Dr. Susie Gronski


Debunking The Myth of "Breaking The Seal"

Good Ol' St. Patty's Day! A day filled with shimmering shamrocks, laughter, fun, and for most, drinking. Unfortunately drinking comes hand in hand with waiting in those agonizing long bathroom lines. How many of you have ever used the excuse of breaking the seal on a night out disrupted by endless trips to the bathroom? 

Before becoming a pelvic floor therapist, I always thought this myth was true. I spent many countless nights trying my hardest not to break the seal for fear of spending the rest of the night waiting in line for the ladies room just to empty my bladder. I'll be damned if I broke the seal! As I became wiser, I realized there was no such thing as a seal. No magical little Leprechaun controlling the flood gates of my bladder. It was all a myth! 

Alcohol acts like a diuretic. A diuretic is any substance that increases the production of urine. The kidneys are responsible for maintaining a good balance between volume and consumption of fluid, i.e. helps maintain a stable blood pressure. Alcohol acts on the kidneys by suppressing a hormone called vasopressin. Vasopressin is an antidiuretic hormone (ADH) which tells the kidneys that it's ok to reabsorb fluids, thus concentrating urine. Alcohol creates an immediate game changer. It can produce urine flow in a matter of 20 minutes! Alcohol signals a response to the brain to temporarily override vasopressin, which makes the kidneys work harder by pumping out more fluid instead of reabsorbing it back into the body. This creates more water-diluted urine causing the bladder to fill up more quickly. 

So, why you can hold it just fine until your first trip to the bathroom?

It takes a while for your system to dampen vasopressin which buys you some time to guzzle down a few more drinks. By the time you tinkle, the kidneys are already ramped up making it seem like you have to pee every 15 min after your initial trip to the bathroom. Interestingly enough, the older you get the more you can overcome the suppression of this hormone, meaning that you can probably hold your pee a lot longer than your 20 something counterparts. Go ahead, test it out! It might make for a great drinking game. 

Alcohol, coffee, carbonated beverages (i.e. soda), and all that sugar used in those frou-frou drinks are also major bladder irritants. The bladder is richly innervated with nerves and blood vessels which can make it highly sensitive to alcohol, spicy foods and caffeine for some people. 

How can you optimize your bladder fitness?

  • Avoid going "just in case"- if you didn't pee for at least an 8 Mississippi count, you probably didn't have to go yet
  • Pee every 3-4hrs - the bladder can hold up to 2 cups of urine; no sweat!
  • Sip, don't chug water - you need time for your kidneys to reabsorb the fluids, otherwise you'll be peeing in 20 min
  • Don't hover over the toilet. This means you ladies!
  • Minimize bladder irritants, which can include: coffee, tea, carbonated drinks, chocolate, spicy food
  • Make sure you're pooping regularly - constipation can add to increased pressure on the bladder causing it to go haywire
  • Pee before and after sex - for those that enjoy anal sex, don't double dip. Try to eliminate contact from anus to vagina.  It's no fun dealing with a urinary tract infection because of E.coli.
  • Orgasm! Yes, you read that right! Orgasming helps strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, flushes out toxins, decreases pelvic congestion, releases feel good neurotransmitters, improves sleep and even enhances your memory!

As you raise your glass of Guinness, remember may your well never go dry for alcohol will override and the bladder will squeeze to supply. Cheers!