Ah, excessive urination. On the one hand, if you don’t usually drink enough water, upping your intake can seem like a rebirth of sorts. It might feel like all of a sudden, you’ve unlocked the secret to maintaining consistent energy levels, warding off the kind of intense cravings that lead to doughnut daydreams, and keeping dehydration-induced headaches at bay. But along with all the benefits of staying hydrated comes one potential drawback: spending what feels like your entire life hustling to and from the bathroom.
Peeing frequently is often part and parcel of staying hydrated. But there is such a thing as peeing too much, and it can happen for various reasons. Here’s how to know if you spend too much time on the porcelain throne.
There’s no one-size-fits-all recommendation for how often or how much you should pee.
That’s namely because there’s no concrete recommendation for how much water to drink each day for proper hydration—it varies from person to person.
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“The best way to know if you’re well hydrated is [to look at] the [color of your urine](http://www.self.com/story/urine-color),” Amy George, M.D., a urogynecologist at UC Davis Medical Center, tells SELF. “If your urine is very dark and smells of something you’ve just eaten or drunk, you probably need to drink more water. But if it's very clear or pale yellow, you’re well hydrated.”
Whether or not you’re well hydrated, there is no set “normal” number when it comes to urinary frequency. Instead, there’s a range. The average bladder can hold between 10 and 15 ounces when at maximum capacity. If you’re drinking enough water for your body and peeing around six to seven times in 24 hours (or around every 2.5 hours), all is likely well, according to Cleveland Clinic and Mayo Clinic.
But if you pee way more or less often than six to seven times a day, your body might be crying out for help.
Let’s say you regularly keep your butt parked at your desk with just one or two bathroom breaks; you have intense snack cravings; and when you do pee, it’s the kind of deep yellow you usually only see in a Crayola box: You’re probably not drinking enough water. You’d think thirst would tip you off to this fact, but it’s common to confuse thirst with hunger (which explains the snacking urge). And more rarely, peeing infrequently can be a sign of a kidney issue—if you’re well hydrated and still not peeing very often, see your doctor, George says.
“Whatever you’re taking in, you should be putting out,” Fara Bellows, M.D., assistant clinical professor of urology at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells SELF. The main exception to this rule is if you exercise frequently and lose a lot of fluid via sweat. “If you’re sweating a lot, your [urinary] output may not necessarily equal your intake,” George says. Bellows agrees, adding that urinary output "definitely varies based on the person."
On the flip side, if you’re peeing too often, it could be a hint that you're drinking more water than you need to. However, if you cut back on your intake and your pee falls in that pale-yellow-to-clear range, but you’re still constantly racing to the bathroom, you might have overactive bladder.
If you feel like you have to pee all the time and need to go right that second, you may have overactive bladder.
“Overactive bladder is a syndrome defined by urinary urgency, frequency, and nocturia—somebody wakes up at night to go to the restroom,” George says. Symptoms can also include urge incontinence, aka leaking pee before you can make it to the bathroom (or even thinking you might leak without actually doing so).
“When the bladder gets distended, it sends a signal to the brain saying it needs to empty,” George says. But if you have overactive bladder, your bladder sends false signals to your brain saying it’s time to empty even if it’s nowhere near full.
While peeing very often can also be a sign of a urinary tract infection, overactive bladder doesn’t usually come with the burning, pelvic pain, and bloody urine that can accompany a UTI, Bellows says.
There are many reasons you might have an overactive bladder, including childbirth.
Nerve injury during childbirth is the biggest risk factor for bladder issues. “As a baby goes through the birth canal, it stretches the ligaments and muscles down below in the pelvis,” George says. Specifically, childbirth can affect the pudendal nerve, which impacts the bladder and rectum. “Because of that injury, there can be a miscommunication between the brain and bladder—the bladder has a mind of its own, and instead of staying nice and calm until [it's full], your bladder has involuntary spasms throughout the day,” George says.
Overactive bladder may also come down to what George calls a “voiding dysfunction,” or not being able to completely empty your bladder when you pee. “Going to the restroom very frequently but having small-volume voids is classic overactive bladder,” George says. Beyond childbirth, common reasons for this include neurological issues like stroke, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s, or having had previous bladder surgery.
Less frequently, excessive urination can be a learned behavior, George says. If you pee every hour during your work break even if you don’t feel the need to go, it can get your bladder accustomed to emptying that often no matter what, for example.
Kegel exercises and diet changes can help an overactive bladder. You may also need to see your doc.
Behavioral therapy can help with overactive bladder that’s due to a learned behavior, George says. And since strengthening the pelvic floor, which supports the bladder, is often a major part in combating other overactive bladder causes, doctors might send patients with overactive bladder to a physical therapist specializing in pelvic floor dysfunction.
“They usually help patients target the pelvic floor muscles and teach them how to do Kegels,” George says. “Lots of times, people aren’t doing Kegels properly—they may be contracting their glutes or thighs or abdominals instead of it being a focused contraction of pelvic floor,” George says. (If you're curious, here's the right way to do Kegels in order to strengthen your pelvic floor.)
Finally, if your need to pee is taking over your life, it can help to avoid drinks like coffee, tea, and soda, which can be bladder irritants, Bellows says. Acidic foods like citrus can also exacerbate the problem, George says.
If you think you’re peeing too much or too little, talk to your primary care doctor. “If there’s anything concerning, they can refer you to a urologist,” Bellows says.