This article is an updated version of a post comment I shared in 2007 on The Survival Forum at equipped.org concerning a news report of a crashed pilot who survived, allegedly by chewing on leaves and drinking his own urine. This article expounds upon the meanings of some of my original wording 1.
1 [by providing clarity]
Urophagia… is… the consumption of urine! GROSS!!! But different cultural groups practice it for many different health reasons, including the Middle Eastern practice of tasting urine from a female camel to know if the camel is pregnant. This article is only concerned with the most important piss drinking practice… UROPHAGIA OR DIE!
We have heard of famous survival expert types such as Bear Grylls and Joe Teti drinking their urine to survive dehydration.
Is there any truth to the belief that if we find ourselves dangerously thirsty with no water in sight, that drinking our urine would provide us with any real survival benefit?
First thing is… if you can [censored] 2
then you aren’t dehydrated 3.
3 [Yes you may be dehydrated even if you aren’t experiencing a lack of urination.]
When dehydrated, the body recirculates urine 4,
4 [The kidneys create an osmotic gradient by pushing salts into its tissues which pulls water out of the urine… but not all water is saved, and once the concentrated urine leaves the kidneys into the urinary tract (the ureters, bladder and urethra), no water is absorbed, and this is because the entire urinary tract is lined with impermeable cells.]
and the urge to [censored] shuts down or can be easily overcome 5.
5 [Lack of urination is a common symptom of dehydration, but my line of thinking here was not as in line with actually human anatomy as I believed at the time. We absorb the water we drink from our large intestines, and the water in our urine is that water that we previously absorbed in and utilized cellularly. I knew this but am stating it here. What comes out of our #2-holes is everything that we couldn’t digest… plus water… so if you are dehydrated, perhaps it is a good idea to not defecate unless absolutely necessary. And especially avoid being diarrheal, for the obvious reasons of it greatly exacerbating dehydration.
I wonder if Bear Grylls has ever been dehydrated and diarrheal… maybe he says in one of his books… well, never mind.]
If you piss, you take water out of circulation. This idea is really a no-brainer 6.
6 [Again, I was under the uneducated assumption that water in the bladder is somehow reintroduced to the body when dehydrated… wishful thinking I guess. Many other animals are very efficient at removing water from urine, but… and I say again, this happens in the kidneys, not the urinary tract.]
I can’t seem to reiterate enough, when actually dehydrated, the water content in the concentrated urine that the kidneys cannot save is less percentage-wise than that of the water content in the urine of someone who is not dehydrated even if thirsty.
Basically, if you anticipate being dehydrated at some point to the effect you think you may need to drink your urine, just bring more water with you to drink.
While you are not dehydrated, you can add more water to your system by drinking your urine, but then again, if you are not dehydrated there is no need to. I know some would jump to the assumptive scientific conclusion that thirst is always indicative of dehydration, as though the name dehydration is some kind of condition to be avoided at all costs… but I don’t subscribe to the idea that all levels of dehydration are always relevant to the situation. The fact is, semantically speaking, most of us experience dehydration to one degree or another everyday. Our way of life is such that we casually ignore dehydration and aren’t even aware of it until we get headaches and dizzy spells in our day to day lives.
But in a survival situation it is something to be aware of, and the easiest way to avoid it is by having enough water to drink… the general rule is 1 gallon per day per person. If you are merely thirsty, you are not dehydrated. If you are increasingly thirsty… you are dehydrated.
If you are hydrated and have urine in your bladder and then you become dehydrated while that urine is still in your bladder… you can drink that urine for some survival value… as is it very diluted. The urine of non-dehydrated individuals is usually between 91-96% water.
But the water that goes from the kidney to the bladder while dehydrated is as concentrated as the kidneys can get it. So, if you drink it, you may get some small amount of water back, but the kidneys have already pulled all the water out of it that they can… so you shouldn’t a second time.
Technically though… when dehydrated, the kidneys need 0.5L per 24 hours to filter out the wastes from the blood. So, under no circumstance is drinking less than 0.5L per 24 hours of even the clearest urine… advisable. But this rule does not tell us how much of even very dilute urine must be drunk to compensate for the diminishing returns inherent to drinking urine. Thankfully… hopefully… the detestability associated with the act of drinking urine is directly proportional to how non-dilute it is. In other words, common sense must kick in at some point.
So, while you have water to drink, and are looking at the possibility of running out and becoming dehydrated… just retain a bladder full until the time comes that you would drink it to avoid dying. This is the only sensible way to survive dehydration by way drinking urine and answers the question…
Is there any truth to the belief that if we find ourselves dangerously thirsty with no water in sight, that drinking our urine would provide us with any real survival benefit? YES… just hold a bladder full of piss as an emergency reserve so you can… “Be like Bear!”… when the need actually arises.
When does the need arise?
I am absolutely convinced that “survivors” who drink their own urine have fallen prey to a non-viable “final option” or “alternative” which can ultimately serve as nothing more than a debilitating attempt to make up for the fact that one is mortal (not a closed-system) and perhaps has a weak will to begin with, like sucking on a pebble to create the illusion of extra water in the mouth.
Hmmm… let’s see our options:
“I carry an extra liter of water.”
“I will simply guzz my wazz!”
THE CHOICE IS YOURS!!!
What I mean is, I think most “survivors” are programmed by tv-shows to drink their urine even when there isn’t any real need to, while they hyper-exaggerate and sensationalize the need. John Carpenter’s They Live explains.
Pebble sucking might actually have some benefit though while merely thirsty, as it might serve psychologically to stimulate reabsorption from the bladder into the bloodstream 7,
and even as stimulus to keep the mouth closed which would keep the person from losing water via evaporation from the mouth, as well as possibly to slow the person down as he or she attempts to breathe solely through the nose, the resultant slower pace might reduce sweating.
Either that, or some people are simply uneducated and/or that education is inaccessible to the person who’s mind begins to shut down (experiences confusion) in a survival situation such as dehydration. Quite simply, a survivor drinking his or her own [censored] is literally an ostrich thrusting its head in the sand 8.
8 [NOT impossible or even difficult to understand, but not exactly simple either. There is a time when drinking piss might be helpful and a time when it is most likely not.]
The only way to combat dehydration is to increase the amount of water in the body, and urinating causes water loss by evaporation and even by missing the helmet. It is much more efficient to keep what water remains in the body by not pissing 9,
9 [Ok, ok… enough already!!!! But yeah. Drinking piss is gross and does put unwanted strain on the body… so my initial somewhat uneducated adherence to that the body naturally has a way of “drinking its own piss” for us is something I’m glad I believed… I guess. But being that it is gross is as good an excuse for ignorance as any! Haha!]
not sweating and not breathing with the mouth. It’s already there, so why excrete it just to reintroduce it? 10
10 [Superscript #8 again… same as above.]
On the other hand, to drink someone else’s [censored] 11 would increase the amount of water in the body, and might be of some value. Here again, the only logic is that it is better to not die of thirst than to have a little extra strain on the kidneys.
11 [As long as that someone else is not dehydrated… or maybe a better way of saying it is… as long as that piss is clear, as in, very diluted. But even this can present a health risk. Perhaps not commonly known, as most think of urine as sterile, but there are diseases… such as typhoid , hepatitis, and urinary schistosomiasis… that can be transmitted via urine.]
A fellow survivor would not likely be a suitable [censored] donor (I wouldn’t give mine except in certain situations, i.e. loved ones), but a camel might.
WORDS OF IMAM BUKHARI;
Narrated by Anas bin Malik:
A group of people from ‘Ukl (or ‘Uraina) tribe–but I think he said that they were from ‘Ukl–came to Medina and (they became ill, so) the Prophet ordered them to go to the herd of (Milch) she-camels and told them to go out and drink the camels’ urine and milk (as a medicine). So they went and drank it, and when they became healthy, they killed the shepherd and drove away the camels. This news reached the Prophet early in the morning, so he sent (some) men in their pursuit and they were captured and brought to the Prophet before midday. He ordered to cut off their hands and legs and their eyes to be branded with heated iron pieces and they were thrown at Al-Harra, and when they asked for water to drink, they were not given water…. [Al-Bukhari 1: 234, 8: 794 and 8: 797]
Camel urine might be infected with the Middle East respiratory syndrome, aka, MERS-CoV, MERS, and camel flu) virus. Here are some recently reported MERS contractions/outbreaks
But, I would probably drink some of the camel’s blood 12 if I had that option.
12 [Or would I?]
I would think that blood would be more thirst quenching than [censored], but I would be interested to see a link to information concerning salt content, etc.
Here are some interesting things about camels:
Camels are very highly adapted to arid regions. Camel kindeys are the most efficient. Camel kidneys lose very little water to urine, which can be thick as syrup.
Survival pancakes anyone… ? Bear… ? Hehehe.
Camel urine can have twice the salt content of ocean water. Camel shit balls are so dry they can be burned immediately after a camel shits them out! Like birds, fish and reptiles, the red blood cells of camels have an oval shape. All other mammals have circular red blood cells. Oval blood cells flow more easily through the bloodstream (this is of especial benefit during dehydration), whereas circular blood cells have a tendency to clump together which may result in circulatory problems that may cause heart attacks and strokes. Oval blood cells are much more resilient to osmotic variation, to the effect that when a camel drinks a lot of water when dehydrated, the red blood cells are much less likely to burst while being rehydrated than those of other mammals.
This woman, Robyn Davidson knows a lot about camels and survival. In 1977, this 27-year old journeyed across 1,700 miles of the Australian outback with them, and wrote a book about her experiences… Tracks. In 2014, Tracks became a movie. It is worth a watch, and I plan to review this movie for my How Much Education is in the Entertainment? section of this blog… like I did with the movie Black Rock.
Here is another type of camel that is adapted for survival…
The Camelbak M.U.L.E., a 3L water bladder, with 8L (488 cubic inches) of cargo room… for day hikes and shorter missions. Stay hydrated!
The Camelbak H.A.W.G., a 3L water bladder, with 20L (1220 cubic inches) of cargo room… for longer outdoor adventures, functional and tough enough to be relied upon by Navy seals. Stay hydrated!
SOOOOOOOOO… having made it this far through this article, we find ourselves here at the end… left with the big question for discussion!
How many of you have survived by way of the Grylls-Teti-and-other-television-survival-show-“experts”-Rehydration-Method?
Speak Your Mind Below!!!
About me, the author… Troy Boylan
Ecoculture Village Founder & President, Anthropology BA, Interdisciplinary Studies: Ethnobotany BS. Two things I think are worth anything at all… all things wilderness and ecoculture… and well, RPGs… and skateboarding!
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