Taking the pee: should you drink urine?
Urine has been used throughout history for many different uses. As a freely available product - everyone produces at least some each day - its abundance has resulted in plenty of folk remedies aimed at treating a variety of medical conditions. Science, however, overwhelmingly agrees that urine is not safe or healthy to consume. In the present day, however, a small number of religious or alternative health organizations suggest drinking urine. What follows is a summary of why following such advice offers no health benefits and in fact could cause you actual harm.
The Risks: a waste product Urine contains a potent combination of salts and chemicals that your body is attempting to remove. If you think about it when dangerous, toxic substances start to build up in your body, your urinary system is one of the primary methods working specifically to remove them from your body. Anything your kidneys filter out of your body winds up in your urine to be removed. By drinking urine, you are consuming these toxins that your body explicitly intended to remove. Apart from making no sense - who would actively drink a toxin - such behaviour can lead to kidney damage or disease as these organs need to work harder to handle the increased concentration of toxic substances.
Moreover, and despite common misconceptions, urine is not sterile. Just like any other bodily excretion it contains bacteria. Depending on the method for gathering urine, it may also contain bacteria introduced from the genitalia of the urine source (a distasteful thought). Some of these bacteria can lead to serious infections and expose a person to numerous diseases.
While bacteria will not cause infection in all people who consume them in urine, they increase the risk of infection. People with weak immune systems and young children may be especially vulnerable. So, once again, drinking any type of urine can cause serious health problems unless it has been sterilized separately.
Conclusion: a reasoning person ought to quickly realise that consuming unsterilized, toxic waste products that could cause significant health problems is a pretty dumb idea.
The Risks: De-hydration In movies and social media you can come across useful survival tips such as drinking your own urine to stave off dehydration. On the face of it that seems plausible since you are replacing lost fluid with, well, fluid. Medical science, however, says this is unlikely to actually help; in fact, it could cause you more problems.
The average adult’s urine contains a significant amount of salt. Remember, urine contains the chemicals and salts your body wants to remove. To complicate matters, the level of salt gets becomes more concentrated as you become more dehydrated. Dehydrated individuals can quickly reach excessive levels of sodium in their urine. Thus, by drinking urine you will be consuming even more sodium, and higher levels of sodium in your body quickly lead to feeling thirstier.
Conclusion: drinking urine in these circumstances is a bad idea as your body quickly develops a negative feedback loop in which, despite drinking fluids, you feel thirstier.
Drinking urine will not improve a person’s health. In some cases, it may even worsen health issues.
Anyone seeking natural remedies should consult a doctor or another healthcare professional who is knowledgeable about the subject.
When access to water is scarce, it is important to seek a healthy source, such as clear rainwater, condensation, or water in food, especially water-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables.
Drinking urine may make dehydration worse and intensify any side effects.
Brennan, D., Dr. (2020), ‘Are There Health Benefits to Drinking Urine?’, WebMD.com, available online (accessed May 12th, 2022).
Medical News Today, ‘Does drinking urine have any real health benefits?’, medicalnewstoday.com, available online (accessed May 12th, 2022).
1. Ogunshe, A. A., Fawole, A. O., & Ajayi, V. A., (2010), ‘Microbial evaluation and public health implications of urine as alternative therapy in clinical pediatric cases: health implication of urine therapy’, The Pan African medical journal, 5, 12, available online (accessed May 12th, 2022).