There’s nothing quite like relaxing with a glass of wine after a long day, right? Not if your bladder has anything to say about it! Alcohol is considered a bladder irritant, meaning that ‘relaxing’ glass of wine could actually be the reason you’re running to the bathroom every 20 minutes!
For some people, discovering that alcohol is the cause of your bladder problems may just be a slight inconvenience. It could simply mean making a few extra trips to the bathroom during a night out. But for others with existing bladder issues like incontinence, urgency, or frequency, it can be a night-ruiner! The level of irritation to the bladder or amount of symptoms you experience can depend on the type of beverage, how much you consume, and your own bladder!
If you experience incontinence, check out our free guide!
Can Alcohol Cause Bladder Problems?
There are a few reasons that the bladder gets irritated in the presence of alcohol. One is due to the increased acidity of your beverage of choice. Specifically, wine, beer, and mixed drinks with soda are going to be especially irritating to the bladder walls. This can lead to those pesky bladder problems.
Alcohol is also considered a diuretic which means it will tell your body to eliminate more fluid by increasing the urge and amount of times you urinate. It could also result in more urinary leakage due to the increased amount of fluid filling your bladder. It has been shown that wine and liquor tend to have the most diuretic effect when compared to other drink options1.
Beyond making more trips to the bathroom, alcohol can also cause dehydration. Dehydration causes your urine to become very concentrated, which increases its acidity and further irritates the bladder. Not to mention, dehydration can cause those less-than-pleasant headaches the day after drinking!
Should I cut out all alcohol?
Based on all the reasons listed above, it's clear that alcohol can cause bladder problems. And you may be wondering if you should give up alcohol entirely? While eliminating alcohol altogether can be beneficial for your overall health, it’s not always realistic. If being able to grab a drink with a friend or enjoy your favorite beverage is important to you, then you don’t have to eliminate it entirely. Instead, here are a few tips for how to minimize some of the bladder problems from alcohol:
- Make sure to stay hydrated every day by drinking approximately half your body weight in fluid ounces, with the majority of it coming from plain water. It's especially important on days you intend to indulge in a drink or two!
- Alternate an alcoholic drink with a glass of water. This will keep your bladder happier and also dilute the more acidic beverages so they aren’t as irritating to the bladder wall.
- Avoid mixing alcohol with other known bladder irritants! This includes carbonated, sugary, or caffeinated drinks.
- Limit yourself to a max of 4 alcoholic beverages per week2. This will reduce the amount of irritation in your bladder as well as the amount of overall inflammation throughout your whole body!
- Use serving sizes!! This can help you limit yourself to that 4 drinks per week plan as well as help you visualize what one serving actually looks like: Wine: 5 oz.; Beer: 12 oz.; Liquor: 1.5 oz.
If you notice that even a small amount of alcohol causes significant bladder problems or symptoms (leakage, increased urgency, increased frequency) then you might want to try cutting it out completely for at least 4 weeks to see how you feel.
How We Can Help
Here at Revitalize Physical Therapy, we are experts in answering questions like, “Can alcohol cause bladder problems?” But we also dig deeper to assess your symptoms, bladder habits, and any other issues you might be having. Because chances are, if you are experiencing consistent bladder issues, the root cause goes beyond alcohol and bladder irritants. Once we have a better idea of what your concerns are, we can work together to try and get you to where you want to be! With pelvic floor physical therapy, we use pelvic floor strengthening and relaxation, urge suppression strategies, and lifestyle modification to help you take control of your bladder again. If you experience urinary urgency, frequency, or incontinence, contact us to set up your FREE 30-minute consultation with a physical therapist specializing in pelvic health!
- Polhuis, Kristel C M M et al. “The Diuretic Action of Weak and Strong Alcoholic Beverages in Elderly Men: A Randomized Diet-Controlled Crossover Trial.” Nutrients vol. 9,7 660. 28 Jun. 2017, doi:10.3390/nu9070660
- Briden, Lara, and Jerilynn C Prior. Period Repair Manual : Natural Treatment for Better Hormones and Better Periods. Greenpeak Publishing, 2018.