- Drinking your own urine is inadvisable in any situation, especially a survival situation.
- Urine consumption has long been proved dangerous to the human body.
- Bacteria and other harmful substances reenter the body through your urine.
- Drinking urine will lead to faster dehydration and renal failure.
- Most methods to purify urine will not be effective in making it drinkable.
You’re at a desperate point, extremely dehydrated, and your last ditch effort to stay alive seems to be drinking your own urine. But should you?
No scenario, no matter how dire, is worth drinking your own urine. Rather than help restore your body, drinking pee will have the opposite effect by speeding up dehydration and causing even more problems. Even purifiers and other means of filtering out all but the water from urine won’t work.
If your supplies run out and you’re faced with the prospect of life-threatening dehydration, do your best to find alternative sources of water by any means necessary.
Is It Safe to Drink Urine for Survival?
The short answer is no. Drinking urine is not advisable under any circumstance, and drinking urine in a survival situation is especially dangerous.
Popular examples like Bear Grylls or Aron Ralston may show that such an extreme move is in fact a viable one. But the dangers far outweigh the benefits.
Ancient and Current Beliefs About Drinking Urine and Urine Therapy
Ancient cultures such as Egypt, China, India, and the Aztecs all had some form of medical practice that encouraged drinking urine for certain reasons. Urine therapy even remains today as part of some holistic healing systems, and there are even some countries where the practice of urine therapy skirts the edges of mainstream medicine.
One of the most common beliefs held by these parties is that some of the components of urine do contain medicinal properties. In particular, urea possesses properties that combat bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
Current Advice Against Drinking Urine
This being said, nearly all cultures with developed medical practices agree on the dangers of urine therapy, and have debunked claims about urine’s curative powers.
As an example, U.S. Army recommendations specifically call out liquids like urine, seawater, blood, and others as supposed sources of water to be avoided in a crisis.
Reasons to Not Drink Urine
A very simple definition of urine is that it is the body eliminating liquid that contains waste products and other molecular sized contaminants. After the body processes the liquid you consume and removes most of the nutrients and beneficial chemicals via the kidneys, the rest is passed out of the body through the urinary system.
These waste products are eliminated from the body for a reason: they are harmful, and can cause damage to your body if left unchecked.
Some may point out that urine is made up of 95% water, which is close to the concentration of seawater. But seawater actually contains more water at a concentration of 96.5%, so it’s actually more highly concentrated than seawater.
Even a healthy person that is well hydrated will have these kinds of contaminants in their system. If you have already lost much of the water in your body, the polluted state of your urine will be even worse.
How Can Drinking Urine Harm Your Body?
Essentially, drinking urine defeats the purpose of what your body’s natural processes do in the first place.
If you drink your urine, you are consuming all of the filtered out impurities your body is trying to eliminate. That means that your body will have to work even harder to process out the liquid and soluble waste.
No matter what temporary benefits you think you gain, your dehydration worsens due to this extra work on your body because it is trying to reuse your pee as a water source, rather than introducing new sources.
Additionally, since no new water is introduced to your system when you drink your urine, dehydration can lower your blood pressure to dangerous levels. This decreases the blood flow to your other vital organs, which can cause permanent damage.
Even worse, the build up of these dissolved salts and other dissolved contaminants will lead to kidney failure. When your kidneys stop making urine, they stop removing these toxins from your body, which allows them to build up to toxic levels. This can lead to sepsis and death.
Can you filter urine enough to drink it?
Some sources claim that you can safely drink urine by using backpacking filters or other commercial means. This is also a deceptive and dangerous claim, since the smaller filters will not be effective enough to let you safely drink your own pee.
First of all, the bacteria are not always eliminated by these filters. Even if some of the toxins are removed, the microorganisms that can cause illness - and compound your problems - remain in the water molecules.
Most importantly, these simpler filters don’t remove the sodium from the urine. This salinity is what makes drinking seawater so dangerous, and what makes it even more deadly if you drank urine.
Because salt draws water out of your body, too much salt buildup by drinking your own pee makes it even deadlier than if you were to drink seawater.
Methods for Filtering Urine
Despite all of these warnings, there are several ways you can legitimately filter out many of the impurities from urine (though not enough to make it only water).
Reverse osmosis uses extremely high pressure to force water through a filter; the concept is that only water molecules will pass through, and everything else will be left behind.
The urine could also be distilled, which involves evaporating it and allowing the water to condense naturally in a different vessel after everything else has been removed.
Both of these practices are in operation when using a solar still. This is one of the more popular and supposedly reliable ways to filter your urine, as any impurity literally passes through a waterproof barrier, while the liquid itself is collected for later use.
Despite all of this potential, the urine itself is still not safe to drink in large quantities.
Alternatives to drinking urine
If drinking urine isn’t an option, then what other options are there? We recommend doing anything else, anything at all, before you resort to drinking your own pee.
You can prepare ahead of time by stocking sources of freshwater in secure containers in advance of an emergency scenario. This includes stockpiling large quantities of water in your main stores, as well as small portable bottles or packs of water in your emergency kit or bag.
If you do run out of your prepackaged supplies, your first order of business should be to find a naturally occurring source of water. A lake or stream should offer a relatively clean source of water that can be easily boiled to remove all but the tiniest trace amounts of impurity.
Even collecting rainwater is safer, as this would contain only a negligible level of contamination. You can set out a container to collect it while it is raining, or even find small puddles or pools that collect after a storm.
If you’re experienced enough, you can also find springs or other sources of water with a little effort. Even some cacti or other plants can store enough water to sustain you until you can reach a renewable source.
Bottom line: drinking your own urine is not worth the risk.
About THE AUTHOR
I have over a decade of experience in food and beverage management, including a ServSafe food safety qualification. As part of this qualification, I have been professionally trained in safe food storage.Read More About Mark Walker