Water is the number one component of the human body, making up 45 to 75 per cent of your total body weight. Newborns have the highest percentage of water weight, and women and the elderly -- due to their higher body fat content -- have the lowest. Because water plays such a crucial role in the human body, you need to maintain an adequate fluid level. Feeling thirsty indicates your body fluid levels are low, and in many cases, properly replacing lost fluids can reduce your sensation of thirst.
- Skill level:
Drink to satisfy your thirst. In most circumstances where normal amounts of fluid are lost through processes such as sweating, breathing and elimination, drinking when you feel thirsty will restore your proper fluid levels -- and make the sensation of thirst go away. Choose healthy options, such as water, juice or milk to quench your thirst. Eating fruits, vegetables and soup, which contain high percentages of water, can also help you feel less thirsty.
Look for signs that you are dehydrated. Urinating fewer than four times a day, and dark, strong smelling urine can both indicate dehydration. You may have a dry mouth and feel fatigued, dizzy or light-headed. Being sick with a cold or the flu, vomiting, having diarrhoea and spending a lot of time travelling in aeroplanes can also lead to dehydration. If you have signs of dehydration, your thirst is most likely caused by low fluid levels. Reduce your thirst by drinking fluids until the dehydration symptoms go away.
Check any medications you take to see if excessive thirst is a side effect. Some drugs can make you feeling thirsty, including anticholineric drugs, which may make your mouth feel dry; lithium and prednisone, which can both cause extreme thirst; and diuretics, which may cause too much fluid loss, especially if you use them during a time when you don't take in enough fluids. Talk to your doctor about dealing with the side effects or even changing medications if you find your excessive thirst too bothersome.
Visit your doctor if your thirst persists and remains excessive even after making efforts to reduce it. Some medical conditions -- including diabetes and kidney, heart or liver failure -- may cause extreme thirst. In other cases, excess thirst may indicate a psychological disorder. Your doctor can determine whether your excessive thirst has a medical cause, and if not, help you figure out how you can stop feeling so thirsty.
Tips and warnings
- Dark, pungent urine may have other causes than dehydration -- such as diet, vitamins and medications -- so it only provides a rough indication of your hydration level.
- People often assume that caffeinated beverages have a diuretic effect and so will ultimately increase thirst. However, according to a 2005 National Academy of Sciences study, research does not support this assumption. Caffeinated beverages actually replace fluid levels -- and satisfy thirst -- as well as non-caffeinated drinks. Even alcohol only has a short-term diuretic effect that disappears within 24 hours.
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- United States Department of Agriculture; Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride and Sulfate; Lawrence J. Appel, et al.; 2005
- Buhl Water Company; Water: How Much Should You Drink Every Day?; April 2005
- WorldWideHealthCenter.net; How Much Water Do We Really Need?; October 2003
- PsychEducation.org; Lithium Risks: Thyroid, Kidney, and Weight Gain Problems; December 2005
- Drugs.com; Prednisone; March 2011
- MedlinePlus; Thirst -- Excessive; Linda Vorvick, et al.; January 2011