3

Nicole says November 30, 2019

The water that comes from the house tastes really bad, I only had barely a sip and I got nauseous a couple minutes after, our water is filtered too, is it because I don’t drink enough water or is it the water itself that’s the issue?

    Gene says December 3, 2019

    Sorry Nicole, this is not a question I’d feel comfortable answering. I’d advise you go see a doctor about this.

    savannah says May 16, 2020

    Try bottled water and see what happens. If it makes you nauseous, Go to the doctor and see what’s really wrong. If it doesn’t, theres something with the water in your house . 🙂

Crystal says April 4, 2020

Everytime I drink water I gag and vomit. It does not matter if it is tap, spring, well, or bottled water. It happens with both clear flavored as well as unflavored. My dad said that even when I was a little toddler I could not drink water without gagging and vomiting. As far as I know there was never any diagnosis as of why it happens or what it is called. I am 42 years old and have never been able to drink water.

    Susan says May 8, 2021

    Notice the general article discusses neurological. See the doctor.

savannah says May 16, 2020

When i was about 7 i always had a problem with always being thirsty. There was no explanation for it, as i have visited many doctors and nothing else was out of the normal. I always felt so dehydrated no matter what i did. I drank over 5 litres of water a day. It sounds physically impossible, i know. And no, i hardly even felt sick. That was many years ago. Ever since that time i always felt nauseous from drinking water. I can’t exactly say “nauseous” though. It’s more like i urge and gag whenever i drink it. It’s hard to explain. I can’t add anything to my water to make it a little better. i just cannot drink water in general. I am USUALLY fine with drinking soft drinks and pop. It’s just water. There’s absolutely no explanation. It has nothing to do about what i eat. If anyone knows what to do i would like an answer.

Leslie Taylor says May 28, 2020

I can’t drink plain water no matter what. Not from tap, or bottled without throwing up. I used to be able to as a kid but the older I got the worse it got. I have tried flavoring it with those flavor things, nothing works, it always tastes like I am drinking metal and I either get nauseous or vomit afterwards. I have talked to medical professionals and I get treated like I am lying or that is all in my head.

    Gene says June 1, 2020

    I’m very sorry to hear that. I can’t give you medical advice, obviously, but maybe there’s something in your water that’s causing the off-taste? You could have it tested or try one of the filters we reviewed on our site like the Clearly Filtered pitcher.

Saima Uppal says July 27, 2020

I too have issues drinking water and there’s nothing wrong with the water. It seems like I’m the only one who gets sick from it. After drinking even bottled water I get nauseated and want to vomit it up even on an empty stomach. This doesn’t happen to anyone else that drinks the same water; they’re fine. I can’t even substitute with sparkling water nor flavored water because I don’t like the way it tastes and won’t be able to hold it down.

Natasha griffiths says August 6, 2020

Hello lately when I’ve been drinking water I’ve been feeling super nauseous to the point where I’ve have to heave and gag to possibly make myself sick but nothing and everytime i has a sip of water I felt it again, I drank a can of cola and was fine only to go back to water and feel sick again. It was bottled water and I’m from Wales, UK where the tap water is fine to drink.

LeAnn says August 23, 2020

Water makes me nausiated and always has. It doesn’t matter where it’s from or where I got it, cold or not, fast or slow, sipped or gulped. I’m 58 and this has always been a problem with no answer ever.

amy says August 30, 2020

i drank some water from my water filter in the fridge and it left little black spots in my cup, i now feel extremely nauseous, should i be fine?

    Gene says September 4, 2020

    Those black spots could just be granular carbon which has escaped the filter. This would be nothing to worry about. Other than that, we are not allowed to provide any medical advice, sorry.

Gavin Genest says February 4, 2021

I can’t drink water no matter if it’s from tap or bottle. It makes me go pale and nauseous but as soon as I drink something else I’m fine. The worst bit is I was in the middle of doing something and I passed out. And it’s annoying when ever I drink I have to either have a soda or Gatorade nearby to help me or a flavor packet for the water.

Stephanie says March 3, 2021

My 14-year-old son used to drink a gallon of water over a period of two days he was doing this for a very long time, now he cannot stand the taste of water and it makes him nauseous is this normal? What can I do to get him drinking water again?

    Gene says September 8, 2021

    It’s probably best to go see a doctor.

Danielle says June 5, 2021

Found article very interesting but didn’t find an answer for what I need.

Molly says August 26, 2021

This should include overhydration as well.

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