Peeing is a normal part of being a healthy human being. You take in fluids, and eventually, your kidneys discharge it to your bladder and it winds up in your toilet. If you don’t urinate enough, that can be a problem. On the other hand, peeing too much can also be an issue. Frequent urination can be a mild annoyance — or it can be extremely disruptive to your life and can even indicate a serious problem.
What’s normal vs. what’s “frequent”
Your bladder is an organ that you don’t really think about very often. It’s there for you when you need it (to hold your urine) and it lets you know when it’s full and a bathroom visit is necessary. “Normal” urination, incidentally, is around six to eight times in a 24-hour period, although this can vary from person to person. If you find yourself peeing more often than you usually do or only small amounts are eking through, then you’re experiencing frequent urination.
Frequent urination can be a huge hassle. You may plan trips around bathroom breaks, for example, or intentionally avoid fluids before heading out. It may impact your workday, as constant interruptions can keep you heading to the bathroom instead of, you know, working. And it can also impact your sleep and negatively impact your life during the day (even if it only happens at night).
While pregnancy can and does affect how often you pee, if you’re not pregnant, there are other things can be to blame.
Frequent urination causes
According to Dr. Lauren Cadish, a urogynecologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center’s Urogynecology Center in Santa Monica, California, one of the most common causes of frequent urination is a urinary tract infection.
“This often comes with symptoms of pain or burning and urinary urgency, and it comes on suddenly,” she tells SheKnows, adding that this is easily diagnosed in a doctor’s office and usually responds to a round of antibiotics.
Another very common cause of frequent urination is overactive bladder. This syndrome tends to be painless, but it can be a huge problem in those affected. Dr. S. Adam Ramin, a urologist and medical director of Urology Cancer Specialists in Los Angeles, California, tells SheKnows that under normal circumstance, as the bladder fills with urine, it expands and fills up like a balloon.
If the pressure continues to increase at low volumes before overfilling, it will contract by reflex, giving the person a severe urge to urinate. Sometimes, the bladder will empty itself (a nicer way of saying “peeing your pants”) before you reach the bathroom. Over time, the bladder itself will have a decreased capacity for holding urine, which further compounds the problem.
There are several conditions that can cause OAB. These can include diabetes, bladder cancer, cystitis, urinary tract infection, bladder stones, pelvic prolapse, pelvic tumors or age-related atrophy of bladder muscle. All require a medical diagnosis and all have their own specific treatments.
There’s also another factor we do have control of — our diets. Yes, we know it’s a huge burden to have to control or limit your diet to avoid frequent bathroom breaks, but many of the things we eat and drink can cause issues and may need to be managed if you’re experiencing frequent urination.
Ramin says they’re probably what you’d expect.
- Caffeine. This is a huge one because it not only stimulates bladder function, but it’s also considered a diuretic, which means it encourages the passage of urine.
- Alcohol. Your cocktail, beer or glass of wine has a similar effect to caffeinated beverages — they stimulate the bladder and act as a diuretic.
- Spicy foods. Yes, the news keeps getting worse. Ramin explains that some studies show that spicy foods can irritate the lining of the bladder.
- Acidic foods. This is a similar story as spicy foods — they can bother your bladder.
Now that we’ve shared all this bad news, you don’t have to completely cut everything you adore out of your diet immediately. Instead, maybe take a break from one for a little while to see if you improve, and if you do, consider the pros and cons of continuing to pound coffee every morning or making your favorite spicy recipes a few times a week.
When to see a doctor
There are many potential causes of urinary frequency, some of which need to be diagnosed by a doctor, but there are signs you need to book an appointment. Cadish recommends calling your doc if you are experiencing pain (burning or otherwise), if you see blood in the urine or if you are experiencing ongoing urinary frequency despite taking in a normal amount of fluid.
Also, if you’ve tried conservative methods for relieving the problem and they haven’t been effective or the problem has worsened, consider making an appointment with an urologist, says Ramin. “Urologists have special expertise and training in solving problems associated with the urinary tract and can help provide you a plan to regain the bladder control you’ve lost,” he adds.
The bottom line: Peeing is a completely normal bodily function, but it shouldn’t be happening so frequently it disrupts your daily life.