How Alcohol Affects Incontinence

Alcohol can impact our health in a number of ways, including our bladder and bowel health. Here’s how it could be affecting your continence…

How Alcohol Affects Incontinence

Alcohol can impact our health in a number of ways, including our bladder and bowel health. Here’s how it could be affecting your continence…

Understanding the connection between alcohol and incontinence can be helpful when managing symptoms.

Alcohol, while common in many households, has been found to have a significant effect on the bladder and its control. Alcohol has also been found to have an effect on the bowel and faecal incontinence.

For a substance that is so common in many people’s diets, its effect on incontinence is not widely known, making understanding the science behind the connection so vital for preparing, and informing anyone who may be experiencing incontinence.

How does alcohol impact urinary incontinence?

It’s important to know that alcohol is a particularly powerful diuretic, which means that it triggers the body to produce more urine. When alcohol reaches the kidney, a reaction occurs where the body has to work harder to process it, leading to the increased production of urine, placing higher pressure on the bladder.

Doctors explain that drinking alcohol means your body has to increasingly use its liquid reserves, which commonly results in dehydration, and adds even greater volume that your bladder has to hold and control [1].

Doctors highlight that everyone is naturally producing an antidiuretic hormone (ADH) in their brains to manage urine volume [2]. ADH lets the kidneys know to keep urine production at a manageable level, helping prevent your body from using all of its hydration reserves.

However when we drink alcohol, our ADH production is suppressed and the body produces more urine than it normally would, we become dehydrated, leading to not only headache and other concerns but a significantly higher chance of urinary incontinence.

Scientists have also found that alcohol is a bladder irritant. When alcohol reaches the bladder it can negatively affect a key muscle in it. The muscle irritated is the detrusor muscle, a critical part of controlling the bladder, being part of the wall of the bladder that is in charge of letting you know when you need to urinate [3]. When this muscle is irritated it can mean higher urges to go and at a higher frequency, leading to an increased difficulty in controlling the bladder and greater chance of incontinence.

It is also important to note that many people will consume alcohol with supplementary beverages, particularly fizzy drinks that have caffeine and are carbonated. As well as suppressing our ADH production from the alcohol, the intake of caffeine is also irritating the detrusor muscle in the bladder, signaling to you that you need to pee even before your bladder is full [4].

This process leads to a cycle of being able to hold less and less urine as the consumption continues. So not only is the body being told to produce more urine and the bladder is becoming irritated, but the amount able to be held reduces, leading to a high likelihood of incontinence.

How does alcohol impact faecal incontinence?

Studies have found that alcohol consumption can bring about both constipation and diarrhoea in the body, leading to increased difficulty in controlling the bowel for people who haven’t experienced faecal incontinence before, and particularly for those that have [5].

Bowel impaction can mean your body is trying to manage significant constipation and consequently, a reduced ability to sense and react to stool in the rectum which can mean a higher chance of faecal incontinence [6].

As well as bringing on constipation, alcohol can impact the routine processing of food and liquid in the stomach leading to softer stool in the form of diarrhoea. This happens as alcohol has been found to irritate the stomach and cause inflammation in it [7]. In this way constipation and diarrhoea can happen right after each other, increasing the likelihood of faecal leakage as the softer stool moves around the firmer stool.

Alcohol - as it leads to dehydration - can also affect contractions in the bowel, a process called peristalsis which slows down bowel motility [5]. This impact can mean a greater challenge in controlling bowel movements, as well as the healthy firmness of the stool produced, which can lead to faecal incontinence.

It is helpful to know that if someone is already managing a condition such as IBS, which can lead to incontinence, alcohol is a substance that can compound the difficulty in controlling the bladder and bowel, increasing the urgency and frequency of needing to go to the toilet.

Are certain types of alcohol worse than others, if so why?

Many experts encourage the significant reduction or complete removal of alcohol from a person’s diet as a way to help manage incontinence. However, if alcohol is a beverage you would prefer to keep in your diet there are some alcohol types which may help to mitigate the intensity of incontinence symptoms over others.

Avoiding alcohol with a high sugar intake may help, as sugar is another significant inflammatory presence for both the bladder and bowel [5]. So, steering clear of mixer drinks that have coke or lemonade in them may help to reduce the impact on your bladder [8].

Limiting or avoiding alcohol that is highly carbonated and acidic may also help, as these factors can increase the speed and level of irritability on the bladder, which impacts how quickly the urge to pee - and possible incontinence - will develop.

Experts encourage the choice of alcohol that is at least diluted, so while a white wine spritzer has carbonated water in it, the reduction of alcohol content may have a more powerful ease on the bladder, while still allowing the enjoyment of an alcoholic beverage.

Leaning more towards beer types that have a lower alcoholic content, as well as beers that are lower on the carbonated spectrum is also an option. The choice of ale over a lager for example is a way to still enjoy a beer while avoiding one component of what may irritate the bladder.

Experts also advise that alternating your alcoholic drink intake with a glass of water may go a long way to keeping your body hydrated, and preventing the antidiuretic hormone from being too suppressed, resulting in exponential urine production and increased chance of urinary incontinence.

And remember, if you’re choosing to drink alcohol, please drink responsibly.

Ways you can manage incontinence symptoms

Having the right products to help manage urinary and faecal incontinence can make such a significant impact on your day-to-day life. Our wide range of European-made Dailee products allow wearers to have the confidence they want and deserve, to live their lives in freedom and without worry.

From pads and guards, to pull-ups and slips, we have products to suit every level of need. If you need any help in choosing what continence aids will best suit you or the person you’re buying for, you can contact us to speak to our product specialists or take our self-led Help Me Choose quiz.

Discreet and slimline, with industry-leading design and technology for complete defence against any leaks, our products truly allow you to both manage your incontinence symptoms effectively without having to compromise on comfort.

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