November is Bladder Health Month! While many of us are not always thinking about our bladder health, this month serves as a reminder to get the facts about common bladder health problems and to take an active role in taking care of our health.
Two common health problems affecting the bladder are urinary incontinence and overactive bladder (OAB).
- Urinary incontinence touches more than 25 million people in the U.S. The severity of urinary incontinence ranges from leaking urine when you cough or sneeze to having that strong "gotta go" urge or feeling. For most, simple lifestyle changes or health care treatments can ease your symptoms or stop urinary incontinence.
- Our bladder serves two roles
- Store urine
- Empty urine. With OAB, these functions are not as effective and can cause strong, sudden urges to go to the bathroom and, for some patients, result in urinary incontinence or leakage.
Bladder Health Tips
-While bladder health is not often top of mind, there are ways to keep your bladder healthier year-round. Below are a number of tips to help keep your bladder in good shape.
- Drink plenty of water
- Strive to drink 6 to 8 cups of water each day
- Cut down on the amount of caffeine and alcohol you drink - these may upset your bladder
- Limit your intake of coffee, tea or cola as these can heighten bladder activity and lead to leakage
- Use good bathroom habits
- It is normal to go to the bathroom 4 to 8 times a day and no more than twice a night
- Women should sit to go to the toilet - they should not hover over the toilet seat
- Take your time when on the toilet so that your bladder can empty - if you rush, and do not empty your bladder fully, over time, you could get a bladder infection
- Stay away from foods that bother the bladder. Some foods can worsen incontinence. Skip foods like chocolate (also a source of caffeine), as well as spicy or acidic foods like tomatoes and citrus fruits
- Look after your pelvic floor muscles
- Keep your pelvic floor muscles strong with pelvic floor muscle training
- Stop smoking. It is of great value to stop smoking for your bladder health - using tobacco is a major cause of bladder cancer. Cigarette smokers are two to three times more likely to be told they have bladder cancer, than nonsmokers.
- Speak freely. Tell your healthcare provider about your symptoms. You may feel embarrassed; but keep in mind, your healthcare provider is used to hearing about all kinds of problems. They are very common and there are a number of treatments available.
Many bladder conditions can be handled through simple lifestyle changes, behavior modifications, medication, bladder retraining or surgery. If you feel you may have symptoms of OAB or urinary incontinence, be sure to talk to your doctor about which treatment is right for you.