If I’m Dehydrated, Then Why Don’t I Feel Thirsty?

In my recent blog on the ABCs and 123s of health, I included hydration in my top 3. The first really big misconception that many people have, is that they are already hydrated, because they’re “not thirsty” generally. Most of the time, this is false, as the thirst mechanism itself is one of the first things to disappear during chronic dehydration.

Why would the body eliminate the thirst mechanism, if hydration is so important? I recently explained it this way to a patient:

As the body goes into a state of dehydration, it goes into survival mode, and will progressively sacrifice more and more critical life functions, in an attempt to preserve its most vital ones. Think of the plant life in a desert, as opposed to a tropical region. The precise function of the sharp spines of the cactus includes the preservation of moisture. This is very different from the lush, abundant, care-free nature of the tropical plants, which do not need to focus much energy into adapting their water capture and retention mechanisms.

The same comparison holds true for every cell in our body, which is dependent on abundant hydration. As we become dehydrated, our cell function shifts more to a desert-like condition, and the normally permeable and flexible cell wall becomes hardened, in part to be able to conserve as much water as possible. This is necessary for survival, but many of our healthy functions are reduced or killed in this process — the peasants always get sacrificed before the King. You could say that the cells lose their trust in having an available source of water, and so the thirst mechanism becomes superfluous at this point.

Likewise, when my patients begin to correct their habits and begin to re-hydrate themselves, the hardened, dehydrated cells do not have the capacity to absorb or retain a healthy amount of water, and so they find themselves in the washroom at great frequency. The mistake here is to think that you are drinking too much water, and the key is to keep pushing through this phase, until the cells re-learn how to absorb the water, and start to restore the healthy functions which were sacrificed along the way.

The natural thirst mechanism returns, and then a point is reached where it is no longer necessary to use your willpower and habits to force oneself to drink, but your natural thirst mechanism will drive you to do so without having to think about it. A “thirst for life” will ensure hydration at all levels, and not just the cellular.

3 thoughts on “If I’m Dehydrated, Then Why Don’t I Feel Thirsty?

  1. Hi,
    I finally realized I am very dyhrated so started drinking a great deal of water. I am finally thirsty but the cells are not taking up the water for I have increaced edema, esp. at night. For years I have tried to avoid salt and would drink hebal teas to try and reduce the edema. How can I get the cells to take up the water they crave?

    Pamla

  2. I keep getting urine infections and doctor said I need to drink more but I can’t drink if I don’t want it. I have a cup of coffee in the morning and nothing else, I’m not thirsty.

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