Most of us assume that, if we’re feeling extra thirsty, we just need to drink more H2O. After all, water makes up an estimated 60 percent of our body and plays a key role in the proper functioning of every muscle, organ, and individual cell we have. However, dehydration is not the only reason you might feel thirsty all the time.
“It’s normal to feel thirsty on a particularly hot day, while you’re exercising or eating something spicy, but if you’re constantly refilling your glass without relief, you could have an underlying condition,” warns Niket Sonpal, M.D., board-certified internist and gastroenterologist
Plus, thirst isn’t always a reliable indicator of hydration status, especially in infants and the elderly, adds Rusha Modi, M.D., assistant professor of Clinical Medicine at USC’s Keck School of Medicine. “Regular, frequent, clear urination, lucid thinking, and regular energy are general signs that you can be well hydrated,” he says. If you are dehydrated, you’ll likely experience dark or infrequent urine, headaches, confusion, fatigue, and joint aches—not just thirst.
That said, if you’re feeling thirsty all the time and don’t believe you are dehydrated, there are a few other possible reasons why.
1. You have diabetes
An estimated 34.2 million Americans—just over 1 in 10—have diabetes, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (New cases in people younger than 20 years old have increased in the last decade.)
“Either type 1 (lack of insulin production) or type 2 (insulin resistance) can cause notable thirst,” explains Modi. “The high amount of sugar in the bloodstream forces the body to work harder to clear it—especially via the urine. This ‘pulls’ water from tissues in the process, thereby causing thirst.” In fact, feeling thirsty all the time has helped many people identify that they have diabetes.
If you think you might be at risk for diabetes, discuss your symptoms with your healthcare provider. They can run blood tests to confirm the diagnosis.
2. Your diet contains too much sodium
The saltier a food is, the thirstier it makes you—even if you’ve had enough water. “When there’s too much sodium, our kidneys try to remove the excess through urination, which leads to a loss of fluids and explains excessive thirst,” says Sonpal.
Some seemingly healthy foods (like canned fish or those veggie “chicken” nuggets you love so much) may actually be overflowing with sodium—even if they don’t taste salty.
Check nutrition labels and stick to the CDC‘s recommendation to consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day.
3. You’re eating a lot of spicy food
In addition to setting your tongue on fire, spicy food can make you feel thirsty. This is because of capsaicin, the main constituent of spicy foods, explains Toronto-based naturopathic practitioner Rachel Corradetti, N.D. “Capsaicin impacts a nervous receptor in your body that is also activated by increases in body temperature,” she says. “Spicy foods, therefore, make you feel hotter, and your body up-regulates its thirst sensation in order to cool you down.”
4. It’s a side effect of medication you’re taking
Some medications (including lithium, certain antipsychotics, and diuretics) list excessive thirst as a side effect, explains Sonpal.
If you think your prescription may be causing your thirstiness, reach out to your general practitioner, he says. You may be able to switch to a different medicine that doesn’t come with this undesirable side effect.
5. You suffer from dry mouth
Dry mouth (a.k.a. xerostomia) occurs when the salivary glands in your mouth don’t produce enough saliva to keep your mouth moist. As a result, sufferers experience a sensation of dry mouth and constant thirst.
While xerostomia can be linked to some medications, it can indicate diseases like Sjogren’s syndrome and certain cancers that impact salivary glands, Corradetti says.
6. You’re pregnant
One of the lesser-known side effects of pregnancy—especially in the early weeks and months—is excessive thirst. “In the first trimester, your blood volume increases, forcing your kidneys to create excess fluid that winds up in your bladder,” says Sonpal. “Some of the other common symptoms, such as nausea and morning sickness, can lead to mild dehydration and thirst.”
It’s recommended that pregnant women drink somewhere between eight and 12 glasses of water each day—about two glasses more than the average adult.
7. You’re anemic
Low blood counts, also known as anemia (which affects about three million Americans each year), are yet another potential reason you feel thirsty all the time. This issue can be the result of a myriad of health issues, including intestinal bleeding, nutritional deficiencies, or even cancer, warns Modi.
Read More: 6 Signs You’re Not Getting Enough Iron
“If someone is persistently thirsty and has other symptoms, such as unexplained weight loss, lightheadedness, or vomiting, they should seek medical attention,” he says.
8. You sweat a LOT
If you sweat more than the average person (whether as a result of exercise or not), you will likely feel thirstier than normal. “Sweating causes a constant loss of water by evaporation, which is another form of extracellular dehydration,” says Corradetti.
In order to rehydrate, Corradetti recommends filling up on a combo of water and electrolytes. “These beverages contain a balance of sodium and potassium that can help bring your blood volume back to appropriate levels,” she explains.
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