Exploring How Alcohol Affects Urinary Incontinence

Exploring the Link: How Alcohol Affects Urinary Incontinence

Are you or a loved one experiencing frequent leaks, accidents, or other issues surrounding urinary incontinence? You’re not alone. Urinary incontinence can greatly affect your quality of life, how you interact with others and your ability to complete daily tasks. According to Medscape, having occasional accidents and frequent urine leakage issues are common among older adults, affecting roughly 38-55% of women aged 60 and older, and 50-84% of the elderly population living in long-term care facilities. This begs the question — what causes urinary incontinence and what are ways to relieve bladder problems?

There are many culprits that contribute to urinary incontinencealcohol consumption being one of them. Learn why alcohol intake can contribute to bedwetting, a loss of bladder control, and frequent leakage.

Understanding Alcohol’s Effects on the Body 

When you have a drink, the body needs to work hard to metabolize the alcohol. More than 90% of alcohol is eliminated by the liver and 2-5% is excreted as is through your urine, sweat, or breathing. Alcohol is also a diuretic, making those who imbibe need to go to the bathroom more often and with greater urgency. Alcohol is a bladder irritant and because it’s a diuretic, it forces the kidneys to release more sodium into the urine, which fills the bladder up quicker, increasing the frequency of urination. For older adults specifically, this contributes to a greater chance of bedwetting, bladder leaks, and accidents. 

The Link Between Alcohol and Incontinence 

Let us be clear: alcohol by itself does not cause urinary incontinence. However, if you have overactive bladder or other bladder control issues, alcohol will exacerbate symptoms. Aside from being a diuretic and causing increased urine production, alcohol also irritates the bladder, making incontinence issues worse. One of the causes of urge incontinence (aka overactive bladder) is drinking too much alcohol.

Alcohol, Dehydration and Bladder Irritation 

Drinking alcohol creates more of a risk of becoming dehydrated, affecting your bladder health. Drinking lots of alcohol can turn urine a dark, cloudy color that often comes with an unpleasant smell. This tarnished, more concentrated urine sits in the bladder and can cause bladder irritation and an inflamed bladder lining, which could lead to bigger issues, like getting a urinary tract infection (UTI) or even a kidney infection. Plus, alcohol is a depressant, subduing the signals to the brain for your muscles to contract. The pelvic floor muscles support bladder health, so if your muscles are not contracting properly, you’ll be at a higher risk of leakage

The Impact of Chronic Alcohol Consumption 

When you put constant strain and inflammatory responses onto the bladder, you are more likely to end up with chronic incontinence issues. Here’s a closer look at the impact of chronic alcohol use:

  • The constant pressure put on the bladder from alcohol’s diuretic effect can irritate the bladder lining and weaken the pelvic floor muscles over time. 
  • Chronic inflammation of the bladder can cause discomfort, more frequent urination, and increased urgency, contributing to a higher risk of chronic overactive bladder issues. And, chronic inflammation can lead to UTIs and other infections of the urinary area.
  • Weakened pelvic floor muscles will ensue from chronic alcohol consumption. This will make it more difficult to hold in urine or prevent urine leaks from happening.
  • Impaired nerve signaling can interfere with messages between the brain and bladder. This may prohibit your ability to detect when the bladder is full, increasing your risk of more frequent urinary incontinence episodes.

Lifestyle Considerations That Can Help 

If you feel alcohol is greatly contributing to your incontinence issues, abstaining completely is probably the best move. However, if you still want to imbibe every now and then, consider these tips:

  • Hydrate before drinking alcohol, which will dilute alcoholic sugars that irritate your bladder.
  • Opt for alcoholic beverages with a low sugar content.
  • Consume drinks with less alcohol content (steering clear of high-ABV liquor).
  • Stick to one drink and be mindful of the amount of alcohol you’re consuming. If you have more than one, space them out accordingly while staying hydrated before and after each alcoholic libation.
  • Go to the bathroom once or twice before going to sleep to decrease the risk of an overnight accident.

When to Seek Medical Advice 

If you’re concerned about your urinary incontinence, or your incontinence symptoms are not getting better when decreasing your alcohol use, it may be time to visit your doctor or healthcare provider. Seeking a proper diagnosis and treatment plan is important above all else — and incontinence can often be managed or treated effectively with the proper interventions for you. Urinary incontinence is a prevalent issue, so do not be afraid to seek help. 

How Parentgiving Can Help 

If you or a loved one are struggling with incontinence issues, Parentgiving can help. With hundreds of amazing incontinence products, you’ll feel more confident, secure, and nurtured with our top-of-the-line adult diapers and other incontinence products. We also have dozens of educational articles to help with life’s transitions. View our full collection of incontinence products today and find your best fit.