PREVENTING INCONTINENCE BEFORE IT STARTS
JOIN OUR NEWSLETTER
Receive custom tools to help you manage your condition and get the latest in bladder and bowel health from NAFC!
PREVENTING INCONTINENCE BEFORE IT STARTS
The good news for those of us who haven’t yet experienced bladder or bowel issues yet is that we can do things right now to help reduce the chance that we’ll ever experience them – and who isn’t in favor of that!
This doesn’t mean that incontinence is always inevitable – as we discuss later, some life events can result in incontinence no matter how prepared we may be, but practicing good habits now can have a significant impact on many of the most common types of issues that we’re likely to encounter. There are four main areas you’ll want to focus on:
Diet Hints And Tips
When most people think about the relationship between diet and incontinence, they tend to focus on how much they drink – conventional wisdom tells us that too much water is bad, and that’s about it. But there’s much more to it than that.
Watch Your Water
Let’s start with water. We all know that drinking a lot can make you go more often than you’d like, and that can lead to accidents. But did you realize that drinking too little can actually contribute to incontinence, too? That’s because when you don’t drink enough water, your urine can become concentrated, and that’s irritating to your bladder. On a related note, limiting your fluids can lead to constipation, and that’s not just a problem in its own right – because constipation can disturb your bladder, it can result in a greater sense of urgency and an increased frequency of urination.
It’s generally recommended that you drink between 6 and 8 glasses (8 ounces each) of fluid each day, but if you suffer from Overactive Bladder, ask your physician about cutting that down to about 4 to 6 glasses – some studies have found that a modest reduction for OAB patients can improve certain symptoms.
Avoid Bladder Irritants
We’ve already talked about how urine itself can irritate the bladder, but there’s a whole range of food and beverages that can be irritating, and that irritation can make you have to go more frequently. Some of the primary culprits include:
● Sweeteners (natural and artificial)
● Carbonated beverages
● Dairy products
● Acidic foods
● Spicy foods
We know – that’s all the good stuff! But limiting or eliminating many of these irritants can make a real difference in the symptoms you may experience, so it’s worth watching what you consume.
For more information about how a thoughtful diet can help you keep incontinence at bay, click here.
Lifestyle And Behaviors
Remember the song about how the hip bone’s connected to the leg bone? There’s actually an important medical lesson hiding in there: No part of your physiology works in isolation – everything is connected, which is why it won’t be surprising to hear that a lot of the same advice you’ve always heard about general health is actually relevant where bladder and bowel health is concerned.
Getting up and moving isn’t just good for your heart – regular exercise can be an important part of your efforts to stave off incontinence, too. 30 minutes of daily activity – anything from light walking to more vigorous cardio or strength training – can strengthen muscles that contribute to bladder control, stimulate the bowels, help prevent certain cancers, improve balance and increase flexibility.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Hand-in-hand with staying active is maintaining a healthy weight. People who are heavy have a greater risk of being incontinent than those with a healthy body weight. That’s because the excess weight can put a strain on the pelvic floor, which can lead to bladder and bowel problems.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to stay that way – one study found that women who were significantly overweight and incontinent cut their leakage in half when they exercised, lost 10% of their body weight, and maintained those results for 6 months.
Don’t just jump on the treadmill, though – check with your doctor first to develop a plan that’s right for your current health status and goals. It’s counterproductive to follow an ineffective program or take on too much too soon.
As if you needed another reason to quit smoking! Not only are cigarettes the leading known risk factor for bladder cancer, but the cough associated with smoking can strain your pelvic floor muscles, contributing to problems controlling your bladder and bowels.
Do Your Kegels
This goes for men as well as women: Kegels and other pelvic floor exercises are some of the very best things you can do to stay healthy down there. So many factors can weaken those muscles – regular lifting and straining, a chronic cough, pregnancy, and childbirth – but a few easy-to-earn and easy-to-do techniques can make a real difference. The NAFC has detailed guidance on Kegels can get you started today – click here to see for yourself.
Good Toileting Habits
Here’s one you may find surprising: The way you go to the bathroom can actually influence the development of incontinence or the worsening of symptoms you may be experiencing now. Here are a few tips to help improve your toilet habits:
Go When You Have To
In other words, go when you actually get the urge. Don’t wait until things are critical – you don’t want to have excessive strain down there – but what’s equally important is that you don’t go “just in case.” Going when you don’t need to just trains your bladder to go more frequently that you normally should.
Use Good Posture
Believe it or not, the correct posture on the toilet is important. Try using a foot stool to elevate your feet a bit when you pass a bowel movement – you’ll be in more of a squatting position, which makes passing a bowel movement easier. Even better, lean forward a little, with your elbows on the top of your thigs, by your knees. Remember to relax – you don’t want to strain, because that can result in all sorts of problems on its own.
Speaking of straining, whether you’re urinating or passing a bowel movement, you don’t want to rush yourself. Straining to go faster can put undue pressure on your pelvic floor, weakening your muscles over time and contributing to incontinence.
Constipation can also be a factor related to incontinence, since we have a tendency to strain too much when we’re backed up. Make sure you drink a sufficient amount of water, get plenty of fiber and go to the bathroom when you feel the urge to have a bowel movement. Laxatives can help if you find yourself bound up, but check with your doctor first, especially if it’s a problem that you find yourself dealing with regularly.
For even more advice for practicing good toileting habits, visit the NAFC blog article by clicking here.
Treat Symptoms Immediately
One of the most important things you can do to help prevent the onset or worsening of incontinence is to treat early signs seriously.
What does that mean? It means that you shouldn’t brush off an isolated incident of light leakage as “just an accident.” Instead, consider the factors that may have contributed to it and see what you can do to address them so it doesn’t happen again.
It also means that you should treat urinary tract infections right away – untreated UTIs are more than just unpleasant; they can lead to more serious medical complications, too.
Remember: Symptoms may not simply “go away on their own,” and it’s much better to catch a problem early on than wait until it becomes genuinely life changing. If you’re experiencing any issues that suggest incontinence may be a concern for you now or some time down the road, schedule an appointment with your doctor. And if you’re a little embarrassed by the idea of brining it up, don’t be – doctors today are highly experienced when dealing with incontinence, and they’re even better at making patients feel comfortable when discussing sometimes uncomfortable topics.
For more information about how you can get the conversation flowing with your physician, click here.
While most people who experience bladder issues start with their primary doctor, a Urologist can be a great next step in determining more advanced treatment
This story is a part of the National Association For Continence’s “Voices Of Incontinence” campaign, which shows, in patient’s own words, what it’s like to
QUESTION: WHAT’S A BLADDER DIARY, AND IS IT REALLY NECESSARY THAT I KEEP ONE? Answer: A bladder diary is a great tool for those looking