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Is Holding It in Harmful to Your Health?

Is Holding It in Harmful to Your Health?

If it becomes a regular habit, maybe so.

Manny Ramirez let it flow behind the Green Monster while playing left field for the Boston Red Sox. Michael Phelps did it in the pool of course, and a “slow release” is the favorite of many an NFL player. “Every single athlete has to deal with this,” says U.S. women's national hockey team forward, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, “No one ever talks about it."

It? Coping with the need to pee.

Uber-hydrated athletes often have to confront the urgent feeling, but on a long drive or in an intense meeting, chances are you’ve had to decide, should I hold it in?

Medically speaking, urologists say it’s always better to respect nature’s calling. But the truth is before the age of 50, you have the ability to hold urine in for about eight hours and that’s okay to do as long as you don’t do it all the time.

However, some professions, such as a nurse, teacher or a truck driver seem to demand that you hold it in frequently. In those cases, you’re risking urinary tract infections, long-term damage to your bladder, and even possible kidney damage. Another huge drawback? In 2012, a neurologist from Brown University documented that holding back urination impairs higher-order cognitive functions on a level similar to being drunk.

So when nature calls, it’s okay to hold it in for a little while—but avoid making it a habit or one day you may lose the ability to hold it in at all.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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