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Stop Holding It In! Why You Should Empty Your Bladder

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  • Written By: RRH

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you desperately needed to use the restroom, but you decided to hold it in for a little longer?

We've all been there. Either rushing through meetings or squirming on long car rides, thinking our bladder can handle the extra wait. But what's happening inside our body during this? Emptying your bladder regularly is more important than you might think!

Join us as Ridgecrest Regional Hospital explores how the urinary system works, uncover common risks of holding in your urine, and discover other practical tips to keep your bladder healthy.

How Does the Urinary System Work?

To fully understand why holding in your urine can be harmful, it's crucial to walk through the different parts of the urinary system, often called the body's "waste disposal system.”

It's composed of the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Here are the functions of each:

  • The kidneys filter our blood, removing waste products and excess fluids and converting them into urine.

  • Urine travels down the ureters, which are two tubes connecting the kidneys to the bladder.

  • The bladder acts as a temporary storage unit, holding urine until it's emptied during urination through the urethra.

But what occurs when you hold your urine longer than you should?

What's Happening When You Hold Your Pee?

As it fills up, the bladder walls stretch, and nerve signals are sent to your brain, triggering the urge to urinate. When you resist this urge, the sphincter muscles at the bottom of the bladder tighten to prevent the release of urine.

And as soon as you decide to "hold it in,” you are essentially forcing your bladder to accommodate more than its intended capacity. This process transforms the bladder from a storage organ into something akin to an over-inflated balloon.

Is It Bad to Hold Your Pee?

Continually ignoring the call of nature can put unnecessary stress on your urinary system and lead to many complications. Below are a few potential risks associated with frequently holding in your pee for extended periods.

Urinary Tract Infections

One common consequence of consistently holding in your urine is the increased risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs). The longer urine stays in your bladder, the more time bacteria have to multiply and cause an infection.

UTIs can develop in any part of your urinary system, but they most often occur in the bladder (cystitis) and urethra (urethritis). Symptoms may include a frequent urge to urinate, a burning sensation, and cloudy or strong-smelling urine.

Bladder Stretching

Habitual retention of urine can also lead to bladder stretching. Over time, your bladder's capacity to hold urine might increase, but often at a cost.

The detrusor muscle, which contracts and releases urine, can become strained, losing efficiency. Over time, the bladder may not empty entirely during urination, leading to discomfort and increasing the likelihood of UTIs or bladder stones.

Kidney Disorders

Extreme cases of urine retention may even contribute to kidney disorders. If your bladder becomes too full and urine flows back into the kidneys, it can lead to hydronephrosis. This condition swells the kidneys and can cause pain, problems with urination, and even permanent damage to the kidneys.

Moreover, the continual presence of urine in the bladder can cause the buildup of kidney stones, hard deposits of salts, and minerals that form inside your kidneys and are often painful when passed.

How Long Can Pee Be Held?

The length of time urine can be held will vary from person to person. A healthy bladder can hold up to 400 to 500 milliliters (about 2 cups) of urine for about 2 to 5 hours. However, this can be influenced by factors such as age, hydration level, and individual health conditions.

But no matter how long you can hold your pee, it's best not to ignore the urge to go! Remember, frequent urination is part of a healthy routine and should be practiced consistently.

Signs You Shouldn't Ignore After Holding in Your Pee

Occasionally, holding in your urine may not cause immediate problems, but chronic urine retention isn't just uncomfortable, it can lead to serious health complications.

Here are some key indications that it might be time to rethink your bathroom habits:

  • A constant need to urinate even when the bladder isn't full

  • Painful or burning sensations while urinating

  • Cloudy or foul-smelling urine

  • Lower back pain (on either side)

  • Unexplained tiredness or fatigue

If you experience any of these symptoms, seeing a doctor as soon as possible is best. They can all be signs of a UTI, kidney infection, or other underlying medical problem commonly associated with urine retention.

Tips to Improve Your Bladder Health

While emptying your bladder regularly is essential, it's not the only factor contributing to optimal bladder health.

There are several other practices you can adopt to ensure your urinary system is functioning efficiently, including:

  • Hydrating Properly – Drinking around two to three liters of water daily, roughly eight to twelve cups, is vital. This helps keep your body functioning optimally and prevents the formation of bladder stones or other urinary tract issues. Just make sure to go to the bathroom and never overhydrate.

  • Avoiding Bladder Irritants – Certain foods and beverages can irritate your bladder and increase the urge to urinate more frequently. Common culprits include coffee, tea, carbonated drinks, spicy foods, and alcohol, to name a few.

  • Managing Stress – Did you know that stress can affect urinary function? It can lead to a stronger urge to pee or more urinary retention. To support your mental well-being and urinary health, consider adding activities such as yoga, meditation, or exercise into your daily routine.

Your bladder plays a crucial role in your body's natural detoxification process. Treat it carefully by maintaining healthy habits and listening to your body's signals. This helps reduce the risks associated with urine retention and keeps your urinary system in check.

Take Back Your Bladder Health: Don't Wait Until It's Too Late

So, are you still holding it in? It's worth considering how frequently you dismiss nature's call in favor of pushing through another task. Health is a long-term investment, and your bladder health is no exception.

Remember, maintaining a regular urination cycle, staying hydrated, avoiding bladder irritants, and managing stress can all support a healthier urinary system. Don't let the fast pace of life jeopardize your well-being. After all, isn't it better to take a few extra minutes now than to face potential health complications later?

Prioritize your bladder health and schedule a check-up with Ridgecrest Regional Hospital today!