Alcohol and Your Bladder Health

There’s nothing better than kicking back and relaxing with an ice-cold beer or a glass of wine after a long day at work or while celebrating a special event with friends. Like many adults, you probably enjoy an adult beverage from time to time. As long as you’re responsible, partaking in alcoholic beverages really shouldn’t be a cause for concern. In fact, studies show that moderate amounts of alcohol can actually be good for your health.

Alcohol and Your Bladder Health

That’s not to say that alcohol doesn’t pose any dangers. Actually, it’s very well known that drinking alcohol – especially in large quantities over prolonged periods of time – can be very detrimental to your health. Not only do the empty calories get packed onto your waistline, but alcohol can also negatively impact your cardiovascular (heart) health, impair cognitive functions, and decimate your liver and kidneys.

While the adverse effects of heavy alcohol consumption are pretty well-known among the general public, there are other parts of the body that it can impact that you may not be aware of. Unfortunately, drinking large amounts of alcohol on a regular basis can wreak havoc on your bladder and bowels. This can cause a whole host of issues that can impact your body’s elimination processes.

Alcohol’s Impact on the Bladder

Alcohol is a very powerful diuretic. Diuretics help the body rid itself of sodium (salt) and water. In other words, diuretics increase the production of urine, speed up the elimination process, and increase your need to empty your bladder. Most people can recall a time when they were out with friends having a grand old time putting back drinks, only to find themselves doing the pee-pee dance they wait in line to use the bathroom multiple times throughout the night.

While the duration varies from person to person, the average person feels the need to urinate about 4 to 6 times a day. It’s important that when you do go that you make sure you empty your bladder completely. This can help to avoid the development of kidney or urinary tract infections (UTIs). Also, water should make up the majority of the fluids that you drink. If your urine is clear, that indicates that you’re drinking enough water.

Increased Frequency and Urgency

If you drink a lot of alcohol, you’ll find that your need to empty your bladder will increase. Furthermore, when you do eliminate your urine, instead of clear urine, it will have a dark yellow tinge to it, or in some cases be brownish. The yellow color is a sign of dehydration. Brown urine can be a sign of a more serious health issue. Therefore, consult with a urologist immediately if the problem persists.

The bladder is an organ that holds urine until you are ready to release it. Excessive alcohol consumption increases your body’s need to eliminate more urine. Also, overindulgence can impact the health of the bladder. The more urine the organ holds, the more pressure is placed on it. This can lead to serious complications that not only affect the bladder, but that will also impact other organs in the urinary tract.

Problems Associated with Excessive Alcohol Consumption

Urinary tract infections

Alcohol produces concentrated urine. Concentrated urine can do a real number on your kidneys. As that concentrated urine sits in the bladder, it can cause irritation and inflammation on the lining of the bladder. In turn, this can increase the risk of urinary tract infections. Urinary tract infections can then travel to your kidneys, sparking a kidney infection.

Commonly referred to as bladder infections, urinary tract infections cause spasms in the bladder and the urethra. This can result in a painful, burning sensation. It can also make you feel as if you need to empty your bladder more frequently, even when it’s virtually empty. Your urine may also be dark in color, have a cloudy appearance, and have a foul odor. In addition to the unpleasant effects that urinary tract infections can cause, UTIs can impact other parts of the body, too. Lower back pain, headaches, fever, chills, and a feeling of general malaise are some of the other symptoms of urinary tract infections.

Bladder Control Issues

Alcohol consumption can also lead to bladder control issues. As your body produces more urine, you’ll need to empty your bladder more frequently. Holding large quantities of concentrated urine for prolonged periods of time can weaken the bladder. This can result in unintentional leakage of urine. Alcohol can impair the signals that the brain sends to the rest of the body, including the bladder, which can confuse your bladder. For example, you may think you have to go when you actually don’t, and conversely, you may not realize that your bladder is full and needs to be emptied. This can lead to accidental leakage.

The Bottom Line

The urinary tract plays a vital role in your overall health and well-being. While drinking alcohol on occasion is generally considered safe, drinking excessively can ravage the bladder and the kidneys. Alcohol in excess can cause a host of unpleasant and potentially serious side effects. To avoid the risk of these issues, monitor your alcohol intake, and drink responsibly.

Additional Information: Facts about Aging and Alcohol (National Institute on Aging)

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