What follows is more than you could possibly want to know about thirst; please read with caution! :)

Bodily fluid can be divided into four major categories. Intracellular fluid, the fluid portion of cytoplasm, makes up about 67% of all bodily fluids. The remaining fluid types are extracellular, and include intravascular fluid (a.k.a. blood plasma), cerebrospinal fluid, and interstitial fluid (the fluid found around the outside of your cells). Thirst is the result of either the loss of one of these fluids, or from an increase in the concentration of salts in one of the fluids. Depending on the cause of the thirst, most fluid-seeking behavior can be categorized as either osmometric thirst or volumetric thirst.

Osmometric thirst -- Osmometric thirst occurs when the concentration of salts in the interstitial fluid is greater than that inside the cells, resulting in the movement of intracellular water outside of the cell by osmosis. An example of something that would cause osmometric thirst is eating salty food; the sodium from the meal is absorbed into the bloodstream, which causes water to move from the interstitial fluid into the blood plasma, putting an osmotic strain on the cells. The loss of intracellular water causes the cells to shrink. In turn, this shrinkage changes the firing rate of specialized neurons, resulting in the secretion of vasopressin, which reduces water excretion (way to go, kidneys!). The body must have water to excrete in order to rid itself of nitrogenous wastes, so the reduction in water excretion causes fluid-seeking behavior.

Volumetric thirst -- Volumetric thirst happens when the volume of blood plasma decreases. This can be the result of blood loss (of course), vomiting, diarrhea and other similar things. Said fluid losses result in hypovolemia, a state in which your heart is unable to pump blood effectively because of loss of blood pressure. Groups of receptor cells in the kidneys detect decreases in blood flow, and stimulate the secretion of renin. Renin converts a protein in the blood into the hormone angiotensin, which stimulates the secretion of vasopressin (see above) and aldosterone, which prevents the kidneys from excreting salt. This results in a salt appetite. Volumetric thirst causes fluid- and salt-seeking behaviors. A second set of receptors in the heart can detect loss of blood volume, and causes fluid-seeking behavior directly, circumventing the whole kidney system.

There is one other circumstance in which fluid-seeking behavior commonly occurs that is not associated with physiological thirst. Food-related, or prandial drinking is fluid consumption that occurs before thirst occurs, in anticipation of the need for fluids. This type of fluid-seeking behavior seems to involve angiotensin and histamine.

More than you could possibly want to know about thirst has been brought to you by: Physiology of Behavior, 6th edition, 1998. Neil R. Carlson, the letter L, and the number 12.

Thirst, a sensation resulting from a peculiar state of the system, but especially of the mucous membrane of the fauces, usually caused by an insufficient supply of liquid. In cases of extreme thirst there is a peculiar state of clamminess in the mouth and pharynx, which, with the other disagreeable feelings, is almost immediately relieved by the introduction of liquid into the stomach, where it is absorbed by the veins. That the thirst is relieved by the absorption of the fluid, and not by its action as it passes over the mucous membrane, which seems to suffer most, is proved by the facts (1) that injection of liquids into the stomach through a tube (in cases of wounded œsophagus), and (2) the injection of thin fluids, as water, into the blood, remove the sensation of thirst.

Entry from Everybody's Cyclopedia, 1912.

In my recent studies, I chanced across Psalm 143:5-6:

I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands.

I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land. Selah.
This mention of thirsting ("thirstething?") after that which is desired reminded me that "Thirst" is the name of the twenty-fourth chapter of the Dhammapada, relaying the lessons of the Buddha (as translated by Max Muller), and in this case especially, relaying that most vital lesson of how we are deceived by our desires to pursue things of no value, forsaking all that really is of value:

334. The thirst of a thoughtless man grows like a creeper; he runs from life to life, like a monkey seeking fruit in the forest.

335. Whomsoever this fierce thirst overcomes, full of poison, in this world, his sufferings increase like the abounding Birana grass.

336. He who overcomes this fierce thirst, difficult to be conquered in this world, sufferings fall off from him, like water-drops from a lotus leaf.

337. This salutary word I tell you, 'Do ye, as many as are here assembled, dig up the root of thirst, as he who wants the sweet-scented Usira root must dig up the Birana grass, that Mara (the tempter) may not crush you again and again, as the stream crushes the reeds.'

338. As a tree, even though it has been cut down, is firm so long as its root is safe, and grows again, thus, unless the feeders of thirst are destroyed, this pain will return again and again.

339. He whose thirst running towards pleasure is exceeding strong in the thirty-six channels, the waves will carry away that misguided man, viz. his desires which are set on passion.

340. The channels run everywhere, the creeper (of passion) stands sprouting; if you see the creeper springing up, cut its root by means of knowledge.

341. A creature's pleasures are extravagant and luxurious; sunk in lust and looking for pleasure, men undergo (again and again) birth and decay.

342. Men, driven on by thirst, run about like a snared hare; held in fetters and bonds, they undergo pain for a long time, again and again.

343. Men, driven on by thirst, run about like a snared hare; let therefore the mendicant drive out thirst, by striving after passionlessness for himself.

344. He who having got rid of the forest (of lust, having reached Nirvawa) gives himself over to forest-life (to lust), and who, when removed from the forest (from lust), runs to the forest (to lust), look at that man!! though free, he runs into bondage.

345. Wise people do not call that a strong fetter which is made of iron, wood, or hemp; far stronger is the care for precious stones and rings, for sons and a wife.

346. That fetter wise people call strong which drags down, yields, but is difficult to undo; after having cut this at last, people leave the world, free from cares, and leaving desires and pleasures behind.

347. Those who are slaves to passions, run down with the stream (of desires), as a spider runs down the web which he has made himself; when they have cut this, at last, wise people leave the world, free from cares, leaving all affection behind.

348. Give up what is before, give up what is behind, give up what is in the middle, when thou goest to the other shore of existence; if thy mind is altogether free, thou wilt not again enter into birth and decay.

349. If a man is tossed about by doubts, full of strong passions, and yearning only for what is delightful, his thirst will grow more and more, and he will indeed make his fetters strong.

350. If a man delights in quieting doubts, and, always reflecting, dwells on what is not delightful (the impurity of the body, &c), he certainly will remove, nay, he will cut the fetter of Mara.

351. He who has reached the consummation, who does not tremble, who is without thirst and without sin, he has broken all the thorns of life: this will be his last body.

352. He who is without thirst and without affection, who understands the words and their interpretation, who knows the order of letters (those which are before and which are after), he has received his last body, he is called the great sage, the great man.

353. 'I have conquered all, I know all, in all conditions of life I am free from taint; I have left all, and through the destruction of thirst I am free; having learnt myself, whom shall I teach?'

354. The gift of the law exceeds all gifts; the sweetness of the law exceeds all sweetness; the delight in the law exceeds all delights; the extinction of thirst overcomes all pain.

355. Pleasures destroy the foolish, if they look not for the other shore; the foolish by his thirst for pleasures destroys himself, as if he were his own enemy.

356. The fields are damaged by weeds, mankind is damaged by passion: therefore a gift bestowed on the passionless brings great reward.

357. The fields are damaged by weeds, mankind is damaged by hatred: therefore a gift bestowed on those who do not hate brings great reward.

358. The fields are damaged by weeds, mankind is damaged by vanity: therefore a gift bestowed on those who are free from vanity brings great reward.

359. The fields are damaged by weeds, mankind is damaged by lust: therefore a gift bestowed on those who are free from lust brings great reward.


Though there would appear at first glance to be some distance between the moral discernments of the pandeistic model and certain aspects of Buddhist thought, I think them reconcilable -- but those are suitable to be addressed another time. And I will leave it at that, for who am I to add to the words of the Buddha?

Born in the lowest strata of society, he begged on the streets in the earliest years of his youth. He joined the military later on, rose through the ranks and finally became the ruler of an entire continent and won the admiration and respect of countless people across the globe.

In his death bed, upon being asked about the despair on his face, he replied: "The imminent death does not bother me. I had grand plans in life, and most of them were great successes. But, an incident far across time still haunts me, a thirst, an unfulfilled desire. None of my biographies talk about it and I have not told anyone."

"I was a nobody, a beggar. At the same, I was a king because I loved a beautiful woman. I loved her more than anything, anybody else. I had no home, no roof above me. I was alone in this universe. I was wandering without any means for food and without hope. One day, in the afternoon, tired after walking for miles in the scorching sunlight, I went to my beloved's house - not for words of love, but for a glass of water. Her response was a bark: "This is not a place for beggars". I said with a heavy heart, " I cannot walk a bit, I just need a glass of water." She drove me away. I could hear her muttering to herself, " What a fucking nuisance, how do people become such good for nothings, these idiots should hang themselves." And then she turned around and said, "Get out."

I could not forget this incident, but somehow she managed to not remember it later. When I became powerful later on, when I had no difficulty getting anything, she came to me with her love. She was ready to give me anything, not just a glass of water. She died as one of the richest women in the country.

But, when I was madly in love with her - my love bordering on devotion, she could not quench my thirst with a glass of water. Nobody could suggest a rememdy for that thirst, something which anybody could have solved with a glass of water."

When he died, one could see the same despair on his face.

When I asked the person who told me this incident about the moral of the story, he just shrugged and said, "Oh nothing, just a memory."

Thirst (?), n. [OE. thirst, þurst, AS. þurst, þyrst; akin to D. dorst, OS. thurst, G. durst, Icel. þorsti, Sw. & Dan. torst, Goth. þa�xa3;rstei thirst, þa�xa3;rsus dry, withered, þa�xa3;rsieþ mik I thirst, gaþa�xa1;rsan to wither, L. torrere to parch, Gr. te`rsesqai to become dry, tesai`nein to dry up, Skr. t&rsdot;sh to thirst. 54. Cf. Torrid.]


A sensation of dryness in the throat associated with a craving for liquids, produced by deprivation of drink, or by some other cause (as fear, excitement, etc.) which arrests the secretion of the pharyngeal mucous membrane; hence, the condition producing this sensation.

Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us, and our children . . . with thirst? Ex. xvii. 3.

With thirst, with cold, with hunger so confounded. Chaucer.


Fig.: A want and eager desire after anything; a craving or longing; -- usually with for, of, or after; as, the thirst for gold.

"Thirst of worldy good." Fairfax. "The thirst I had of knowledge." Milton.


© Webster 1913.

Thirst, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Thirsted; p. pr. & vb. n. Thirsting.] [AS. yrstan. See Thirst, n.]


To feel thirst; to experience a painful or uneasy sensation of the throat or fauces, as for want of drink.

The people thirsted there for water. Ex. xvii. 3.


To have a vehement desire.

My soul thirsteth for . . . the living God. Ps. xlii. 2.


© Webster 1913.

Thirst, v. t.

To have a thirst for.


He seeks his keeper's flesh, and thirsts his blood. Prior.


© Webster 1913.

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