When you feel the need to chug a ton of water, the reason why is usually clear: You haven’t been drinking enough of it.
If you go really hard at the gym or spend a ton of time sweating in the sun, you need to replenish the fluid you lose through sweat. Otherwise, you may experience a slew of unpleasant symptoms linked to dehydration, like fatigue and muscle cramps.
To fix that problem, most people should simply aim to drink water when thirst strikes—but what if your need for H2O becomes totally insatiable?
You shouldn’t ignore it, advises Laura M. Hahn, MD, a primary care physician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. A mouth as dry as the Sahara may be your body’s way of hinting at an underlying health issue.
“Any condition that alters your water or salt balance in the body can trigger thirst,” says Dr. Hahn. If you follow good hydration practices, yet still feel dehydrated, you may want to check in with your doc to rule out these sneaky causes of excessive thirst.
Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can increase your risk of dehydration—especially if you’re not yet aware of it. When blood sugar levels are too high, your body peer-pressures your kidneys into producing more urine to get rid of the excess glucose, says Heather Rosen, MD, medical director of UPMC Urgent Care North Huntingdon in Pennsylvania. “Frequent urination, another common symptom, will bring on thirst,” she adds. “This leads to drinking more fluids, which compounds the problem.”
If you experience excessive thirst and urination, as well as other symptoms like unexplained weight loss, fatigue, or irritability, your doc can carry out a blood glucose test to find out if you have diabetes.
If you feel the urge to glug down water during your period, it’s totally normal. “Estrogen and progesterone levels can both affect fluid volume,” says Dr. Rosen. “Add to that blood loss from the cycle itself—especially if your periods are on the heavy side—and the result is a compensatory increase in thirst.” In other words, when you’re stranded in PMS Land, make sure you keep a bottle of water handy.
Your thyroid—the butterfly-shaped gland located at the bottom of your neck—is responsible for pumping out thyroid hormone, which helps regulate your appetite, energy, internal temperature, and other vital body functions.
When the gland produces too much or too little hormone it can spur a variety of nonspecific symptoms, including abnormally heavy periods, anxiety, feeling hot, and dry mouth—all of which can lead to increased thirst.
What’s more, people suffering from hypothyroidism specifically are more likely to suffer from other thirst-inducing health conditions, such as type 1 diabetes, Sjörgren’s syndrome, and anaemia due to B12 deficiency, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
“Chronic stress causes our adrenal glands to under-function, which may result in low blood pressure when the stress is severe,” says Dr. Hall. “This can cause dizziness, depression, anxiety, and also extreme thirst.”
Thirst is your body’s way of adding more water to your blood, in an attempt to raise your blood pressure. Really, the only long-term solution for this is to decrease and better manage your stress levels.
“Foods that have a diuretic effect can make you thirsty because they cause you to urinate more,” says nutritionist and integrative health coach Jessica Cording, RD, CDN. This includes foods like celery, asparagus, beets, lemons, melons, ginger, and parsley.
“Although these foods have a lot of health benefits, consider this effect yet another reason to incorporate a wide variety of fruits and veggies into your diet: You’ll cover your nutritional bases and keep your thirst in check,” Cording says. You can also balance the scales by eating more fluid-rich foods, like oatmeal and brown rice, which soak up water during the cooking process.
Feeling thirsty is a common side effect of the keto diet, since the eating plan requires you to significantly slash your carbohydrate intake. Carbs absorb and hold onto more water than protein and fat, Becky Kerkenbush, RD, a clinical dietitian at Watertown Regional Medical Center recently told Prevention. As a result, you’ll have to pee more often, causing your thirst levels to spike.
There are several signs of pregnancy to watch for, including excessive thirst. Your blood volume increases during your first trimester, which forces your kidneys to create excess fluid that winds up in your bladder, according to the Mayo Clinic, meaning your trips to the bathroom may become more frequent. What’s more, nausea and morning sickness that accompanies pregnancy can lead to a dip in hydration.
Ongoing or sudden blood loss—thanks to issues like heavy periods and bleeding ulcers—can spike your thirst levels as your body aims to make up for the fluid loss. Excessive bleeding is also a common cause of anemia, a condition in which your body loses red blood cells faster than they can be replaced, says Dr. Rosen. A physical exam and blood test will determine if you have anaemia, and the treatment you receive will depend on the type you’re diagnosed with.