Staying out in the sun all day or eating a super salty snack will almost always have you reaching for the nearest glass of water. That’s natural. But if you’re feeling thirsty all the time or feel like nothing you drink or eat really quenches your thirst, it might be more than just temporary dehydration.
Thirst can indicate simply that you’re sweating more and you need more water. Or it can be a symptom of certain conditions and diseases. It can even be a side effect of certain types of eating plans. So if you can’t shake that parched feeling, and you’re feeling thirsty all the time, here are a few possibilities you might not have expected.
When your mouth feels really dry, it can make you thirsty. But xerostomia, better known as dry mouth, is a condition where your glands don’t make enough saliva to keep your mouth wet. This can be the result of radiation therapy for cancer, certain medications, smoking, or even just aging. Some other symptoms besides feeling thirsty are bad breath and inflamed gums.
If you’re experiencing dry mouth, doctors suggest first increasing your water intake. Jeff Burgess, DDS, former clinical assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Dental Medicine, says that the best treatment plan varies for each individual. But it’s best to see a dentist about ways to alleviate symptoms of the condition.
When you have diabetes, glucose builds up in your blood, forcing your kidneys to overwork to try and absorb it. When your kidneys can’t keep up, it causes you to produce more urine than normal.
“Frequent urination, another common symptom, will bring on thirst. This leads to drinking more fluids, which compounds the problem,” says Heather Rosen, MD, medical director of UPMC Urgent Care.
This symptom is polydipsia, or what some experts call a thirst you can’t seem to quench. There are still so many other symptoms of diabetes, so don’t rely only on thirst as a hint that you might have diabetes. Check with your doctor about any health concerns you may have, and he or she can do the tests to rule it in or out—or help you figure out why else you might be thirsty all the time.
Diabetes insipidus can also be the cause of your thirst. Although unrelated to diabetes, this is a rare condition of the kidneys that causes significant imbalances in body fluids. People with the condition lose large amounts of fluid through increased urination which results in excessive thirst.
Those who have anemia struggle to produce enough healthy red blood cells, resulting in the body struggling to get the oxygen it needs. And as anemia worsens, it can cause increased thirst, along with numerous other symptoms like weakness and fatigue.
“Your body loses red blood cells faster than they can be replaced, and will try to make up for the fluid loss by triggering thirst,” says Rosen.
If you’re taking on a low-carb diet, like the popular keto diet, you might notice you’re thirstier than usual. Turns out, it’s a normal side effect.
When you significantly reduce your carb intake, glycogen is depleted. And there are about 3 grams of water with every gram of glycogen. So, while you’re on this low-carb diet or trying to achieve ketosis, you’re losing water as your body burns up its stored glycogen, making you thirstier than normal.
“As the metabolism shifts in the first couple weeks of ketosis, the body undergoes changes in electrolyte and fluid balance,” says Ginger Hultin, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Some people find themselves feeling excessively thirsty and urinating more than usual.”
On the keto diet, drinking tons of water and low-carb fluids is essential. Now that you know dehydration is a symptom of low-carb diets, you can prepare for it and keep a bottle of water handy.
If you’ve always stayed on top of the amount of water you’re drinking, then you might be confused why all of sudden it seems like it’s never enough. It could be because you amped up the amount of exercise you’re doing. If you’re more active throughout the day or hitting the gym more than usual, the amount of water that worked for your body before might not be enough anymore. When your body is sweating more, it’s losing more fluids and you’re going to have to start drinking more to compensate. Experts suggest drinking water 15 minutes prior to exercising and then drinking 8 ounces of water every 20 minutes of your exercise in order to stay hydrated.
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