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Why Does Alcohol Cause Frequent Urination?

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Many people who drink agree that alcohol use results in frequent urination. Although the precise mechanisms are not fully understood, several factors could contribute to this effect. While any fluid will inevitably need to be expelled after consumption, alcohol has additional effects that could increase urine production. 

Frequent urination is not the only consequence of drinking. Long-term alcohol misuse or dependence can cause many complications related to the excretory system, such as kidney damage, kidney stones, urinary tract infections, and bladder inflammation. 

If you have experienced alcohol-related urinary or excretory system issues, discontinuing alcohol use is the most effective way to prevent further problems. If you’ve tried to stop drinking and found it challenging to do so alone, you might need professional help. At Guardian Recovery, we offer evidence-based treatment programs designed to meet your unique needs and goals. Contact us today to learn more.

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Alcohol & Frequent Urination

There are a few ways in which alcohol consumption can increase urine output. This includes alcohol’s diuretic properties, which reduce the body’s ability to absorb water. Also, alcohol attracts water and pulls it from the body when it’s eliminated through urine.

The Myth of Breaking the Seal

“Breaking the seal” is a commonly used phrase to describe why a person might urinate more often after the first time they use the bathroom. This may be true, but it is not based on the fact that avoiding urination will ultimately reduce bathroom breaks later.

While “the seal” is more or less a figure of speech, some believe there’s an actual cap on the bladder that allows urine to pour out once opened. The myth suggests that you won’t have such a pressing need to use the bathroom later. However, holding your urine won’t cause your body to make less urine or change how much you need to urinate after drinking.

When you consume fluid, your body will use some and lose some of what you drink. But there is only so much liquid your body can process, and the remainder is sent to the bladder to be expelled through urine. So, when your bladder is forced to empty, it has nothing to do with a seal. Instead, it’s about space and pressure in the bladder, possibly combined with other factors.

Alcohol Is a Diuretic

Drinking mass amounts of any liquid will ultimately lead to urination, and alcohol does have other properties that can amplify this effect. One reason is alcohol is a diuretic, thereby boosting urine production. When processed by enzymes in the liver, alcohol is converted into a considerable amount of the byproduct acetaldehyde, which can be toxic in high doses.

Vasopressin is a hormone and antidiuretic the body produces to facilitate water absorption. Drinking alcohol inhibits its release, causing the body to absorb less water. This results in more urine being produced than usual, and the body will also lose extra water to keep up with increased urine production. 

Alcohol Attracts Water

Another reason why urination can increase after drinking is due to osmolality. While most alcohol is expelled as the liver metabolizes it, a small amount will be eliminated in urine. Alcohol is osmotic, meaning it binds molecularly to water. Because some alcohol is eliminated through urine, alcohol will pull water from the body as the kidneys produce urine. The effects of osmolality cause increased production of urine while consuming alcohol.

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Long-Term Urinary Effects of Alcohol

Binge drinking can cause alcohol to accumulate in the body. Alcohol produces harmful byproducts that pass through the kidneys. If the kidneys can’t filter these through urine efficiently, it can cause a backlog, leading to inflammation and infection. If an infection goes untreated, this can result in potentially life-threatening sepsis.

Other long-term effects of heavy drinking on the excretory system include kidney stones, urinary tract infections, and bladder and GI tract inflammation.

Kidney Damage & Failure

Alcohol can cause kidney damage, and excessive drinking can dramatically increase the risk of kidney disease. Dehydration can cause kidney damage, as do the toxic chemicals alcohol introduces because the kidneys work harder to filter them. Although staying hydrated can reduce kidney damage risk, this might be challenging to do while consuming more than one or two drinks.

Preventing Long-Term Kidney Damage Caused by Alcohol

That said, drinking water frequently during alcohol use can decrease the risk of long-term kidney damage. Experts recommend drinking twice the amount of water compared to the amount of alcohol consumed. Doing this can reduce stress on the kidneys due to dehydration and dilute the toxic byproducts alcohol produces.

Unfortunately, keeping hydrated may not be enough to prevent kidney damage and the long-term urinary changes caused by regular use. Discontinuing alcohol use is the only way to effectively avoid kidney damage, which will lessen the stress on these organs.

The Bladder & Alcohol

On average, most people empty their bladder 4-6 times daily. Ensuring it’s expelled completely can prevent kidney and bladder infections. Ideally, your urine will be clear if you’ve drunk enough water. Consuming alcohol, however, can lead to dehydration due to excess urine production. 

It can also lead to more concentrated urine, which can appear dark yellow or brown. This can irritate the bladder and raise the risk of a urinary tract infection. Alcohol-related bladder irritation can exacerbate preexisting conditions, such as UTIs, bladder pain, incontinence, or interstitial cystitis

Determining if You Need Treatment for Alcohol Misuse

Excessive drinking can result in dependence and lead to an alcohol use disorder. Although this condition can be severe and persist as long as a person allows it, it is very treatable. In addition, many health complications caused by its misuse can be reversed or prevented.

Signs & Symptoms of Alcoholism Include:

  • Regularly drinking more than initially intended.
  • Being unable to quit drinking once started.
  • Having cravings for alcohol and urges to drink.
  • Having tried multiple times to cut back or quit but being unable to do so.
  • Spending considerable time drinking or recovering from its effects.
  • Allowing alcohol to be prioritized over career, family, or academics.
  • Giving up social activities or hobbies once considered important or enjoyable to drink.
  • Continuing to drink despite adverse health, emotional, social, financial, or legal issues.
  • Developing tolerance and needing to consume increasing amounts to achieve the desired effects.
  • Experiencing unpleasant withdrawal effects after discontinuing use, such as depression, anxiety, shakiness, nausea and vomiting, and loss of appetite.
  • Engaging in risky, impulsive, dangerous behavior such as unsafe sex, drunk driving, or thrill-seeking.

If you have experienced the above effects, you may have an alcohol use disorder than requires long-term intensive and individualized treatment. When you stop drinking and enter recovery, your body will be positively impacted, and your excretory system will have a chance to heal.

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If you have encountered excretory system-related problems and you suspect you have an alcohol use disorder, Guardian Recovery can help. When you contact us, you will speak with an experienced Treatment Advisor who can help you determine what level of care is appropriate for your unique circumstances. Our treatment team will design a customized care plan to address all aspects of your addiction and provide you with the tools you need to promote long-lasting sobriety. 

Facets of our comprehensive programs include medical detox and inpatient, partial hospitalization, and outpatient levels of care. We will provide you with a free, no-obligation assessment and health insurance benefits check. If you’re ready to break free from addiction for good, we can help you get started on the road to recovery and reclaim the healthy and fulfilling life you deserve.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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