- Drinking alcohol prompts us to visit the toilet more often. Scientists have identified why we pee with increased frequency then. One of the hormones, ADH, is responsible.
- Alcohol reduces the activity of ADH and as a result, after a few pints of beer or a drink we have to empty our bladder
- The situation is worsened by some drinks, e.g. rum and cola, because the caffeine in cola is a diuretic
- Alcohol does not only cause urinary urgency. Any drink with alcohol can affect the body, especially in large quantities
The effects of alcohol on the bladder are very real
A diuretic is a substance that makes us feel the need to urinate. As the name ‘antidiuretic hormone’ suggests, ADH inhibits this effect, preventing us from peeing. ADH is a neuropeptide hormone that is produced in the hypothalamus, in the brain.
When we need to urinate less – for example, to stop dehydration or prevent bedwetting, ADH comes to the rescue. The hormone is released from the pituitary gland, allowing the kidneys to reabsorb more water and reduce the amount of urine.
Alcohol spoils this effect and inhibits the release of ADH. Many studies indicate that this is caused by the fact that ethanol reduces the activity of calcium channels in pituitary neurons, which in turn reduces the release of ADH. This means that when we consume alcohol, we lack ADH to stop the urinary urge induced by a cocktail or a pint of beer.
Alcohol and caffeine are a poor combination
The volume of fluids we drink also matters, of course, as we rarely end up with just one beer. In addition, the lack of ADH activity does not help when that fluid is alcohol, which translates into frequent toilet use.
This is exacerbated by certain drinks, e.g. rum and cola, because caffeine is a diuretic which, combined with reduced levels of antidiuretic hormone, has an even stronger effect on our bladder.
Alcohol irritates the bladder in a similar way to caffeine. It can also affect the detrusor muscle in the bladder wall, which contracts to let the urine out. Drinking too much alcohol and caffeine, e.g. in the form of coffee, is a known factor in causing excessive contraction of the detrusor muscles, leading to an urgent need to urinate.
Why does the urge to pee continuously occur after several rounds rather than immediately after the first drink? The point is that blood alcohol levels can rise up to 40 minutes after the last drink.
About 20 per cent of alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream through the stomach. The rest is absorbed by the small intestine, which has a larger surface area and therefore does so more quickly. However, alcohol needs more time to reach this area due to the closure of the pyloric sphincter.
The impact of alcohol on our health
It is worth remembering that there is no such thing as alcohol that is safe for health. Regardless of the ‘strength’ of the drink in question, any alcoholic beverage can negatively affect the body.
Alcohol can be an insidious stimulant and even small amounts consumed regularly can cause certain risks. It affects not only the possibility of addiction, but also our health and well-being. The list of diseases linked to alcohol consumption includes liver cirrhosis and cancer, as well as depression, obesity or heart problems.
Although some experts recommend small amounts of red wine because of its health-promoting properties, it is worth taking a close look at the consequences associated with alcohol consumption. Sometimes even small amounts of liquor can cause us problems or inconveniences. One of these is precisely the fact that alcohol consumption prompts us to visit the toilet frequently.