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10 Ways To Help Your Overactive Bladder

Having an overactive bladder is more likely to happen as you age, and in women after they have had children. Your bladder is shaped like an upside-down pear and holds about one and one-half to two cups (400 to 600 milliliters) of urine when full. 1,2

Beneath your bladder lie your pelvic floor muscles. These keep all your pelvic organs in the right place and help keep the urethra (the tube which urine comes out of) closed.

There is also a band of muscles that circle the urethra called the urethral sphincter. These muscles are crucial for bladder control and are meant to remain tightly closed for most of the day, preventing urine leakage.

People with an overactive bladder often have loss of bladder control, also called urinary incontinence. The amount of urine lost can range from just a few drops to gushing waterfall proportions.

Stress incontinence is the most common type of incontinence. A laugh, cough, or misplaced jumping jack is enough to open the floodgates. People with urge incontinence are inflicted with a frequent and sudden need to urinate, regardless of how much urine is in the bladder.

We realize that peeing when you least expect it affects how you live your life. So read on for 10 ways to help your overactive bladder! 3

1. Try to avoid caffeine, carbonated drinks, sugar, alcohol, and spicy or acidic foods.

Why? Well caffeine is a diuretic which makes you need to use the bathroom more often. Carbonated drinks and sugar are thought to stimulate the bladder. Alcohol switches off the ability of your body to concentrate urine, meaning you tend to urinate more dilute, watery urine, which dehydrates you, making your thirstier, so you drink more. And those chilies not only bring fire to your mouth, they also wreak havoc in your bladder.

Sadly, even chocolate is a bit of a baddie, as it contains both sugar and caffeine - although we promise not to tell if you just have to have a teensy, tiny bit every now and then!

2. Losing weight may improve your bladder control.

Excess weight puts extra stress on your pelvic floor muscles and contributes to an overactive bladder and loss of bladder control. If you can lose even a small amount of weight, it will help out your bladder.

The best weight loss plans are always those that set realistic goals combined with healthy eating habits and physical activity. Fad diets, although often successful short-term, rarely achieve sustainable weight loss, because once you tire of the diet, you often revert to ingrained unhealthy eating habits.

Check out our Obesity and Weight Loss guide for more information.

3. Pelvic floor exercises can help immensely.

You can’t see your pelvic floor muscles, but just like the muscles in your arms and legs, they  lose their strength if they are not exercised.

Pelvic floor exercises (sometimes called Kegel exercises) help strengthen the pelvic floor when done consistently at least twice a day. Imagine you are holding back gas. Squeeze and lift the rectal area without tightening your buttocks or belly. Try and hold it for a count of five before relaxing. Increase to 10 seconds per contraction over a period of a couple of weeks. Try to complete 20 repetitions twice a day. Throw in some quick contractions (only hold for one second then release) as well to mix it up. 4

4. Carefully managing your fluid intake can be beneficial.

Drinking too much fluid puts pressure on your bladder, and makes you need to urinate. Drinking too little means your urine becomes concentrated, which irritates your bladder, also making you want to run to the restroom!

Finding a nice happy balance can be tricky, but the best thing to do is to drink small glassfuls of fluid throughout the day and avoid guzzling gallons in one sitting.

  • Aim to drink four to eight 8 ounce glasses of water a day.
  • Look at your urine and aim for a nice light yellow color. Dark urine is a sign that you are not drinking enough. Colorless urine is a sign of drinking too much.
  • Try to drink only during the day and stop two to three hours before you go to bed.
  • Drink mainly water.

5. Smoking may increase the urge to urinate.

Smoking irritates the lining of the bladder, and also makes you cough, both of which are unhelpful if you have an overactive bladder.

It is a good decision for both general health reasons and overactive bladder reasons to stop smoking. We know it can be a difficult thing to do, but don’t beat yourself up about failed attempts, just set a date on the calendar to have another go.  Our Quit Smoking center has some helpful advice. 5

6. Get your bladder back into a good routine by emptying it at set times.

You can retrain your bladder to only go at certain times. Basically, retraining involves emptying your bladder to a set schedule. Initially, you might go every hour. Gradually over a period of days and weeks, you extend the period of time between using the bathroom to several hours. Followed over six to eight weeks, this program requires a lot of determination, but success rates are good. Talk with your doctor to determine if bladder retraining is suitable for you. 6

7. Keeping a “bladder diary” may help identify triggers.

Unfortunately you won’t find any juicy gossip in this diary, but it will help both you and your doctor identify any triggers for your overactive bladder and establish just how often you visit the bathroom each day.

Document exactly what kind of fluids you drink and their volume. Write down the type and quantity of food you eat. Record the number of trips to the bathroom and rate your trips as successful (no urine leakage) or not. Indicate what you were doing when leakage or the urge to urinate occurred (ie, running, sneezing, jumping jacks). 7

8. Use incontinence pads to avoid embarrassing accidents.

No matter how fast you can run, sometimes that bathroom is just a little bit too far in the distance. Don’t let yourself get caught out, when there is a fantastic range of products out there to satisfy even the most fashion conscious overactive bladder sufferer.

Incontinence products have super powers of absorbency and won’t leak or become lumpy when they get wet. They help control odor and minimize contact between urine and your skin, preventing the development of rashes.

A huge range of incontinence products is available, from discrete pads with little bulk that can be slipped into underwear, to disposable adult-sized underwear with in-built absorbency and easy-tear sides. Gender-specific products account for the different requirements of men and women, and there are many reusable and washable options available. Common brands include Attends, Tena, Depend, and Poise.

9. Seek help from a qualified physiotherapist if you have incontinence, or pain that doesn’t go away after giving birth.

Vaginal childbirth can damage the ligaments, nerves, and pelvic floor muscles that support the vagina, bladder and urethra. 8 While pelvic floor exercises may help some women after birth, many need more intensive physical therapy.

Talk to a qualified physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor therapy if you have any incontinence or pain that doesn’t go away after giving birth. Embarking on proper rehabilitation soon after having your baby may avoid more serious gynecological problems later on. 9

10. Don’t live the rest of your life with your legs crossed. Be kind to yourself and seek your doctor’s advice.

Approximately 80% of those affected by urinary incontinence can be cured or improved, yet only one in 12 people with incontinence issues seek help. Talk to your doctor about your bladder control. 10

Your doctor can investigate and establish a cause for your overactive bladder. Treatment can then be tailored to this cause and may involve medications, bladder retraining, pelvic floor exercises, absorbent products, surgery, or combinations of these options. 10

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Sources

  1. The Urinary Tract and How It Works, NIH - http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/KUDiseases/pubs/yoururinary/
  2. Clinical and Functional Anatomy of the Urethral Sphincter, US NLM NIH - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3469827/
  3. How Tobacco and Smoking Affects Your Health, American Cancer Society - http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/tobaccocancer/womenandsmoking/women-and-smoking-health-effects
  4. Pelvic Organ Prolapse, University of Michigan Health System - http://www.med.umich.edu/1libr/aha/umpelvicpro.htm
  5. Pelvic rehab therapy: Help for uncomfortable postpartum symptoms, Babycenter - http://www.babycenter.com/0_pelvic-rehab-postpartum-physical-therapy-for-your-pelvic-flo_10379562.bc
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