Does "Breaking the Seal" Actually Exist?
You know exactly what I'm talking about. You're at the bar having a grand time, pounding enough light beer to drown a small Bavarian village, when you announce to everyone in your immediate vicinity that pressure's on, and you gotta pee. "Don't break the seal!" they chorus. But you have no control over this, so you do break that seal, and now you're revisiting the tremendous bathroom line, staring into the almost-empty abyss of your warm BL 'Num trying to Tinder match with the body waiting ahead of you every 15 minutes for the rest of the goddamn night. If only you had held out a little longer. If only...
So what's the deal here? Is there any actual science behind this phenomenon, or is it all a myth?
I went to the bar to investigate -- to talk to the real-life people this marvel affects. I asked, "What is the science behind breaking the seal?" and they answered. And then I got urologist Dr. Stacy Loeb to explain why they're all so, so wrong. Let's take a look.
"You don’t think about your bladder until you break the seal. Your brain has no idea you have a bladder."
Stacy says: "You may not be consciously thinking about your bladder but your brain is actually very aware that you have a bladder at all times. The cycle of storing and eliminating urine is a complicated process involving coordination from the brain and spinal cord. In fact, health problems affecting the brain and spinal cord (like having a stroke, tumor, or spinal cord injury) can have a big impact on the ability to urinate normally."
"It’s evaporation out of the wiener, condensation. It’s a circle of H2O. You drink it, and then you piss in the earth and it evaporates, condensates, and then it liquidates. And that’s the bottom line."
Stacy says: "Alcohol is a diuretic so it causes you to urinate more. Also if you drink several alcoholic beverages, that may be more volume of liquid than you typically consume in one sitting, leading to a larger volume of urine."
"Oh, it’s a very natural thing. Usually I’ll have five beers and I’ll feel a little something in my stomach that says you have to go to the bathroom and I’ll go there, I’ll wait in line, and then I’ll restart that same cycle. There’s no science, it’s the natural digestive system that produces pee."
Stacy says: "Your stomach is not part of the urinary process. Urine is produced in the kidneys, passed down straw-like tubes called the ureters into the bladder, and from there goes out through the urethra. The sensation or pressure that you are feeling in the lower abdomen is from the expanding bladder."
"Other people are mentally weak. Pissing is an illusion. You can hold it in longer than anyone expects. Your bladder’s not gonna burst. It’s all about being strong mentally. It’s the natural cycle of life and I’ll pee when I have to pee. You can’t let pee control you, or it’ll make an ass out of you and me. Or that’s assuming. Assuming I have to pee!"
Stacy says: "The bladder actually can rupture, although it is rare for this to happen spontaneously without some form of underlying bladder disease or trauma. As urologists, we have seen cases of bladder rupture due to someone falling down while intoxicated with an over-full bladder."
"Your bladder is like a balloon. And when you’re sober drinking throughout the day, it fills up and expands until you can’t hold it any longer. That’s when you break the seal. After that point, beer filters through your system so quickly it dehydrates you and water gets sucked into your bladder faster so you have to pee more."
Stacy says: "Beer is a diuretic and inhibits a substance in the body called anti-diuretic hormone and increases urine production. It's natural that if you're drinking alcoholic beverages you will have to urinate more."
"I mean, you gotta hold out until you have to because at that point it’s all over. There’s a tolerance that you build up while you’re drinking. But once you relieve that pain, there’s nothing left. Because it hurts to keep it in. You build up a tolerance to the pain and then once you know what relief is, you want it. You need it."
Stacy says: "There is no benefit in trying to hold your urine until the point of pain. This will not decrease your need to urinate in the future if you continue to drink alcohol. In fact, deliberately holding your urine for long periods of time on a consistent basis is not good for your health, and can increase the risk of infection or kidney problems."
"I think it’s a lot of mythology behind it. When you take a pee, you are automatically gonna psychologically think that you want to take a pee. But there is nothing to breaking the seal. Breaking the seal is a nonsense psychology bullshit game."
Stacy says: "The need to urinate is due to sensory nerves in the bladder that get triggered when the bladder is full. Nerves in the bladder send information to the brain. Alcohol may be an irritant to the nerves in the bladder, leading you to feel the need to urinate.
"The next time you are out having a beer, if your bladder is telling you that it's full, do yourself a favor and find the nearest bathroom."
Carrie Dennis is an associate editor for Thrillist and is that girl who will try to make friends with you in the bathroom line. Follow her on Twitter: @CarrrieDennnis.