Is the urine sterile? What the research says

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If drinking urine was your plan for survival, we’ve got bad news. The rumor that your pee is sterile is, well, a rumor.

Scientists have found that the urine of healthy individuals naturally contains bacteria, so the urine is not as “clean” as myths have led us to believe.

Keep reading to learn more about why urine isn’t sterile, and we’ll put an end to other urine-related health myths.

To imply that the urine is sterile would mean that the urine does not contain bacteria or other living organisms. Scientists have proven this to be wrong.

A small study from 2014 examined urine samples from 65 participants. Some subjects had symptoms of urinary tract infection. The study found that 80 percent of the samples produced bacteria, many of which were naturally present in the bladder.

While some urine samples contained very low levels of bacteria, the presence of bacteria alone indicates that the urine is not sterile.

Another small study 2015 examined samples from 52 male and female subjects. The study found that bacteria were naturally present, even in small amounts. On average, 5.8 bacterial species were found in females and 7.1 in males.

But don’t worry if your urine contains bacteria. According to a 2019 research report, your bladder naturally contains a “healthy” amount of bacteria that maintains the integrity of your bladder wall.

While too much bacteria could certainly be harmful, a low level of bacteria is probably protective.

Some people say the urine is sterile because they can drink it in survival scenarios or for its health benefits. If the urine was sterile, it would be less likely to make you sick when you drink it or use it to rinse a wound.

While urine is largely water – about 95 percent – there are still other components present. They understand:

  • urea
  • chloride
  • sodium
  • potassium
  • wastes, including creatinine
  • bacteria in varying amounts

Some people may have other components present in their urine that may indicate an underlying infection or a medical problem. These include protein, red blood cells, and glucose.

A Research report 2016 with animals has been shown that if you need to drink urine, you try to drink it immediately after it leaves your body. This is because urine naturally attracts bacteria due to the humid environment.

If you drink urine quickly, you will probably absorb the least amount of bacteria.

The idea that urine is sterile is not the only myth related to urine. Here are a few more to rest.

Pee on a jellyfish sting

Movies and TV shows have perpetuated the myth that peeing on a jellyfish sting will help reduce painful symptoms. Urine contains compounds like ammonia and urea that can help soothe a jellyfish sting.

But the same Research report 2016 with animals above has shown that you need to balance this with the other components of the urine that could possibly make the jellyfish sting worse.

One of the components of urine includes sodium, which is equivalent to rubbing salt into the wound, as the urine stream could push the jellyfish stings further into the wound. It would be a major ouch.

You’d better treat a jellyfish sting by carefully removing the tentacles, washing them with seawater, and applying an over-the-counter pain reliever ointment.

If you have to rinse the wound with something, seawater would be a better option than urine, although both contain salt.

Cure athlete’s foot with urine

Here’s another surprising myth about urine: that it can cure athlete’s foot. Also known as tinea pedis, athlete’s foot is a fungus that affects the feet and causes itching, peeling of the skin, and redness or discoloration.

The rumor that urine can treat athlete’s foot probably stems from the fact that creams containing urea, a component of urine, can be used to treat athlete’s foot.

But the amount of urea in the urine is not enough to potentially kill the fungus found in athlete’s foot. So this is another urine-related rumor that should be ruled out.

“Urinotherapy” or drinking urine

There are myths that drinking urine can cure everything from hair loss to cancer. However, there is no scientific evidence to support that consuming urine can resolve any of these conditions. Instead, use plain water.

Despite rumors, urine is not a sterile substance. It naturally contains bacteria which make it a non-sterile substance.

While bacteria levels are likely low, it’s important to understand the implications of drinking urine, whether that’s for your health or survival.

Hopefully the situation won’t arise when you need to drink your urine, but now you will have all the information to make the best decision possible.


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