urine sign

(Photo credit: Flickr)

Many cases have been recounted where a human had to start drinking their own urine because they were afraid of dying due to dehydration. But is urine sterile enough to drink?

The short answer is yes, urine is sterile enough to drink when it exits the bladder.

Urine is a liquid by-product of the human body that is secreted by the kidneys through the process we know as urination. It is excreted through the urethra and exits the body through the penis, or the woman’s urethral opening. Although it is sterile when it leaves the bladder, depending on an individual’s body, there may be other contaminants that enter the urine before it exits the body.

Urine is made up of a number of different by-products that are rich in nitrogen, potassium, and calcium. A healthy person will normally have urine that is made up of over 95% sterile liquids and water. The other 5 percent, though, is comprised of a diverse variety of waste products that are eliminated from the blood stream and other parts of the body. These waste products are what contain the nitrogen, potassium, and calcium, which are very unhealthy for the human body to ingest.

How Long Can You Survive By Drinking Urine?

The most important factor is the current state and health of the person who the urine belongs to. Someone who is dehydrated and has been putting toxins in their body like alcohol or soda will have urine that is made up of more waste by-products than someone who drinks enough water and eats healthy, who would have a healthy amount of water and sterile liquid in their urine.

Most scientists say that a human could last an extra day or two if they had to drink their own urine to survive. The 5 percent of urine that is comprised of waste and other bodily toxins that is normally filtered and excreted will continue to go back through your system to the kidneys. After a few days of this, the urine in your body will become dangerously concentrated with toxins and by-products causing symptoms that are similar to total kidney failure.

At this point, dehydration or a renal meltdown will occur because this cycle is not sustainable for any significant amount of time. However, there have been a number of instances where survivors of accidents and disasters said that they had to drink their urine to stay hydrated and survive.

Drinking Urine to Survive – Stories

Aron Ralston

aron ralston

Aron Ralston (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In April of 2003, a man named Aron Ralston faced a nightmarish scenario. Ralston went on a journey to the Blue John Canyon in southeastern Utah to go rock climbing and exploring. He did this without informing any of his friends or family where he was going to be, a decision that he would later come to regret.

Ralston was climbing a large boulder when it came loose and sent him tumbling down the canyon wall. The boulder came to rest directly on his arm and completely trapped him. He was trapped here for five days with a scarce supply of food and water.

As days passed, Ralston drank his own urine to try and stay somewhat hydrated because he had no other options. Perhaps most incredibly, Ralston cut off his own arm with a pocket knife in order to escape. A reporting of the entire event is found here.

Daniel Chong

Daniel Chong is a student at UC- San Diego in California. Chong was allegedly smoking marijuana at a party with a bunch of his friends when they were celebrating the new-generation holiday ‘4/20’. The Drug Enforcement Agency raided the house and brought some of the students into the office for questioning.

Chong was not charged with anything and he was told that he was going to be sent home after a few more things were done. Before Chong got the chance to leave, he was put into a cell in the back of the DEA office where he was left without contact for days.

During this time, Chong was starving and becoming dehydrated and had to drink his own urine because he was afraid he was going to die. He thought he was going to die and he tried to commit suicide by using the glass from his eyeglasses to cut the words “sorry mom” into his arm.

You can find a recap of the entire story here () and you can find information about the lawsuit that Chong filed against the DEA for $20 million here.

Additional Facts About Urine Drinking To Pique Your Curiosity

Astronauts in the International Space Station have experimented with filtering, purifying, and recycling urine to create a self-generation of liquids. If NASA ever wants to launch a manned mission to Mars, the ship would not carry enough water to last the entire 18 month voyage. Preceding explorers were required to find water along the way and since there is no rainfall outside of the Van Allen Belt, NASA says that they would have to figure out a way to get their astronauts used to the idea of using urine.

People throughout history have explored the idea of using urine as medicine, calling it ‘urotherapy’.

Thousands of years of history have shown how different cultures recorded using urine therapy for a number of different diseases, injuries, and self-healing aspects. Hindu yogic practices show how they used urine as a drink because it provided so many benefits to the person drinking it. Saharan Bedouins used urine to heal themselves if they were burned or wounded.

When Lewis and Clark had their expedition to Oregon, there were several occurrences of Indigenous Americans who practiced the custom of bathing themselves with urine every morning. Some cultures recommend drinking urine to enhance fertility and stimulate sexuality.