Consider this a must-read before your next happy hour. (Photo: Corbis)
Ever downed a few beers at happy hour, gone to the bathroom, and then felt like you had to pee every five minutes after that? That first trip to the bathroom is what some people call “breaking the seal.” In other words, you were doing fine until you made that initial bathroom run — and now it’s like your bladder fills up again in a matter of minutes.
But does that first bathroom break really set in motion this cycle of repeatedly having to pee? Yes and no.
To set the record straight, “breaking the seal” isn’t a true medical phenomenon.
But —you’re not imaging things if it feels like those beers are affecting your bladder. They are.
Here’s what’s going on: “Alcohol is a diuretic, so it makes you excrete fluids and urinate more frequently,” Craig Comiter, a urologist at Stanford Health Care, tells Yahoo Health. “But unlike medical diuretics like water pills, which work on the kidneys by forcing the fluid out of you in order to lower blood pressure or get rid of excess fluid, alcohol suppresses a hormone called the antidiuretic hormone, or ADH.”
Related: What Your Pee Says About You
Comiter points out that with alcohol you have a one-two punch: You’re both ingesting more fluid and you’re shutting down your body’s natural anti-diuretic hormone, so you have more water loss than usual compared to, say, guzzling just water. “If you drink 12 ounces of beer, you lose more than 12 ounces of fluid because you’re excreting extra water,” he explains.
Although a single beer may not sound like much, a full bladder typically only holds about 10 to 15 ounces of fluid, according to Comiter. All of that excess liquid adds up quickly, which is why alcohol makes you pee frequently and in large volumes.
That fluid loss is also why drinking alcohol is dehydrating — something that contributes to that next-day hangover. “You should have water with alcohol so you don’t become dehydrated,” suggests Comiter.
It’s also worth noting that coffee and tea have a similar but less potent anti-diuretic effect as alcohol. But as Comiter points out, we tend to sip these hot beverages over time, rather than chugging several in a row as we do with alcohol at happy hour.
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