Holding Your Pee: Health Risks From Ignoring Nature's Call

Washroom Signs

The Huffington Post Canada   First Posted: 02/27/2012 6:10 pm Updated: 02/28/2012 10:17 am

When you gotta go, you gotta go -- and for your health, that's an important thing to keep in mind.

When sitting in a meeting or trying to get through emails, the thought of nature calling probably isn't one of your priorities. Or rather, it might be top of mind, but you feel embarrassed using the office bathroom. Experts tell us, however, that taking care of our kidneys means knowing when they're entering the danger zone.

An average bladder has the capacity to hold about 15 ounces of liquid (eight glasses of water, for example, is roughly 64 ounces), and holding in your urine for a long period of time can stretch your bladder. The automatic feedback mechanism in the bladder sends a signal to the brain when it's full, which then urges you to get to the nearest toilet. But if you keep yourself from peeing often, your body might lose the ability to know when it's time to go, says Dr. Chamandeep Bali, a naturopathic doctor at the Toronto Naturopathic Health Clinic. And that's not the only concern.

"The longer you hold your urine, the bladder can become a breeding ground for bacteria to grow," Dr. Bali says. This bacteria can lead to infections, which can spread to kidneys and cause greater damage to the body.

However, sometimes it really can be difficult to find the time to go. School teachers and crane operators are two professions who often use the washroom fewer times than other occupations, according to urologist Dr. Michael Robinette at the Toronto General Hospital.

Meanwhile, there also seems to be a gender imbalance. Dr. Mark Gordon, a urolgist at the Suncoast Medical Clinic in St. Petersburg, Florida says women are more likely to hold their urine due to hygiene concerns -- and let's face it ladies, sometimes finding that seat cover or squatting over a public toilet is more of a pain than it's worth.

But whether it means keeping a close eye on the restroom door to make sure it's unoccupied or keeping a personal roll of toilet paper with you, it's important to make sure you get to the toilet.

"A 'normal' urination rate is eight to 10 times a day," Dr. Gordon says.

And if your stage fright for going becomes really problematic, just add water. It may sound like an old wives' tale, but according to Dr. Robinette, "some people find that when you turn on the tap, it makes you pass your urine."

But there are health risks to consider. Here are common infections to look out for when it comes to keeping your bladder healthy:

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  • Urinary Tract Infection

    <strong>WHAT: </strong>A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a bacterial infection that affects the urinary tract (the organ that stores and releases urine).<br><strong>HOW: </strong>UTIs occur when germs, usually bacteria, enter the urethra and then the bladder. The infection can eventually spread to the kidney. <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001549/#adam_000521.disease.symptoms" target="_hplink">Symptoms include cloudy or bloody urine, a strong need to urinate and a low fever.</a></a><br><strong>FIX IT:</strong> If you do feel any of the symptoms above, doctors can distinguish between a small infection or a kidney one -- in most cases, patients are put on antibiotics.

  • Interstitial Cystitis

    <strong>WHAT: </strong>A interstitial cystitis (IC) is a painful condition that causes inflammation of the bladder's walls. <br><strong>HOW: </strong> Experts say an IC can be caused by a bacterial infection, however, some say the cause of this<a href="http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/interstitialcystitis/" target="_hplink"> disease is unknown</a>. Symptoms include a painful pelvis and in some cases, urinating more than <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001508/" target="_hplink">60 times a day</a>. <br><strong>FIX IT:</strong> Currently, there is no cure for IC, but there are treatments depending on the individual to often ease the pain.

  • Healthy Urine Colours

    Dr. Michael Robinette, a urogloist at Toronto General Hospital, says there are several ways to determine a healthy urine colour. "Healthy urine is a pale yellow. If your urine is white, you're drinking too many fluids. However if your urine is too dark, your urine is concentrated and you should be drinking more fluids." he says.

  • When Your Urine Isn't Yellow

    If your urine is bloody, you most likely have an infection. However, there are some foods that can change the colour of your urine naturally. "Beets make the urine red and some vitamin B medication can make it green," Dr. Robinette says. Other urine-changing foods include asparagus, blackberries, carrots and rhubarb.

  • Kidney Failure

    <strong>WHAT: </strong>Kidney failure is a medical condition when your kidneys fail to filter toxins and waste items from the blood.<br><strong>HOW: </strong> Kidney failures can occur from existing infections, burns or diseases. But in most cases, causes differ depending on the individual. Symptoms include bruises, bloody stool and changes in mental mood. <br><strong>FIX IT:</strong> Treatments include flushing out toxins from your body and restoring your kidney's functions. In some cases, dialysis or even a transplant may be needed.

  • Kidney Stones

    <strong>WHAT: </strong> Also known as a renal calculus, kidney stones are solid crystals that are formed in the kidney. Even though these crystals are more common among men, <a href="http://www.livestrong.com/article/141546-female-kidney-stone-symptoms/" target="_hplink">some women can also develop kidney stones. </a> <br><strong>HOW: </strong> For the most part, kidney stones can be genetic and stone sizes can also differ. Most people may not realize they have kidney stones until they urinate. Urination can be painful, bloody and cause nausea.<br><strong>FIX IT:</strong> Treatment also differs depending on the stone's size. Some doctors may perform blood tests or abdominal exams while others recommend drinking six to eight glasses of water to let the stones pass.

  • How to Prevent Bladder Infections

    Tips on how to prevent bladder indections from the Doctors.

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