In an effort to help educate the public on bladder health, November has been deemed National Bladder Health Awareness Month.
Many bladder conditions can commonly cause an embarrassing problem called urinary incontinence. This problem effects millions of Americans, and women are twice as likely as men to suffer from incontinence -regardless of age. In fact over 13 million Americans have incontinence and many more may be secretly dealing with it.
Two Common Types of Urinary Incontinence
Stress incontinence (the most common type of urinary incontinence) is leakage of urine, usually resulting from; sneezing, jogging, laughing, coughing or lifting something heavy. This is a common bladder problem in younger women.
Stress incontinence happens with the muscles and tissues around the bladder become weakened and the bladder opening doesn’t say closed properly. When there is pressure against the bladder, this results in urine leakage. Common causes of bladder muscle weakening include; pregnancy, weight gain, vaginal childbirth and sports injuries.
Urge Incontinence is a sudden urge to urinate which may result in large amounts of urine leakage. Urge incontinence can be induced by running water, or in many cases by no reason at all. Urge incontinence is caused by spasms of the bladder muscles-resulting from nerve or muscle damage from a stroke, infection, inflammation of the bladder or other conditions.
In honor of National Bladder Health Awareness month, here are some tips for preventing and improving bladder problems and urinary incontinence.
- Daily pelvic floor exercises-a process of tightening and relaxing the muscles of the perineum-commonly performed to help strengthen muscles used during childbirth. Be sure you know the proper procedure for doing pelvic floor exercises; consult your physician if necessary. Note; it may take a few months of doing these exercises before results are noticed.
- Stop smoking. Urge incontinence and other bladder control problems are three times more common in women who smoke.
- Replace high impact exercise such as jogging and aerobics with Pilates and yoga to stretch and strengthen your core muscles-which has been found to improve incontinence symptoms.
- Avoid lifting which puts a strain on muscles of the pelvic floor.
- Get started in an effective weight loss program if you need to drop some extra pounds. Being overweight puts pressure on fatty tissue in the bladder and increases the incidence of urinary incontinence.
- Eat plenty of fiber and drink ample daily fluid to avoid constipation. Straining to go to the bathroom weakens pelvic floor muscles and may cause worsening of urinary incontinence.
- Reduce intake of caffeine which can irritate the bladder and worsen bladder leakage. Coffee is the worst offender of caffeinated beverages when it comes to bladder health. Try replacing coffee intake with healthy green or herbal tea.
- Reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption (and other diuretics which cause increased urination). Below is Mayo Clinic’s list of additional foods and beverages which have a diuretic effect:
- Decaffeinated tea and coffee
- Carbonated drinks
- Artificial sweeteners
- Corn syrup
- Foods that are high in spice, sugar or acid, especially citrus fruits
- Heart and blood pressure medications, sedatives, and muscle relaxants
- Large doses of vitamins B or C
Keep in mind that avoiding urinary tract infections can also lend to overall bladder health and prevention of urinary incontinence. Drink plenty of water each day and avoid holding the urge to urinate are for bladder health.
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