Bladder problems can be really embarrassing. If you have ever caught yourself leaking a few drops of urine while laughing, sneezing or coughing, you know how bad it can feel.
There are many factors that can weaken your pelvic floor muscles and lead to an overactive bladder. One of them is eating acidic fruits, like your daily apple or banana. Sometimes, these dietary health heroes can set you up for health troubles.
Aging, too, plays a role, along with being a little overweight. All of these factors can contribute to an overactive bladder where you lose urine involuntarily or find yourself rushing to the washroom more often than every three hours.
Normally, whenever you need to urinate, your brain receives a signal when your bladder begins to fill up. This tells you it’s time to go. In people with overactive bladder, however, bladder muscles that typically contract to let urine out begin to contract involuntarily. These contractions lead to the sudden, desperate need to visit the bathroom.
But the good news is there are steps you can take to improve your bladder health. Give these a try!
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1. Cut down or balance out the acidic foods
Certain foods can affect your bladder function, and knowing the foods to avoid can make a big difference. Watch out for acidic foods like apples and bananas, as I mentioned, along with peaches and tomatoes. Remember that just because something is liquid doesn’t mean it can’t be an irritant. Cut down on drinks like coffee, caffeinated tea and alcohol.
For a few bladder-friendly alternatives, try pears, blueberries and cooked onions, as well as highly roasted (acid-free) Kava coffee, a much healthier alternative to the standard brew. If you absolutely need to have certain acidic foods in your diet, balance them out by drinking lots of water.
2. Drop a bit of weight
Another threat to bladder health is carrying extra weight. If you stay within your normal weight range, you have a better shot at avoiding uncomfortable bladder issues. In a report released by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the link between obesity and urinary incontinence is firmly made.
The NIH recommends if you are overweight losing up to 7 percent of your body weight can dramatically improve episodes of incontinence, especially in women. That’s because carrying extra weight may aggravate an overactive bladder.
To do this, try to fit in about 30 minutes of exercise five days a week and take a close look at your eating habits to trim out the less-than-healthy food choices.
3. Male or female, try Kegel exercises
For one thing, this type of pelvic floor muscle training can help control and prevent urinary incontinence and other pelvic floor issues. Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which support your uterus, bladder, small intestine and rectum.
Not just for women, Kegel exercises can have a huge impact on your bladder strength. According to the Mayo Clinic’s step-by-step guide to doing Kegel exercises, you first need to find the right muscles.
To identify your pelvic floor muscles as a man or a woman, stop urination midstream. Then empty your bladder fully and lie on your back. Tighten the same muscles now with your bladder empty. Hold the position for about five seconds and then relax for the same amount of time. Build up to 10 seconds and don’t hold your breath.
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Once you’re familiar with the muscles and the movement, you can do Kegels standing up or sitting down, while you’re watching TV or having lunch. It takes about six weeks to strengthen these muscles and, like any other muscle in the body, they need to be used to keep their strength.
4. Is cranberry the juice cure?
Well not quite, but there has been a great deal of promise with pure (sugar-free) cranberry juice in the prevention of recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs). These types of infections are brought on by bacteria known as Escherichia coli (E. coli) and, according to the Cochrane Library, cranberry is used as prevention because it keeps bacteria from sticking to the walls of your urinary tract.
There is some evidence that cranberry juice may decrease the number of symptomatic UTIs over a 12-month period, particularly for women with recurrent UTIs. The studies do have limitations however, because there were no male test subjects. In the meantime, it certainly can’t hurt to add in a glass a day for good health and prevention of UTIs.
5. Keep a detailed bladder diary
Often when we get sick we go to the doctor to get treated and don’t think too much about it. But there are times when keeping your doctor informed of an issue before it becomes a serious problem can help you out immensely.
Pay attention to your bladder health and write down what you’re experiencing, along with the pain and its frequency. You can then show your journal entries to your family physician during your next doctor’s visit.
Remember, you can make all of these things a part of your daily health routine. These easy tips will go a long way to helping you avoid those embarrassing situations.