Urinary incontinence can be troublesome and embarrassing, and it can keep you from doing the activities you love. But as this article describes, there are steps you can take to improve your bladder control and prevent different types of urinary incontinence.
As we age, our bodies change in many ways. One of the most frustrating and embarrassing changes may be in loss of bladder control or urinary incontinence. It can occur in males or females, but about 80 percent of people affected with the condition are women.
Occasional leakage can happen, particularly with older adults. But if you’re experiencing frequent issues, or are unsure if what you are experiencing is occasional or common, discuss your concerns with your doctor.
Understand the Two Types of Urinary Incontinence
There are two types of incontinence.
One, called stress incontinence, is caused by pressure on the pelvic floor. You might experience this when you laugh or sneeze.
The second type is urge urinary incontinence, which is generally a symptom of overactive bladder. Overactive bladder is the sudden urge to urinate without the ability to control this impulse, and it often leads to leaking or total loss of bladder control, known as urge urinary incontinence.
About 40 to 70 percent of urinary incontinence is due to overactive bladder.
Doctors can help control chronic bladder incontinence, but there are some measures individuals can take to help prevent these different types of urinary incontinence or improve bladder health to alleviate symptoms.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Weight puts pressure on the bladder, possibly causing stress incontinence. Of course, there are a lot of variables involved in calculating what constitutes a healthy weight for you. The best way to decide is to consult a BMI or body mass index chart.
If your BMI is 25 to 29, you are considered overweight. A BMI of 30 or more classifies you as obese, and you may be facing some future bladder issues, if aren't already experiencing difficulties.
Healthy weight loss can help prevent urinary incontinence and improve bladder health.
Discuss Possible Links Between Symptoms and Medications With Your Doctor
According to some sources, there are 300 or more prescribed medications that affect the bladder, either causing incontinence problems or making them worse. If you experience any side effects of bladder leakage or urinary incontinence with your medication, report your experiences to your doctor. Do not stop taking any medications without speaking with your doctor first.
In some cases, the conditions for which you are taking the medications may be worse than the bladder problems, making discontinuing the meds inadvisable. But in other cases, your doctor may be able to prescribe different medications that do not cause these side effects and will help improve bladder health for you.
Modify Your Diet and Drinking Habits
It is important to eat enough fruits and vegetables as well as lean proteins. Certainly, that is standard advice for good overall health, and eating to improve bladder health is no exception.
The surprising news is in what you should avoid.
Chocolate is one food that should be eaten in moderation, and even excluded by some people. Chocolate contains caffeine, and for some people, sensitivity to caffeine can create issues with your bladder. Dark or white chocolate could be good alternatives to satisfy your sweet tooth, as they have lower caffeine content and dark chocolate has more health benefits.
Spicy foods can also irritate the bladder. So can acidic foods like tomatoes and citrus fruits.
Alcohol and caffeinated beverages, such as sodas, energy drinks, coffee, and tea, can also worsen bladder problems, which can trigger urinary incontinence symptoms.
Other foods that can irritate your bladder and worsen the symptoms of overactive bladder include:
- Tomato products, such as pizza sauce, salsa, or ketchup
- Raw onions
- Artificial and natural sweeteners
If you believe your diet may be contributing to your bladder issues, try eliminating one food from your diet every two weeks or so. If your problems clear up, you can decide to moderate or even eliminate those foods. Your doctor can also help you determine if the foods you are eating are potentially contributing to bladder issues.
Consult with a healthcare provider for more information about how your diet could be impacting your bladder health and how a modified diet could help prevent issues with urinary incontinence.
Get Enough Fluids and Use the Bathroom Regularly
There are times when individuals are their own worst enemy when it comes to their bladders. For example, perhaps they get so involved in what they are doing that they forget to stay hydrated. Sometimes they drink plenty at their desks or during activities, but don’t take sufficient bathroom breaks and “hold it” too long. Sometimes they are afraid to drink too much, such as when traveling, because they don’t have much opportunity for a bathroom break or are in a hurry to get where they’re going. This usually ends in over-compensating and not drinking nearly enough liquid.
It is important to consume enough fluids. Try to drink at least nine eight-ounce glasses a day (or as directed by your doctor).
The good news is soups and juices count, too.
It’s also important to take bathroom breaks regularly to not over-tax your bladder and to help keep it strong. Making sure to give yourself time for bathroom breaks throughout the day, even while traveling, is important.
A consistent bathroom schedule can help you train your body to improve your struggle with urinary incontinence.
We all realize smoking is unhealthy for anyone, but it might surprise you to learn that it influences bladder leakage and incontinence. Both the nicotine and smoke are known to irritate the bladder. They can cause the bladder to react as if it was full, signaling the need to empty it. In addition, that chronic cough that accompanies cigarette smoking can cause leaks from the sudden pressure. For help with quitting smoking, visit smokefree.gov.
Take Precautions To Avoid UTIs
Be careful to avoid urinary tract infections (UTIs). UTIs are caused by bacteria that can weaken the bladder and cause temporary incontinence in some people. Good hygiene is vital in preventing these infections.
If you get a UTI, drinking cranberry juice can help kill the bacteria and provide relief. Be careful not to over-do it, though, as the excess acid can be a bladder irritant. Tell your doctor if you experience symptoms of UTIs.
Understand How Certain Health Conditions Affect the Bladder
There are some health conditions that can make you more prone to bladder problems. For example, prostate problems are linked to incontinence in males. If you have an enlarged prostate, it is important to get medical treatment. Besides that, if you have prostate cancer, some of the drugs used to combat the disease may also cause bladder problems. Let your doctor know if you are experiencing this side effect of your treatment, or if you have other concerns or questions about keeping your bladder healthy.
Talk To Your Doctor
Bladder problems can range from minor annoyances to major problems. Don’t let embarrassment get in the way of seeking help. Speak up at the doctor’s office and get advice about how to improve bladder health and prevent the different types of urinary incontinence.