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Why a Dehydrated Person Might Not Get Thirsty

Though we know to drink water when our bodies signal thirst, we often become imbalanced when that mechanism shuts down. Learn how to sense your own hydration level with these tips.

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Pain and Anatomy Advisor

A great majority of my clients are chronically dehydrated, and I suspect most Americans are, too. However, when I ask my clients how much water they drink during the day, they tell me not much. When I ask them why not, they all have the same answer: “I’m not thirsty.”

How can a chronically dehydrated person not be thirsty? It doesn’t make sense. True, it doesn’t make sense, but there is a reason.

First, let’s define what exactly dehydration is. It’s all about the cells. Our cells need water in order for our bodies to function, and that water needs to be continuously replaced. In much the same way that our bodies absorb water then excrete waste in the form of urine, our cells absorb fresh water and excrete waste fluid, and that waste is then disposed through various means, including urination, sweating and even breathing. Moist breath anyone?

When those cells don’t get the fresh water they need, we’re dehydrated, and the body lets us know it needs water through the thirst mechanism. However, that thirst mechanism has been hampered in many of us. Basically, we’ve lost it because we’ve misplaced the gift of metabolic balance in our bodies. The human body is a motion machine. Through our sedentary lifestyles, we’ve reduced so much of our motion that we’ve compromised our alignment and altered our cellular energy, and one result is a hindered thirst function. (Your body’s alignment plays a surprising role in digestion, too. Learn more about how this works.)

So if we’re not thirsty, how do we know we’re dehydrated? Well, the body has other ways of telling us. For instance, our urine picks up a pronounced odor and a dark, yellow color. Or the skin gets drier and requires more lotion. Or we experience energy swings and, believe it or not, insomnia. Researchers are beginning to observe that there is possibly a hydration component to insomnia (which may seem counter-intuitive to those of us over fifty who have to keep getting up to go to the bathroom through the night, but more on that in another article). Another indicator in women is that their hair becomes brittle and harder to manage.

These are subtle indications, but the indicator can become obvious, painfully obvious, when the dehydrated person participates in strenuous physical activity because she will inevitably experience a cramp. Muscle activity produces lactic acid which permeates the cells, and when there’s not enough water to flush out that lactic acid, the cells simply retain it, and it hurts. We see this result often with athletes late in a game, but the truth is they were essentially dehydrated before the game ever started. It just took heightened mobility and activity to generate the painful results of heightened dehydration.

So how do we solve this problem? Some experts say to drink more water, but that usually doesn’t work because it quickly grows uncomfortable. Since the cells have shut off that thirst mechanism, they’re tenaciously retaining the old fluid, so the water that enters the body just sits in the stomach rather than being absorbed by the cells throughout the body.

Here’s a plan I’ve found successful with clients throughout the years to restore that automatic thirst response. Get one of those small, Dixie paper cups, or a shot glass. Fill that cup up with water and drink three to five shots in quick succession, one right after the other. Wait 30 minutes then do that again. Do that in the morning and in the evening, and by the second day, you’ll probably start noticing your mouth getting dry more frequently throughout the day. Do that routine for a week, and your thirst mechanism should be in full functioning order.

On a quick side note regarding thirst and dehydration, those brilliantly-marketed sports drinks are not the answer. They are full of sugar and are a disaster for our bodies, especially among our children.

Everybody’s need for water is different based upon what they eat and what they do throughout the day. For instance, the day laborer needs more water than the office worker, obviously, and the airline pilots and stewards, because of the altitude of their occupations, need more water than the bus drivers. But no matter what you eat or what you do or how much of it you do, your body will tell you how much water it needs once you get that thirst mechanism back into proper functioning form.


Known as the Father of Postural Therapy, Pete Egoscue has helped relieve thousands of people from their chronic pain, including many of the world’s leading athletes. For more information on Pete and any of his 25 clinics worldwide, go to



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