19 June 2020

It’s not your imagination – you are peeing more in winter

You might find yourself having to pee more than usual, and the colder weather also has an effect on your bladder and urinary problems such as incontinence.

If you find yourself going to the loo more than usual in colder weather, it’s neither your imagination, nor coincidence. For most people, this is not a problem that will affect their daily lives, but for those with urinary incontinence and other bladder problems, it could be.

The temperature and your bladder

But how exactly does the weather affect our bladders? According to Dr Steve Garnett, a urologist from Benenden Hospital, the reason for increased urine production is because we do not sweat as much as we do in summer. “As we lose less fluid through sweating, we produce urine instead. So, there will be a need to pee more.”

Sweating and passing urine are both crucial for ridding the body of toxins. If the one function can’t happen, the other will compensate to help us rid the body of waste.

Increased urinary incontinence

While peeing a bit more than usual during winter will not affect your health, for those who have urinary incontinence, winter can aggravate this condition.

Research shows that colder weather causes our muscles to tense up, including those around the bladder, which can make bladder control more difficult. Keeping warm can help relax these muscles to control leakage or the urge to urinate.

According to The University of Iowa Healthcare, patients who experience urge incontinence report increased leakage during the winter months. This can also be related to dietary factors such as excessive fluid intake, especially with drinks containing caffeine.

If you tend to reach for that third or fourth cup of coffee to keep the winter chills at bay, this might have an effect on your bladder. Caffeine can irritate the bladder, which increases the urge to urinate, or can aggravate leaking. Replace the caffeine with a cup of refreshing, warming herbal tea.

Many of us also tend to drink less water during winter. Not only can dehydration affect your health in general, but contrary to what you may think, this may also increase your urinary incontinence as you are more prone to leaking and bladder irritation when your urine is concentrated. This may also increase your risk for a urinary tract infection.

How to manage incontinence and bladder health during winter

There are some things you can do to manage your urinary incontinence and bladder health:

  • Stay fit, and remember those pelvic floor exercises. We tend to want to cosy up indoors instead of exercising, but it is important not only to keep your weight in check, but also to keep your core and pelvic muscles strong.
  • Don’t hold in a pee, no matter how reluctant you are to get out of bed. The longer you hold urine in the bladder, the more you weaken your bladder muscles over time, which can aggravate your incontinence. You also risk contracting a urinary tract infection because of bacteria buildup.
  • Follow a healthy, balanced diet. It might be tempting to indulge in unhealthy comfort food, but excessive weight can place extra pressure on the bladder, which can worsen urinary incontinence.
  • Stay hydrated. If the thought of cold water makes you shudder, drink herbal tea or warm water with lemon juice.

Image credit: Unsplash


Ask the Expert

Incontinence Expert

Dr Prenevin Govender completed his MBChB at the University of Cape Town in 2001. He obtained his Fellowship of the College of Urologists in 2009 and graduated with distinction for a Masters in Medicine from the University of Cape Town in 2010. His special interests include laparoscopic, pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence surgery. He consults full-time at Life Kingsbury Hospital in Claremont.

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