Change is hard. Especially when it’s something that we’ve begun used to dealing with. For many, bladder leaks come on over time and increase as people get older. You may have thought you didn’t need to do anything about it. And slowly, you learned to cover up for the leaks, making slight adjustments here and there to accommodate your growing problem. And in fact, maybe you’ve adjusted so well that you don’t even realize that your bladder health is now a big problem. You may always bring a change of clothes, scout out the closest bathroom, or try to limit beverages when you know you’re going to be out. And while those moves may be managing your condition, you’re not really doing anything to treat it.
So, instead of masking your bladder leaks, why not take some steps to actually improve your bladder health this year? We’re sharing 5 simple steps you can take NOW that will make a world of difference in your bladder health.
5 EASY STEPS TO IMPROVE BLADDER HEALTH
GO SEE A PHYSICAL THERAPIST.
Can’t stop the dribble ever since the little one came along? Suddenly feel like you’re rushing to the bathroom at the first hint of having to go? Issues like these can often indicate a weak pelvic floor (or another pelvic floor issue). Seeing a physical therapist is a great way to start to get things under control for a few reasons. First, they’ll give you a good education on your anatomy and show you how much the pelvic floor contributes to the stability of different parts of the body. They’ll also give you a physical exam (don’t worry – it’s not as bad as you’re thinking) and will measure your pelvic floor strength to make sure that is in fact the problem. Finally, they’ll show you how to to perform different strengthening moves to help your pelvic floor get into shape. This may include kegels (though sometimes not), core work, and leg moves. It really should be one of the first lines of defense against bladder leaks, as it’s a natural way to heal and actually fix the problem.
IF YOU SMOKE, QUIT.
You know you should quit anyway, but if you’re looking for one, here’s another reason: smoking can lead to chronic coughing, which places an increased amount of pressure on the pelvic floor. Over time, this consistent coughing can weaken the pelvic floor, making it harder to control bladder leaks (among the many other issues smoking causes). There has really never been a better time to quit. For more tips on how to quit, click here.
KEEP A BLADDER DIARY AND NOTE WHAT YOU’RE EATING.
Keeping a bladder diary can do two things for you – it helps you to visually see how big of a problem your leaks are, and over time, may even help you pinpoint what triggers those leaks. Track what you eat and drink each day (certain bladder irritants, like that morning cup of coffee, may not be doing you any favors) and track what you were doing when you had each leak, how big the leak was, etc. You may find out that you always leak during a daily run, or when you’re laughing on the phone with your sister (turns out those aren’t coincidences after all!). Once you have several days worth of data, take a look at it and see if you notice any patterns. Then, make an appointment to talk to your doctor and take your diary with you – it’s a great tool to help him or her diagnose the type of incontinence you may have, and then figure out a treatment plan for it. (Want a free bladder diary? Download ours by clicking here!)
Staying fit is good for every part of your body, but you may have never associated it with bladder health. The truth is, the stronger your muscles are, the better you’ll be able to handle leaks. And, if you’re overweight, starting an exercise routine can help you drop those pounds, which may be placing even more pressure on your bladder and pelvic floor, causing you to have bladder leaks. If you’re feeling intimidated by the idea of working out, don’t be. A workout should be anything that you enjoy doing that helps you burn off some extra calories. Walking, swimming, dancing in your kitchen – whatever you can do consistently to move your body, gain some muscle strength, and drop a few pounds counts. (Just be sure to check with your doctor before starting any new workout routine.)
TALK TO SOMEONE WHO UNDERSTANDS.
Incontinence isn’t just a physical burden – it’s an emotional one too. We hear from so many people who tell us they are ashamed of their bladder leaks, so much so that it’s affected their relationships with others. Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is get these emotions out. Find someone you can trust to talk to – a close friend, your doctor, or someone on our NAFC message boards. Getting things off your chest can truly make you feel a little better, and talking to others who also experience incontinence or other bladder health conditions can show you that you aren’t alone – many other people also live with this condition. It may feel scary at first, which is why the NAFC message boards are a great place to start – they’re free and anonymous, and if you’re not comfortable right at first with talking about it, sit back and read some of the posts from our other members. You’ll soon see that they are a caring bunch and are a great source of support for each other. When you’re ready, add your own voice.
We’ll say it again – change is hard. But by taking small steps forward you’ll be making a lot of headway in getting your bladder leaks under control. That makes it all worth it.
How will you improve your bladder health this year? Share your thoughts in the comments below!