Home Science Common Misconceptions Immaculate Misconceptions: The truth behind ‘breaking the seal’

Immaculate Misconceptions: The truth behind ‘breaking the seal’


It’s a terribly frustrating situation the majority of us will have encountered before, and we will on many more occasions during freshers week and the rest of university. Perhaps you’re just settling down for a few pints at the Vic, or maybe you’re dominating the dance floor in Timepiece, but, after that first fateful trip, you’re decorating the interior of your closest toilet cubicle. And again. And again.

Photo courtesy of thejournal.ie

We’ve all heard of ‘breaking the seal’, the affliction where we cannot stop going to the toilet after having consumed a few drinks, but here I’m going to show you that there actually is no such seal, no dam by which your internal flood gates open.

So, not just troubling your decision making or your overall dignity, alcohol also likes to throw a booze-sodden spanner in the works here too. Alcohol restricts the bodily chemical arganine vasopressin, also known as antidiuretic hormone (ADH). The role of ADH is to conserve the water levels in your body, by reducing its loss in urine. Helping matters are the receptors you have in your kidneys that promote water re-absorption. So far so good.

But, it’s those carefully calibrated bodily functions that get worked up into a frenzy once you’ve had a few. The introduction of alcohol interferes with the nerve channels that allow ADH to pass through your system, and your kidneys struggle to re-absorb water as easily as they should. Excess water in your body then gets dumped into the urine destined to leave your body. Increasingly diluted urine fills your bladder more quickly, so, hey presto, you’re having to take more breaks from throwing questionable shapes.

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But why, you might ask, do you only need to go to the bathroom more frequently once you’ve been once? Well, luckily, I have an explanation for that as well. The fact is, it takes time for the alcohol to take affect and suppress your ADH levels, and you probably already have more undiluted urine in your bladder before you’ve sat down with your first drink anyway. Your ADH levels will then steadily drop as your session gets ever boozier.

So, there you have it. Now, I’m not going to tell you to not drink or anything, I’m not quite that optimistic. I might not be offering you any solutions then, but — freshers pay close attention here — just remember that passing on all this scientific gossip won’t exactly win you mates with the stranger in the cubicle next to you.

But, the more you know I suppose. It might also be a great thing to bring up at parties, or even the pub. You might, naturally, just have to wait until you’ve sneaked off to relieve yourself first though.

Photo courtesy of theglow.com


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