Are There Health Benefits to Drinking Urine?

Urine is one of the freely available substances on the planet. Everyone generates some amount of urine over the course of the day. Because of its abundance, plenty of folk remedies have involved urine in one way or another to treat a variety of conditions. Historically, urine has been used as a folk remedy for conditions such as:

Despite the wealth of folk treatments, science overwhelmingly agrees that urine is not safe or healthy to consume. Despite what dramatic survival movies suggest, drinking urine isn’t even a good way to hydrate. Here’s the breakdown on why you should never drink urine:

Potential Risks of Urine

Urine is a potent combination of salts and chemicals that your body is attempting to remove. These chemicals can cause significant health problems if you consume them. Furthermore, urine provides no health benefits that cannot be found by consuming other foods and beverages. 

Deh ydration

The most common reason for drinking urine in movies and pop media is to stave off dehydration. If someone is lost at sea or deep in the desert, they are sometimes depicted as drinking their own urine to preserve moisture. This is highly unlikely to actually help.

The average adult’s urine contains a significant amount of salt, which gets much more concentrated if you become dehydrated. Dehydrated individuals can quickly reach excessive levels of sodium in their urine.

Consuming more sodium is linked to increasing your thirst. Higher levels of sodium in your body quickly lead to feeling thirstier. By drinking urine, which contains a high concentration of sodium, you can quickly develop a negative feedback loop in which you feel thirstier despite drinking liquids. 

Sweating can increase the risks associated with drinking urine. Typically, sweating releases water and salts from your body. When you’re also losing salt in your urine, your electrolyte levels stay balanced. However, when you’re re-consuming the salts from your urine, you are concentrating salts inside your body and making your thirst worse. The field manual for the US Army explicitly recommends to avoid drinking urine as a form of hydration, even in emergency situations. 

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Interference with Medications

Many medications are excreted in urine after your body has processed them. These medications leave your body in a condition very similar to the condition in which they entered your body; they are not broken down. Drugs that can be excreted like this include penicillin and any water-soluble medications.

By drinking urine that contains any of these medications, you introduce them into your own body. If they are medications you are already taking, you will increase the dose beyond what you have been prescribed. If you are drinking the urine of someone else, then you may introduce medications that you have not been prescribed for you. This can lead to dangerous reactions and serious health complications. 

Infections

Despite the common myth, urine is not sterile. It contains bacteria just like any other bodily excretion. Depending on the method for gathering urine, it may also contain bacteria introduced from the genitalia of the urine source. Some of these bacteria can lead to serious infections. Drinking any type of urine can cause serious health problems unless it has been sterilized separately. 

Toxins

Your urinary system specifically works to remove toxic substances from your body. When dangerous substances start to build up in your body, urine is one of the primary methods used to remove them. 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. This can lead to kidney damage or disease as these organs need to work harder to handle the increased concentration of toxic substances.

Healthier Alternatives

Urea, a compound in urine, may have benefits when used topically. The toxic effects of drinking urine do not occur when applying it to the skin. Synthetic urea is even found in skincare products. 

When it comes to hydration, water, electrolyte beverages, and most other drinks are likely safer to consume than urine. There are no health benefits to ingesting urine; any other drink is likely to involve fewer health risks. While in small amounts urine is unlikely to cause harm, it will not offer benefits, either. 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on October 22, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Advances in Chronic Kidney Disease: “Chronic Kidney Disease Associated With Environmental Toxins and Exposure.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Urinary System.”

Current Sports Medicine Reports: “Acute Effects of Sodium Ingestion on Thirst and Cardiovascular Function.”
Dermatologic Therapy: “Topical urea in skincare: A review.”

Journal of Clinical Microbiology: “Urine Is Not Sterile: Use of Enhanced Urine Culture Techniques To Detect Resident Bacterial Flora in the Adult Female Bladder."

Microbiome: “Bacterial communities in penile skin, male urethra, and vaginas of heterosexual couples with and without bacterial vaginosis.”

MSD Manual: “Drug Excretion.”

University of California San Francisco Health: “Sodium urine test.”

U.S. Army Field Manual: “WATER PROCUREMENT.”

Winchester Hospital: “True or False: It’s Safe to Drink Your Urine.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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