Drinking alcohol can have a diuretic effect by inhibiting an antidiuretic hormone called vasopressin. Without vasopressin, the bladder fills up more rapidly, causing frequent urination.

Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it increases urine production. When people drink high quantities of alcohol, it can cause the kidneys to filter more fluids and get rid of them by making the body urinate more frequently.

This article explains the link between alcohol and urination, how to avoid frequent urination, and how to stay hydrated.

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Osmolality describes the ratio of particles in the blood to fluid. If a person has more fluid than particles, the kidneys release more urine.

When a person drinks alcohol, the alcohol inhibits the body’s release of a hormone called vasopressin, also known as antidiuretic hormone (ADH).

Generally, the brain responds to an increase in particles over fluids by signaling the release of ADH. ADH then tells the kidneys to hold on to the liquid.

By inhibiting ADH, alcohol causes the kidneys to release more water, causing a dehydration effect. It can also cause headaches and nausea.

‘Breaking the seal’: What is it and is it real?

“Breaking the seal” is a myth that once a person urinates while drinking alcohol, they will have to go repeatedly.

There is no urinary seal, but it is true that a person will urinate more often if they are drinking alcohol.

The following factors can affect how often a person needs to urinate when they drink alcohol:

  • Alcohol strength: A 2017 study that investigated the diuretic effect of varying alcoholic beverages indicates that a person’s urine output increases when drinking stronger alcoholic drinks, such as spirits, compared with when consuming nonalcoholic beverages.
  • How often a person drinks: When a person consumes alcohol regularly, the body gets used to the presence of alcohol. Meaning, that the more often a person drinks, the less alcohol will have a diuretic effect.
  • Hydration levels before consuming alcohol: According to a 2010 study involving 12 males, those who were slightly less hydrated before drinking alcohol urinated less than those who were hydrated, even when drinking the same quantities of alcohol.

Generally, the diuretic effect of alcohol lasts up to 4 hours, but this may depend on the type of alcoholic beverage a person consumes.

Although various factors affect how often a person urinates after alcohol consumption, people can manage frequent urination by:

  • Drinking alcoholic drinks with lower amounts of alcohol: An example is drinking a glass of wine instead of a cocktail containing spirits.
  • Consuming alcohol in moderation: When people consume less alcohol, they are less likely to feel the urge to urinate.

Drinking excess amounts of alcohol can cause sleepiness or even blackouts. When this happens, a person’s bladder continues to fill up even while asleep.

However, they may not wake up when the bladder signals to the brain that it is time to urinate.

Why a person might wet the bed after drinking alcohol

The National Association for Continence explains that alcohol alone does not cause frequent urination. However, because it is a diuretic, it increases urine production and can raise the chance of bedwetting, particularly in adults with incontinence issues.

How to avoid it

The best way to avoid alcohol-related bedwetting is by drinking alcohol in moderation or using the bathroom before sleeping to ensure the bladder is empty.

A moderate amount of alcohol is one to two drinks per adult.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines one drink as:

  • 12 ounces (oz) of regular beer
  • 5 oz of wine
  • 1.5 oz of distilled spirits such as rum, brandy, or gin

Staying hydrated when drinking alcohol is one of the best ways to avoid dehydration.

How alcohol affects hydration

Alcohol is a diuretic. If a person does not drink enough water with alcohol, they can become dehydrated very quickly.

How to stay hydrated when drinking alcohol

It is possible to stay hydrated when drinking alcohol by drinking at least one glass of water for each serving of alcohol.

Drinking hydrating beverages such as herbal teas, milk, and coconut water and eating fruits and vegetables with a high water content can help a person stay hydrated.

Here are some frequently asked questions about alcohol and urination:

Does urinating make a person less drunk?

Once alcohol enters the bloodstream, there is no way of making a person less drunk. A person must wait for the alcohol to pass through the digestive system.

Is there a specific type of alcohol that makes a person need to urinate more frequently?

Some alcoholic beverages, such as liquors and wine, have higher amounts of alcohol than drinks such as beer and may have a stronger diuretic effect.

However, other factors, such as a person’s hydration levels, can also affect how often they urinate.

How does alcohol lead to kidney damage and what are the first signs of kidney damage?

According to the National Kidney Foundation, regular consumption of alcohol can double the risk of kidney disease or kidney damage, even without excessive drinking. The first signs of kidney damage include:

  • swelling of the feet and legs due to fluid retention
  • numbness or tingling in the fingers or toes
  • loss of appetite
  • metallic taste in the mouth

Alcohol makes people urinate more because it is a diuretic. A person can limit the need to urinate while drinking by limiting their alcohol intake to one to two drinks.

It is also essential to be mindful of hydration levels when drinking.