How do I make my bladder not piss me off so much?
December 30, 2005 11:34 AM   Subscribe

When I drink comparable amounts of liquid as my friends (smaller or larger) I have to urinate much more frequently. It is annoying on car trips, in big cities, or other places where I have to hold out and others don't seem to have as much problems. Are there ways to strengthen my bladder or fix this?
posted by aussicht to Health & Fitness (17 answers total)
David Sedaris recommends the Stadium Pal, but it might gross you out.
posted by onlyconnect at 11:49 AM on December 30, 2005

Whoopsie. Sedaris Stadium Pal piece here (toward the end of the show).
posted by onlyconnect at 11:51 AM on December 30, 2005

...or just visit the Stadium Pal site. As to the original question, I'm reminded of a New Yorker-isk cartoon I saw a long time ago -- a man attempting entry to a Mens Room is challenged by a burly guy, who says

"Where are you going? A real man can hold his urine!"

posted by Rash at 12:06 PM on December 30, 2005

I have the same problem. It's obnoxious as hell, but I drink a lot of coffee and water.

Learning to hold it and pushing past the pain can indeed increase your holding endurance, but there's a reason why you pee - to eliminate wastes. It's not such a good thing to hold it in.

But you can do Kegel exercises to help increase your holding power.
posted by loquacious at 12:20 PM on December 30, 2005

Dude, don't hold it. Kidney stones.
posted by selfnoise at 12:38 PM on December 30, 2005

Kidney stones.

posted by SeizeTheDay at 12:48 PM on December 30, 2005

I've heard that thinking about sex can temporarily suppress the urge to pee. I've never tried it myself, but it makes sense. When you're having sex, the pee plumbing gets routed around, so if you can put your nether regions into that state, it may shut off for you.

It's just something I've heard, but it may be worth a shot.
posted by willnot at 1:06 PM on December 30, 2005

The kidney stone comment may or may not be a red herring. Only a real doctor can tell you for sure. Don't listen to us internet people.

Here is how the urge to urinate thing works. Your entire bladder is made of muscular tissue that is embedded with mechanical stretch sensors. As it fills up, the walls of the bladder expand to accommodate the volume. That causes the stretch sensors to fire and relay the information up to the brain. The bladder has a sphincter (actually because of male anatomy, we have two sphincters, whereas females only have one, but only the first one above prostate matters for the purposes of this explanation) that is under voluntary control. So you can "hold it" for as long as you wish, but you will be consistently feeling input from the stretch sensors which your brain interprets as painful.

The thing is, the stretch sensors aren't very smart. All they know is "hey I am being pulled apart for some reason". It could be because your bladder is filling up (the urge to eliminate first appears when it's about half-full). It could be that your sensors are ultra-sensitive. Finally, it could be because your bladder walls are losing elasticity and starting to sag on their own - that still triggers the sensors. The latter is the reason why elderly people have to make many bathroom trips, even when they barely have anything to eliminate - their bladder compels them to. Bingo for women (and more rarely men) with uterine infections.

Back to kidney stones. These are formed from excess waste in the ureters and bladder. So if it is indeed the case that you are waiting too long before making bathroom trips, than yes you might be contributing to the formation conditions. But if you find that you consistently have to use the bathroom more than other people, chances are good you simply have more sensitive bladder sensors. I can't really comment on whether learning to hold it has any real effect, and if so if it's harmful or not. I am sure someone did a study on it, though.

This comment is brought to you by less than one year of med school - treat it as such.
posted by blindcarboncopy at 1:09 PM on December 30, 2005

A couple of illustrations:
bladder anatomy
Liquid waste system overview diagram (may be NSFW)
posted by blindcarboncopy at 1:14 PM on December 30, 2005

Kidney stones would have more to do with restricting liquid intake in the hope of having to pee less rather than holding it, no?

It sounds like your problem is more to do with not being able to hold a whole lot rather than with making too much urine. I had a dreadful problem with this in my mid-teens but fortunately am now more or less on the weak side of normal. I am convinced there is a massive psychological side to this issue, in that the more often you have to pee the more you think about having to pee which makes you have to pee more often. Even when you know this is going on it can be hard to get over this but I naturally relaxed a lot more when I no longer had to spend long periods of time in classrooms where I would need to ask permission to go to the bathroom.

So if I have any advice, I guess it would be "Relax and try to think about it less". But that's easier said than done.
posted by teleskiving at 1:27 PM on December 30, 2005

Had a physical recently? Frequent urination (and, usually, excessive thirst as well) is/are often the first physical manifestation(s) of diabetes.

Mention it to your doctor next time you see him or her.
posted by enrevanche at 1:33 PM on December 30, 2005

To piggyback for a second in case anyone knows: How long can one hold it before involuntarily urinating all over oneself?
posted by dame at 1:47 PM on December 30, 2005

Blindcarboncopy, you are suggesting that women have no external urethral sphincter? Or no internal urethral sphincter? It was my understanding that they have both.

Aussicht, if you notice a significant change in your frequency, definitely see a doctor. It doesn't seem like this is the issue, though. As a woman, I've been told it's better to urinate frequently. However, this is mostly in relation to avoiding urinary tract infections, which just aren't as much of an issue for men.
posted by moira at 3:00 PM on December 30, 2005

I believe that the sensors blindcarboncopy mentions can effectively be re-trained. In my late teens through my early 30s, I was able to drink the large sodas at the movies and sit through through the entirety of sagas like "Dances With Wolves." A side effect, though, was that sometimes I wouldn't be able to relax enough to go when I finally made it to the toilet! I have completely lost this dubious talent since then.

Also, my friend who used to have kidney stones every year said his doctor told him they were due to improper hydration, especially during the summer months. (He used to drink sodas and coffee but no water, and didn't have air conditioning--in east Tennessee.) Apparently, in this neck of the woods, the docs see the most kidney stones from August through October, when not being hydrated well enough has had a cumulative effect.
posted by kimota at 4:38 PM on December 30, 2005

moira, I looked back in my copy of Essential Clinical Anatomy to make sure I wasn't lying. Here is what it says:
In males the muscle fibers in the neck of the bladder re continuous with the fibromuscular tissue of the prostate. There is no internal sphincter in the female at the neck of the bladder.
posted by blindcarboncopy at 9:21 PM on December 30, 2005

If cutting back on the caffiene/alcohol doesn't help see a doc. You could have a UTI or be getting diabetic as suggested above.
posted by BrandonAbell at 11:49 AM on December 31, 2005

I had frequent urination for like two years and my doctor couldn't figure out why, and finally he sent me to a urologist who had me measure my urine output each time I urinated. It turned out that my bladder felt full at 80-100 mL, when it shouldn't normally feel full until 250 mL. The doctor gave me a prescription for Oxytrol (which relaxes the bladder so it doesn't feel full until it really is) and now I go 8 times a day instead of 20. The solution was as simple as one prescription, after I had spent two years being miserable.

I was told that what I have is called irritable bladder, which basically means the bladder feels full when it isn't really full, but without an apparent cause. You have probably seen tv commercials for drugs like oxytrol ("Gotta Go, Gotta Go Right Now"), which you probably didn't pay attention to because the commercials only had women in them. But irritable bladder also affects men, although less frequently.

If this problem really bothers you, go to a doctor (preferably a urologist). There's probably an easy fix to your problem. There's also the small possibility that it could be something serious like kidney stones, prostate problems, or diabetes, so you might as well get all those things ruled out just in case.
posted by clarissajoy at 8:46 PM on December 31, 2005

« Older CD Burning For Dummies   |   New York through film? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.