You don’t need to be a scientist to see the toilet queues on a Saturday night, or at an event, to make the link between drinking alcohol and the need to pee. So why exactly does drinking alcohol make us need to pee more than when we drink soft drinks or water?
The Science Behind Why Alcohol Makes You Pee More
“Alcohol is a diuretic,” says Professor Oliver James, Head of Clinical Medical Sciences at Newcastle University. “It acts on the kidneys to make you pee out much more than you take in – which is why you need to go to the toilet so often when you drink.” In fact for every 1g of alcohol drunk, urine excretion increases by 10ml.
Alcohol also reduces the production of a hormone called vasopressin, which tells your kidneys to reabsorb water rather than flush it out through the bladder. With the body’s natural signal switched off, the bladder is free to fill up with fluid.
Dashes To The Toilet
A common side effect of drinking is needing the toilet just five minutes after your last visit. This irritating experience (usually known as ‘breaking the seal’) happens because alcohol delivers a hefty double whammy to your kidneys.
“Suppose you have a pint at lunchtime,” explains Oliver. “At some point you’ll need to go to the toilet and get rid of the pint of liquid you’ve just drunk. Then, an hour later, you’ll have to pee again because of the added diuretic effect.”
Find Time For Water When Drinking Alcohol And Other Tips
With fluid leaving your body so quickly, dehydration can be a big problem. Though it might seem like even more liquid is the last thing you need when you’re having to dash to the gents/ladies, regular sips of water during and after drinking are what you need to keep yourself hydrated.
A few tips can help you manage this unfortunate side effect:
- To keep health risks from alcohol to a low level it is safest not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis. With an addiction, we know this isn’t always possible but it does give you an initial goal to work towards.
- If you regularly drink as much as 14 units per week, it’s best to spread your drinking evenly over three or more days. If you have one or two heavy drinking episodes a week, you increase your risk of death from long-term illness and injuries As well as your mental health and ability to make sound decisions become impaired, meaning you may do or say things you otherwise wouldn’t if you didn’t drink.
- The risk of developing a range of health problems (including cancers of the mouth, throat and breast) increases the more you drink on a regular basis. Another good reason to reduce and/or stop your drinking.
- If you wish to cut down the amount you drink, a good way to help achieve this is to have several alcohol free days a week if possible.
- If you are reducing your alcohol intake for a detox, try using a Drink Diary to ensure you are not drinking more than you think.
- Speak to a Keyworker at a Drug And Alcohol Service or your GP to ensure that any detox is done safely to reduce the risk of seizures, comas or at worst, death.
Alcoholic Drinks With Less Volume Won’t Stop The Need To Pee!
Switching to alcoholic drinks with less volume, such as shots, won’t stem the flow either. That’s because whether you’re drinking pints or doing shots, it’s the diuretic element of the alcohol which is key to producing all that wee.
Does Weeing All The Alcohol Out Of My System Help Prevent A Hangover?
Unfortunately not. Because alcohol promotes peeing, it can lead to dehydration, which causes the nausea and headache associated with bad hangovers. It’s also why your mouth might feel like Sandpaper in the driest place on earth the next day!
What Should I Do If I’m Concerned About My Drinking?
If you’re concerned about your drinking, we’d suggest that you start by contacting your GP or nearest drug and alcohol service for advice. You may not be addicted to alcohol however, having some extra knowledge and advice never hurt anyone!
You can find their contact information along with many other organisations, charities and groups who can help with your drinking if you are concerned. Their contact information can be found on our help & support page here.