Breaking the seal: what makes you need to go

“I’ve broken the seal!” The universal signal for friends to know you’re probably going to be heading to the bathroom every 15-30 minutes for the rest of the day or night if you’re out drinking. While it stands to reason that when you’re drinking more, you need to pee more often, but there are quite a few different factors at play that impact when, why and how often you need to go.

There’s no scientific basis to the idea that once you break the seal you’ll have to pee more often when drinking. However, it’s possible that the idea of breaking the seal in itself causes you to think about going to the toilet more, which in turn has the physiological effect of making you need the toilet.

As a general rule, always go when you need to go. It’s never a good idea to hold it in if your body’s telling you ‘I’ve got to go’ – especially when you’re drinking alcohol because you will need to pee more frequently than if you were just drinking water. Why?

Thank your kidneys

Firstly, alcohol is a fluid (obviously). And your kidneys regulate the level of fluid in your blood. The more fluid you take in, the more fluid your kidneys will tell your body to release. So when drinking you should expect to need to pee the same amount you drink if your kidneys are functioning well.

Don’t overdo it

The second reason why alcohol makes you pee more frequently, is because it’s a diuretic. It inhibits the release of anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) which tells your kidneys to hold on to fluid, so they release even more fluid than needed. This is why alcohol actually dehydrates your body – causing headaches and nausea. In a nutshell, alcohol confuses your body – which is why you pee more than you need to, and don’t feel too good if you overdo it.

Other reasons to go

Apart from alcohol making you need to pee more frequently, there are some other interesting factors that can have a similar effect on your bladder. These include anxiety, cold temperatures and being near running water. Let’s have a quick look at each of those:

Stress and anxiety

When you’re worried or very anxious, your body releases adrenalin as a result of your natural ‘fight or flight’ response to both real and perceived threats. And no one can run their fastest or win a fight when bursting to pee – so your body makes sure you get rid of any excess fluid to make it easier for you to escape (or fight) whatever’s making you worried. Your body’s evolution hasn’t quite caught up yet to understand that fleeing a difficult exam is not really an option 😉

Cold temperatures

Cold temperatures cause your blood vessels to constrict to concentrate blood flow around internal organs and away from the skin, this results in an increase in blood pressure. This means your kidneys are working harder to filter more blood, which results in more urine being produced. (This may also explain why you get a sudden urge to pee when browsing the frozen food section. No? Just me? Alright then.)

Running water

Us humans are very sensitive to the power of suggestion. So this one isn’t complicated. The sound of running water, sounds just like the sound of urinating. And just like Pavlov’s dogs salivating at the sound of the bell, when we hear that familiar sound, it makes us subconsciously (or consciously) think of relieving ourselves, making the physical urge to pee that much stronger. After all this talk of peeing, anyone else now suddenly need to go?