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How Long Can You Go Before You Have to ... Go

When you gotta go you gotta go, but have you ever wondered how long the body can really hold it in?

Going to the bathroom can give you instant relief, but holding it in is sometimes necessary. You might be wondering how long, medically speaking, your body can hold out from urinating or defecating — and the answers might surprise you.

How Long the Body Holds Urine

The length of time your body can go without peeing depends on how full your bladder is. If you’re dehydrated, you’ll be able to “last” longer without a bathroom trip. On average, it’s normal to urinate six to eight times during a 24-hour period, says Cleveland Clinic. Aurora Health Care’s Department of Internal Medicine says a completely full human bladder is capable of holding about one liter of urine. So, when urine volume increases above that level it’s much more difficult to hold it in.

MedlinePlus says a healthy bladder can hold up to two cups of fluid comfortably for two to five hours before feeling the urge to go, and some people are able to hold out much longer than this. It all comes down to how much you’re drinking — and how full your bladder is. Some people (kids included) can sleep up to 12 hours a night without having to wake up to pee. And when you're dehydrated, you may be able to wait a full 24 hours before going to the bathroom.

Signs Something is Wrong

Dehydration and other health problems make it easier to hold in urine because your body is producing less of it. When this happens, you’ll urinate less frequently than what’s considered the norm. If you’re peeing less than two cups of urine in a 24-hour period, you have decreased urine output. MedlinePlus and Mayo Clinic say this could be the result of one of the following health conditions:

  • Acute kidney failure
  • Dehydration
  • Urinary tract blockage from an enlarged prostate
  • Blood loss
  • Severe infection
  • Certain medications (diuretics, some antibiotics, anticholinergics, etc.)

What about Pooping?

Most people defecate on a regular basis (three times per week up to three times daily) but when you’re constipated you might go fewer than three times per week, says Harvard Health Publications. An unusual case of fecal impaction (a large mass of feces in the colon or rectum that’s not able to come out) for 75 days was reported by a 2010 study in the Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility. Being constipated and pooping less than three times per week isn’t ideal, so check in with your doctor to determine a cause. Boosting fiber intake can help.

Should I Hold It In?

Unless there’s a good reason to hold it in, don’t procrastinate on going to the bathroom. It will make you uncomfortable, and boost your risk of embarrassing accidents.

Going to the bathroom can give you instant relief, but holding it in is sometimes necessary. You might be wondering how long, medically speaking, your body can hold out from going pee or poop — and the answers might surprise you.

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