These Are the 10 Most Important Things We Learned From a Urologist in 2021

Photo: Getty Images/Tharakorn Arunothai
There’s no denying it—2021 has been a doozy of a year, with heightened stress and anxiety all around. Navigating the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t been an easy task, and it’s even harder to cope with such emotional strain when your body doesn’t feel physically well, either. Body and mind are connected and feed into each other, so if you’re feeling overwhelmed mentally and emotionally, you might notice your body following suit.

For example, mental anxiety can create tension throughout the body. That can start to affect other organs and body parts by weakening their functionality or by causing strain. An uneasy mind will never help the body do what it needs to do to feel healthy and balanced.

Perhaps you’ve had a pre-existing condition where you’d need help from a urologist to resolve, such as bladder infection, kidney dysfunction, or bladder cancer, as well as difficulties with urination or urinating too frequently, a condition known as urinary incontinence.

Or maybe the stress of the pandemic exacerbated or triggered the development of such issues—either way, you may have experienced compromised functioning in the kidneys and bladder where you’d need to adjust your lifestyle to resolve them. Either way, these are the top things urologists saw as being of concern to clients this year and their major takeaways for keeping the bladder and kidneys functioning up to par as we make our way into 2022.

If your bladder is sensitive, you might not want seltzer

According to urologists, the carbonation in seltzer can exacerbate bladder irritation if you regularly consume those bubbles as opposed to drinking flat water for the majority of the day.

Carbon dioxide, found in carbonated waters and seltzers, can trigger discomfort among those who are typically sensitive to bladder condition symptoms (like frequency of or difficulty with urination) as well as bladder pain. Here’s more information on how seltzer affects the body differently than flat water does.

Seltzer isn’t your friend if you have IBS or reflux, either

Carbonated water is actually pretty similar in comparison to flat water in providing hydration benefits for the average person, and it can be super helpful to help you drink up if you find regular water to be too basic. Yet, if you have IBS or reflux, as well as other GI conditions, the bubbles may trigger symptoms. (Especially at night. Here’s why.)

Your pee should be pale yellow or clear, not dark

When it comes to knowing whether you’re properly hydrated, it’s of primary importance to understand how much liquid is “enough.” However, the right amount can vary from person to person. The color of your urine can give you a clue, though.

“Your urine output throughout the day should look like a pale-yellow color or be colorless,” says S. Adam Ramin, MD, urologist and medical director of Urology Cancer Specialists in Los Angeles. If it is dark yellow or orange, it’s time to drink up. (And here’s why the quantity of urine matters, too.)

Stress and anxiety might make you pee more

Mental stress doesn’t just create tension in the body, it also dehydrates you due to excess cortisol, (the “stress hormone”), which in turn puts pressure on the adrenal glands and bladder. That’s why you might feel the urge to pee, but little to nothing comes out.

Plus, the recognition that you can’t pee but feel super uncomfortable often makes that anxiety worse, which can create a cycle. The urge to pee from excess stress is most prevalent at night, though, so if you find yourself waking up throughout the night with the need to pee, but only “tinkles” come out, your bladder isn’t to blame. Going to sleep stressed can cause you to wake up to urinate, as a reaction to the stress. Luckily, there are some great tips for avoiding disruptions and sleeping soundly all night long.

Electrolytes benefit your bladder health

To keep the kidneys healthy and to have optimal fluid balance in your body’s cells, having electrolytes is critical. Electrolytes and nutrients that matter most in impacting hydration levels—and thus your bladder and ability to urinate—include potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sodium. So, focus on eating electrolytes throughout the day along with drinking water. (These are the 20 best electrolyte sources to enjoy in your diet.)

You might be more dehydrated in the winter

While you’d think it would be the opposite due to summer’s heat and humidity, the winter actually can be more dehydrating. Why? You’re more likely to feel thirsty in the warmer months when temperatures are high and your body is sweaty, which increases water intake so you stay hydrated. In the winter, your body doesn’t register dehydration warning signs as well or feel as thirsty naturally. If you’re struggling to drink regularly, check out these tips for increasing water intake in the day.

It’s okay to have coffee, but it will still dehydrate you a bit

While it’s fine to have your cup of joe to wake up, have too many lattes and you might get a bit dehydrated unless you’re drinking enough water to keep hydration in check. “In some cases, beverages other than water can have a more dehydrating effect, especially if they’re highly caffeinated or contain a significant amount of sugar,” Dr. Ramin says.

To stay hydrated and enjoy your brew, have a glass of water with each cup of coffee. Even better? Have two glasses of water with each cup to counteract any dehydrating, diuretic effects. (Here are four more worst foods and drinks for your body’s hydration levels and bladder health.)

Peeing more often is a good thing 

Experts tell us all the time to drink more water and stress the importance of hydration. Yet naturally, with more water comes more urine. So, you’ll start to have to pee more than usual. Don’t confuse this with urinary incontinence or too high a frequency of the urge to pee, though.

“With all that increased water intake, you may find the need to visit the bathroom more frequently," says Dr. Ramin. "The number of times you use the bathroom will regulate as your body gets used to increased hydration. Pay attention to quantity. If you can’t urinate but have an urge, it’s incontinence; if you’re peeing with a stream, it’s perfectly healthy and normal. Here are some other indicators of hydration to keep in mind.

Don’t hold in your pee for any longer than you absolutely have to

Urine contains bacteria and waste, so you’ll want to get rid of that ASAP when it starts to build up. The urge to urinate is a good warning sign for your body that it’s time to eliminate those toxins, which damage the body if kept inside for too long. Here are short- and long-term effects from holding in your pee for too long; you’ll want to avoid them.

Always pee after sex or you might regret it 48 hours later

While the urge to cuddle up with your partner in bed after sex, take a short bathroom break first. Even if you find it difficult to pee without a natural urge, eliminating your bladder right away lowers your chances of getting a UTI. A UTI isn’t guaranteed if you choose to snuggle and go straight to bed instead, but peeing helps a great deal. (If you think you might have a UTI, these are the symptoms to look for.)

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