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Obesity And Incontinence: The Importance Of Maintaining A Healthy Weight

Rachel had always been overweight. Even in high school, she struggled to maintain a healthy weight and tried diet after diet to get the pounds off, but nothing worked. In her 20’s, she gained even more weight, and by the time she had given birth to her first child, she weighed more than she ever had in her life.

“I knew I needed to do something about it,” she said. “I had tried before, but having my daughter, Ellie, put things in a new light. I wanted to be healthy for her.”

Rachel met with a nutritionist who started her on a healthy eating plan. She also began walking every day, often with her daughter. After a few weeks, she started seeing the pounds slide off, and after a year of healthy eating and consistent exercise, she was finally at a healthy weight.

One surprising benefit of losing weight? She also stopped having bladder leaks.

“Even before I had Ellie, I would leak a little here and there,” she said. “And once I had given birth, I found I had to wear pads constantly.”

“But after losing the weight, I haven’t leaked at all. I’m sure that my body has healed somewhat from having Ellie by now, but I can’t help but think that having all that extra weight gone also has something to do with it.”

Rachel’s assumptions are correct. Being overweight can cause serious health implications. High blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease are just a few of the medical risks that obesity can contribute to. But in addition to the many common conditions that can occur when you’re carrying extra weight, here’s another: Being obese or overweight can also contribute to bladder leaks.

A 2009 review of epidemiological studies showed that obesity is a strong risk factor for urinary incontinence. The review found that each 5-unit increase in body mass index was associated with a 20% to 70% increase in the risk of urinary incontinence. And, for every 5-unit increase in body mass index, the odds of having urinary incontinence increased by approximately 30% to 60% over 5-10 years.

And, a paper in Obesity Reviews showed that obese women were twice as likely to leak urine as women who were a normal weight.

Being overweight places a greater amount of stress and pressure on your abdominal and pelvic area. This can result in a weakened pelvic floor, making it harder to hold in leaks when you have to go. Additionally, extra pressure on your bladder from excess weight only accentuates things like sneezing, laughing, or coughing, common activities that can cause episodes of stress incontinence.

Being overweight places a greater amount of stress and pressure on your abdominal and pelvic area. This can result in a weakened pelvic floor, making it harder to hold in leaks when you have to go. Additionally, extra pressure on your bladder from excess weight only accentuates things like sneezing, laughing, or coughing, common activities that can cause episodes of stress incontinence.

The good news is that studies have also shown that losing weight may lessen your symptoms of incontinence. In a study done by the New England Journal Of Medicine, investigators found that heavy women who lost even a modest amount of weight over the course of a 6-month diet and exercise plan reduced their bladder leaks by nearly half.

Obesity is a big problem in America. The CDC reported that in 2017-2018, the prevalence of obesity was 42.4%.

Losing weight can be difficult for many people. And, with all the fad diets that are popular, it’s hard to know what rules to follow to lose weight and keep it off. But, as Rachel found, following a healthy diet and a consistent exercise routine can help you shed those pounds and stay healthy.

Start by finding just 30 minutes a day to exercise. This doesn’t have to be extreme – walking is one of the best things you can do to lose weight and is one of the easiest things people can do since you don’t need any special equipment. The most important thing is to just move. Find ways to sneak exercise into each day.

Maybe more important is what you eat. Studies have shown that it’s hard to create a significant calorie deficit from exercise alone, and what you put into your body has a larger effect on weight loss than the calories you burn through exercise. While exercise is still extremely important for your overall health, when you’re trying to lose weight, you are what you eat.

HERE ARE SOME EATING TIPS THAT MAY HELP YOU JUMP START YOUR WEIGHT LOSS PLAN:

  • Eat a high-protein breakfast. A high-protein breakfast helps keep you full throughout the day, reduces food cravings and prevents snacking, and cuts calorie intake.
  • Replace soda and sugary drinks with water to reduce calories. Foods and drinks that contain a high sugar content, but little to no nutritional value are known as “empty calories” and should be cut from your diet. If drinking water feels too bland for you, try mixing it up by adding lemon or other fresh fruit to your glass.
  • Drink water before meals may keep you from overeating. By “pre-loading” your meals with a glass or two of water, you’ll feel fuller and won’t be as likely to overindulge. Not to mention, staying hydrated helps everything in your body work better, from your energy levels to your brain function.
  • Eat foods that are rich in fiber. Most of us aren’t getting enough of this complex carbohydrate, which is found in fruits, veggies, legumes, and grains. But adding just a few servings of high-fiber foods such as black beans, raspberries, or collard greens can get you to the recommended 28 grams of fiber per day. Fiber-rich foods are great for weight loss since they are typically very filling, but low in calories.
  • Eat your food slowly. Eating slowly gives your body enough time to recognize when it is full, preventing you from overeating.
  • Eat mindfully. Pay attention to what you’re eating and how you feel during your meals. Being mindful of what you eat also helps you appreciate the taste and texture of your food, and eliminates distractions (like eating in front of a television or computer screen) that may cause you to miss cues from your body that you’re full.
  • Pile on the fruit and veggies. Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber and will keep you full without all the added calories of junk food.
  • Cut back on your salt intake. Not only will this help improve your overall health, but you may notice some weight loss benefits as well. Most of the salt we eat doesn’t come from healthy foods like fruits and veggies, but from processed foods like chips and cookies, or other prepared foods. These foods are generally unhealthy and eliminating them can have a big effect on weight loss.

Keep in mind that if you have incontinence, there are some foods you may want to avoid, as they may make your symptoms worse. Pay close attention to what you eat and stay away from the foods that trigger your incontinence.

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