Is it safe to drink urine for survival?

Is it safe to drink urine for survival? Isn’t this the question we secretly ask ourselves when we’re stumbling through the wilderness with just a few sips left of water? Let’s take a serious look at this question, do some investigating, and find out.

Urine is not completely sterile as some folks suggest. It contains toxins and bacteria that were already present in your body before being flushed out. While these contaminants are unlikely to directly harm you by themselves, they can put additional strain on your kidneys and immune system. This may eventually lead to health complications. If survival is your goal (as it should be for everyone), before you take a sip of the golden brew (ew), let’s take a closer look.

Can you drink urine?

Technically yes, but you should abstain in most cases (I’m not suggesting that it’s enjoyable… Not all golden things are good.) You may find websites and people who praise the magical qualities of drinking your own urine to treat or prevent issues. Remember to take everything that you hear or read on the internet with a grain of salt. Even medical professionals tend to agree that it’s not a good idea. The Army Field manual (PDF) for Survival, Evasion, and Recovery specifically lists urine on it’s “DO NOT DRINK” list followed by fish juices, blood, seawater, and alcohol.

Is it safe to drink urine for survival?
Is it safe to drink urine for survival?

This advice would be very easy to heed for people who carry jugs of water everywhere they go, but what if (heaven forbid)you find yourself in a survival situation where consuming pee is your only option? The “good news” is that it might work as a last ditch effort, but the bad news is that the benefits wouldn’t last for long.

It’s not without it’s risks

There are stories of survivors who have survived horrendous accidents and have said that they drank their urine to survive. This includes American mountaineer and mechanical engineer, Aron Ralston, who amputated his own arm in 2003 to escape a boulder in a Utah canyon. However, this practice is not widely advised as a survival technique. Think about it, how many articles have you read about the lasting effects on those survivor’s bodies? Probably not many because people don’t want to talk about the possible repercussions of drinking pee. I have to admit that I was even personally apprehensive to write this article at first. I’m glad that I decided to proceed with my writing because I think that it is important to talk about it since I plan on covering ALL aspects of prepping and survival.

Drinking urine can be especially risky for survivors of crashes or crushing injuries. When the muscle fibers are damaged, the cells can start leaking phosphorous and potassium into the bloodstream. Even a survivor with healthy kidneys may not be able to flush out the dangerous build-up. Someone who has been drinking their own urine would be at an even greater risk. For this same reason, a person who drinks urine should stay away from high potassium foods like bananas.

Is it safe to drink urine for survival?

As a super short term solution and absolute last resort, yes. Keep in mind that drinking urine for an extended period of time is a bad idea. The whole purpose of your kidneys is to filter waste products from your body then excrete them through urine. Your pee is composed of 95% water which sounds great when you’re dying of thirst, but the remaining 5% has the potential to kill you in slow and painful ways.

Is it safe to drink urine for survival?

What is urine composed of?

  • Sodium
  • Urea
  • Nitrogen
  • Potassium
  • Creatine
  • Ammonia
  • Hormones

That’s the short list, but the full list has over 3,000 compounds! Every individual person has their own unique recipe based on their overall health and what they put into their bodies. This stuff could be harmless in small doses. The problems start creeping up after the prolonged consumption of urine and it becomes more concentrated with each trip through your kidneys.

If you’ve reached the point where you are considering urine as a hydration option, then you are probably extremely dehydrated and your kidneys won’t be able to process the minerals in such concentrated amounts. In addition to the growing danger of bacterial infections, subsisting on your own urine for a prolonged or even abbreviated stretch of time can cause catastrophic damage to your kidneys.

Wait, isn’t urine sterile?

I hate to kill this myth and crush the hopes of all the pro-pee peeps out there, but urine is not sterile. You should NOT use it to dissolve sea urchin quills, treat jellyfish stings, rub it in your wounds, or use it to clear your sinuses. Sorry, not sorry (I usually hate this phrase, but it feels appropriate here.) ??

Is It Safe To Drink Your Urine? | Seeker

This bad information was unintentionally spread in the 1950’s during a study of urinary tract infections (UTIs.) Samples that had no UTI bacteria were labeled as “negative.” That label only referred to UTI bacteria, but not all bacteria. Unfortunately enough people assumed that “negative” meant sterile, hence the myth. Yikes!

Your bladder and urethra are lined with bacteria so when urine passes through your system it picks things up along the way. Where do you think all the bacteria goes when you drink your pee? It’s probably worth noting that while urine isn’t sterile, the bacteria is generally harmless to you. As with any “harmless substance,” bacteria can multiply and become too difficult for your immune system to fight. That coupled with dehydration, malnutrition, and exhaustion really works against your survival.

Is it safe to drink other people’s urine?

Is it safe to drink urine for survival?
Is it safe to drink urine for survival?

I never thought that I would be asking and answering these kinds of questions, but here we are. There aren’t huge differences between drinking your urine and someone else’s, but there things to keep in mind. When you pour from your own source, you’re reintroducing waste and bacteria that already existed in your body. You’re unlikely to contract a new disease by drinking your own fresh urine, but aged urine is another story.

However, if you drink someone else’s urine, you will be exposed to their unique blend of toxins, waste, and bacteria. What is harmless to your friend may be harmful to you. Before taking of sip of your friend’s urine ask them ask them if they have already been drinking their urine and for how long. As we discussed earlier, urine becomes more concentrated every time the kidneys have to filter it. If they have been drinking urine for 3 or more days, skip it because you won’t be getting 95% water. Instead, it will be recycled waste products that have been concentrated into something toxic and dangerous.

Beware the Presence of Prescription Medications

Preppers are known to keep a supply of medications in their stash. This means that even 5 days into a disaster they will likely still be taking their prescription meds. Prescriptions like heart medicine are necessary for their survival, but they could kill you.

Will it make you sick?

If you drink urine for survival you could get very ill. Whether it be from the buildup of concentrated minerals that your kidneys cannot filter or a growing colony of bacteria, you could end up worse off than if you never drank urine in the first place. At the same time, if you cannot find any other source of water and you risk dying from dehydration, then it might be worth the risk of infection, to survive another day.

What are the side effects of drinking urine?

Now that we’ve made it this far, let’s talk about the side effects.

  • Dehydration- Drinking urine can be just as bad as drinking seawater. With each pass through your kidneys, the urine contains more sodium and less water. High sodium levels can make dehydration symptoms worse or trigger more symptoms sooner.
  • Gastrointestinal issues- Drinking urine can cause mental and physical reactions like vomiting, diarrhea, and a general feeling of illness. There isn’t much you can do about the mental yuck-factor, but the real danger is in dehydration. If you are vomiting and have diarrhea then dehydration is inevitable especially if you don’t have a water source.
  • Infection- Infection can occur when bacteria is introduced to existing bacterial colonies. This reintroduction could encourage them to grow far beyond normal proportions. It could also spark infections in other areas of the body. This is especially dangerous if you are suffering from injuries or mouth sores brought on from dehydration and malnutrition.
  • Heart Attack- Continually drinking your urine can elevate your potassium to a dangerous level and cause a heart attack. This is less likely if you are healthy, but too much potassium is bad for everyone.
  • Kidney Failure- Kidney failure is the biggest issue that could result from drinking urine. Once your kidneys go, there isn’t much you can do to reverse the damage especially in a survival situation where you can’t access medical care. Kidney failure happens when the toxin level gets so high that your kidneys can no longer function.

This all sounds really awful, but don’t lose hope. It is definitely not ideal to drink urine, but if you have no other option then there are some steps you can take to make urine safer to drink.

Does it help to boil urine?

Again? I never thought that I would be thinking about this, but there is some “good news.” Yes, boiling urine can make it safer to drink, but only if you distill it. This means that you will need to capture the vapors and condense it back down to a liquid.

Distilling almost any water-based liquid can save your life. American astronauts drink recycled water which includes condensation from their sweat, breath, shower steam, and urine. While it may not be as cool and high tech as NASA’s methods, boiling urine the old fashioned way and collecting the steam works just as well.

It’s important to distill it

If you were to boil urine and drink it without distilling it, then you would be drinking a more concentrated and dangerous solution than what you started with. If you decide to do this, make sure you follow the distillation process.

Is it safe to drink urine for survival?
Is it safe to drink urine for survival?

Will water filters work?

Water filtration systems and purification tablets will not work for urine. Water filters are rated in microns and a filter rated at 0.1 microns can filter out bacteria and parasites, but bacteria isn’t the major issue here. Also, many of the waste products in urine are too small to be filtered with those methods.

Activated charcoal is slightly better, but still not perfect. It can remove organic chemicals, but it will not remove sodium and sodium is what is going to cause or worsen dehydration. If you can’t boil and distill urine, but all you have is a water filter or purification tablet, then it can’t hurt to use what you have. Just know that you won’t have pure water and be prepared for the side effects of extra sodium and minerals.

When should you drink urine?

It’s hard to recommend a time that would be good to sip on pee. However, we are talking about survival here so I would say that if I have no other source of water and I can distill it in some way then I would take a sip after that. Another thing I never thought I would ever say.

If I have no way of distilling urine and have to drink it straight… I would wait until it was my absolute last resort. And hopefully we will be properly prepped and able to prevent this kind of situation. Only you can decide when the time is right.

It’s more important to consider the times when you shouldn’t drink urine

  • People with crushing injuries should avoid drinking urine at all costs. Damaged muscle cells will release phosphorous and potassium into the bloodstream. Your kidneys already work hard to remove these substances, but if you add urine to the mix then you could quickly overtax them and cause kidney failure.
  • If you’re already dehydrated then drinking pee isn’t going to help. You would put more sodium into your system and this would only make matters worse.

Properly prepare and avoid this situation

The best way to avoid the kind of situation that would put you in the position to have to decide whether or not to drink urine is to always have access to drinkable water. Plan ahead and prepare, stay hydrated, and make sure that you have a good grasp on several different water purification methods.

How long can you survive drinking urine?

There is no hard and fast rule. It is always better to err on the side of caution and use this as a last resort because urine becomes more concentrated over time. On the first day, you probably won’t have ill side effects beyond stomach upset and the yuck factor. You might even be okay after the 2nd day, but after that you could be at risk of getting kidney failure and other complications from dehydration.

It should always be your number one priority to find a source of fresh water because you can’t live on urine alone for any meaningful amount of time.

The end is here!

Is it safe to drink urine for survival?

At this point, I hope you can understand how essential it is to have a reliable source of potable water. I thought that this would conclude my “water series, ” but I think that I also need to write an article about safe water storage methods and options. More than anything I hope and pray that neither of us will ever end up in such a desperate survival situation, but I’m glad to know that we are equipped with options.

What are your thoughts on all of this? Would you drink urine if your survival depended on it? Comment below to share if you dare.

See you soon!