It is almost universally known as “breaking the seal” — the theory that once you go to the loo on a night out, you will be nipping to the bathroom at regular intervals for the rest of the evening.
But is breaking the seal actually a thing? And how can we stop it?
According to experts, there may be some truth to the theory, and there are even ways to train the bladder to prevent the problem.
Frequent loo breaks after a tipple are believed to be down to the alcohol itself.
If we stuck to soft drinks, we’d spend a lot less time queuing up in nightclub toilets, according to one expert.
Urologist Peter Chin told news.com.au that not only is breaking the seal real, alcohol has distinct qualities that add to the problem.
Around 20 percent of the alcohol we drink is immediately absorbed into the bloodstream. The remaining 80 percent takes about 30 minutes or more to absorb and for us to feel the effects.
As the alcohol travels around the bloodstream, it eventually ends up at the kidneys, where waste becomes urine.
“It is the effects of alcohol on the kidney and bladder that can result in the phenomenon of breaking the seal,” Chin said.
“Firstly, alcohol and caffeine are both diuretics and make the kidneys start to produce more urine.
“Secondly, the effects of alcohol and caffeine on the bladder are as ‘irritants,’ they make your bladder more irritable, and so less able to hold onto urine.
“If you continue to drink, the effects compound as you produce more and more urine and your bladder gets more and more irritated, resulting in breaking the seal and a feeling that you just opened the floodgates.”
However, breaking the seal probably wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for another effect associated with alcohol — it messes with your brain.
Booze interferes with the pituitary gland situated in the base of the brain. When it’s working normally, the gland produces the anti-diuretic hormone which tells the kidneys to absorb more water and not send as much to the bladder.
But alcohol flicks a switch on the gland and reduces the amount of this hormone being produced. In turn, this leads to more liquid cascading down to the bladder — forcing us to rush to the loo.
The amount of alcohol you drink will cause more pressure on the pipes down below.
For people suffering from cystitis or urinary tract infections, the effect can be magnified with just a single drink, sending you scurrying. As you get older, your tolerance to alcohol can also change.
But can we do anything to patch up the problem?
“The good news is you can train your bladder to hold more,” Chin said.
But it’s not something you can fix immediately; the professor advocates a “calendar system” which trains the bladder over several weeks.
“On the first week, you make sure you wait at least one hour between each visit to the toilet. The following week, you wait one hour and 15 minutes, and each week add an additional 15 minutes until at six to eight weeks, your bladder should be able to hold on for around three hours,” he said.
“But if drinking only a small amount of alcohol means you are in the toilet every 15 minutes, then you should consider getting it investigated because that isn’t normal.”
“If it’s only a minor thing and you accept that you may need to go to the toilet more frequently when you drink alcohol, then you should drink as much as you feel like … within reason,” Chin said.
So do yourself a favor. If you don’t want to spend your well-deserved nights out queuing for the toilets — stick to mocktails.