Breakin' the seal!

Is there any scientific reasoning behind “breaking the seal” when going out and drinking? Or is it all a Jedi mind trick?

Well, if you don’t break the seal, then you would have to use The Force to get to the booze. My Jedi powers are weak, so like many mortals, I find it easier to break the seal and open the bottle.

I think Cecil has a column on this, but I’m too lazy to look it up.

However, an intern friend of mine once explaned it this way: Most of the time we hold it until our bladders are full and uncomfortable. When we finally void our bladder, it is very stretched and we feel “empty” before we truly are. Therefore, we fill back up more quickly.

His suggestion is to wait a few seconds after you feel empty. I have tried it and found that he is correct.

Oh… THAT seal. My mistake.

Which seal?

Wait a few seconds for what? I have to go to the bathroom…

I never drink with pinnipeds, so I haven’t encountered this figure of speech. I’ve only heard of one connection between seals and drinking:

A baby seal goes into a bar.
The bartender says, “What’ll you have?”
The seal says, "Anything but Canadian Club.


I still don’t know WTF anyone is talking about. What seal are we breaking here?

-friedo, who thought he was an expert drinker

“Breaking the seal” refers to the phenomenon in which a you can drink a substantial amount of alcohol without having to go to the bathroom - but once you finally do go, you have to keep going back again and again and again and …

He is saying that you can drink to your heart’s content without feeling an urgent need to urinate, up to a point. But once you have “broken the seal”, meaning taken your first piss of the night, that you will have to urinate more frequently as you continue to drink.

I think the delay before your first urination is more telling than the subsequent frequency. It just takes a while for the first few drinks to make it through your digestive tract.

I would suspect another key factor is alcohol’s effect on the kidneys. It stimulates or suppresses (I forget which) the production of a hormone that results in significant increase of water passing through the kidneys. It takes a while for this effect to be established, which would be the time from onset of drinking to a bit before the first urination. By then, the process is occurring, causing more rapid filling of the bladder.

The first act of urinating doesn’t cause frequent need thereafter, rather it heralds that the rapid filling of the bladder has already begun.

Maybe this one is for the “Great Unexplained Mysteries” folder?

Not so fast, CelraySoda. There is a factual answer here (somewhere).

Gary T and I have good points. Alcohol is a diuretic, which is defined by Merriam-Webster as “tending to increase the flow of urine”.

Like any drug, it’s effects take time. I think it’s a combination of your first few drinks needing to make it through the digestive tract, and their subsequent diuretic effects effectively squeezing the water from your system.

Hopefully Qadgop (sp?) will be along with a definitive answer.

Not bad. Are there any other diuretics I should watch out for when the nearest Porta-john is out of reach?

What’s to wonder about? Say a drink takes about an hour to run through you. You start drinking at 9, and drink steadily without having to go to the bathroom. At 10 or so, the first drink starts knocking at the door to get out. And since you were steadily filling the pipe to start out with, you’re going to be steadily emptying it from now on. Is that mysterious?

Slight hijack here, but anyone else notice that women seem to have to pee far less frequently than men when out drinking, even when matching drink for drink? My girlfriend drinks pints, and if we’re out for an evening I find that once I’ve “broken the seal” I’m trotting off to the john every half-hour or so, but she seems to be unaffected. Is there a physiological reason for this?


Perhaps not. But I’d venture to suggest that women tend to be conditioned to wait a longer time between visits to the loo by the fact that lines in the ladies’ rooms are typically longer than in the men’s.


The two biggest nasties are tea and coffee, which can have other nasty side effects (they do on me!) in addition to more frequent urination. Sugary soft drinks rank up there, too.

Best stick to plain old water, fruit juices, or sports drinks.

There is a hormone (produced, I think, by the pituitary) called anti-diuretic hormone or ADH. It causes the body to retain water except to the degree necessary to get rid of breakdown chemicals by pissing them out, and without concentrating them too strongly beforehand.

Alcohol interferes with it, so your body dumps water indiscriminately.