Are you experiencing urinary issues? If so, rest assured, you’re not alone. According to the Urology Care Foundation, a quarter to one-third of American men and women live with some sort of incontinence. A true snapshot of the actual number of people who live with these issues is difficult to pinpoint given the stigma that is attached to the condition. People are often embarrassed to speak about it and, sometimes, are even more reluctant to consult a medical professional to seek advice and treatment.
You should know that most of us, at various stages of our lives, will tangle with some sort of bladder issue. Of course, the older we get, the more this is true. Our bladder changes as we age. The properties of a bladder change over time. An aging bladder tends to lose its elasticity and stretchiness. This typically results in an inability to hold a great quantity of urine which in turn means skipping to the loo more often. Frequent urination, a leaky bladder, and an urgent need to urinate, can all put a damper on our daily lives, but in no way should be considered an irreversible sentence.
Let’s talk about some concrete actions you can take to optimize your bladder health and ensure you not let your bladder determine what you do and when you do it.
Eating and Drinking for Optimal Bladder Health
The best way to help your bladder out when you are at the dining room table is to make sure your diet is rich in certain vitamins, mainly vitamins C and D. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) cite the following foods as being rich in vitamin C: potatoes, red and green peppers, and broccoli, to name a few. In terms of fruit, choose non-acidic fruits such as cantaloupe and strawberries.
To get more vitamin D into your diet, you’ll need to include such sources as fish (swordfish, salmon, tuna, and sardines), fortified milk and yogurt, and eggs, according to the Southern Alberta Institute of Urology. All good choices to strengthen a weakened and/or overactive bladder.
Studies have shown that certain foods and beverages can be considered as irritants to the bladder. While these can vary from one person to another, the NCBI published findings from a study done on patients living with Painful Bladder Syndrome and/or Interstitial Cystitis. They concluded that the following foods and beverages should be avoided: Food/drink containing caffeine, acidic food such as tomatoes, vinegar, etc., certain artificial sweeteners, alcoholic drinks, carbonated drinks/soda, highly spiced food especially with hot pepper.
Another study was done to measure the effects of combining soy, pumpkin, and cranberry extracts. After 3 months, participants showed improvement in their “urological quality of life” which included fewer episodes or nocturia (waking up frequently to urinate at night).
Habits that Can Help Rebuild a Weak Bladder
There are a few concrete steps you can begin to integrate into your life to strengthen your bladder and calm it if it is overactive.
First, exercise that pelvic floor and the rest of your body. Performing Kegel exercises is one of the best, and dare I say, easiest things you can do. The Mayo Clinic gives a great how-to on this: “squeeze your pelvic floor muscles — as if you're trying to stop your stream of urine — for three seconds. Relax for a count of three and repeat several times. Your doctor might recommend that you do a set of these exercises three or four times a day, lying down, sitting and standing”.
Second, get your whole body moving. Try to include at least 30 minutes of physical activity a minimum of five days a week. “Brisk walking, biking or swimming”
Next, lose a little weight. Studies have made the link between obesity and incontinence. One such study concluded that “excess body weight increases abdominal pressure which, in turn, increases bladder pressure and urethral mobility leading to stress urinary incontinence.” Weight loss helped alleviate urge incontinence by decreasing abdominal pressure.
Another effective addition to diet and lifestyle is supplementation. Supplements that are primarily composed of vitamin D (which we often don’t get enough of through diet alone), pumpkin seed extract, soy seed extract, and cranberry extract are tremendously effective in tackling an overactive bladder (OAB). Pumpkin seed extract and soybean germ extract are particularly noteworthy in combatting OAB.
Last but not least, stop smoking. Not only is smoking a habit-forming activity that leads to a panoply of negatives, but it can also mean increased bladder control problems that are often more severe. In addition, “heavy smokers also tend to develop a chronic cough, which can place added pressure on the bladder and aggravate urinary incontinence”.
Urinary incontinence is not a laughing matter but it doesn’t have to be a condition that hinders your daily activities, your planned outings, and your overall life. Implementing a few simple changes now, will help you achieve peace of mind, more carefree days, fewer interrupted nights, and allow you to enjoy the life you were always meant to live.