Care for your bladder
Don’t ignore the urges.
Your bladder is a vessel-like organ that holds urine waste from your kidneys. Certain problems affecting your bladder can cause frequent urination and urine leakage. Certain conditions can even lead to pain. Simple lifestyle changes and exercises, however, can help ensure that your bladder is in balanced, working order.
Take this true/false quiz to test your knowledge about nutrition, exercise and good hygiene for your bladder.
T/F You can’t drink too much water.
Believe it or not, doctors are finding that with the spread of the understanding that water is good for you and the preponderance of bottled water, some people are actually getting more than the recommended six to eight 8-ounce glasses per day. If frequent urination is a problem, check your fluid intake and adjust accordingly.
T/F Caffeinated beverages count as water intake.
A 2007 Indiana University study showed that needed fluids can also include juices, tea, coffee, etc. However, did you know that drinks containing caffeine are diuretic? That substance causes the body to rid itself of excessive water. So when you’re chugging your morning cuppa joe, you’re going to be giving your bladder an afternoon workout.
T/F Food can affect the bladder too.
Believe it or not, certain foods can worsen bladder pain, urgent urination and sometimes even incontinence. Acidic and spicy food can lead to flare ups, so take a hard look at tomato, citrus and even your favorite curry. A low-fiber diet can lead to constipation, which pressures the bladder, making it hard to get issues under control. Some doctors recommend keeping a diary of both food and drink intake to help pinpoint possible trouble makers.
T/F Cranberry juice is the bladder miracle worker.
Cranberry juice or pills contain ingredients that have been shown to prevent bacteria growth in the urinary tract. People with recurrent urinary tract infections have often found relief in the humble cranberry. But for some, the acid (see above) creates as many problems as it helps solve.
T/F Smoking makes you incontinent.
Maybe not directly, but smokers are two to three times more likely to have bladder cancer and that does cause incontinence.
T/F Exercising can lead to an overactive bladder.
While it’s true that some people complain of bladder leakage due to exertion in exercise, a sedentary lifestyle can actually make the problem much worse. Fluid can build up in the legs all day, causing you to need to urinate frequently at night. Try multiple short walks during the day. If you are stuck at a desk, flex your legs frequently and prop them up when you can.
T/F What diet can’t help, Kegels will solve.
Finally … something we can all get on board with. Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, in turn supporting the uterus, bladder, small intestine and rectum. Kegels are a tiny internal workout with a mighty outcome, usually decreasing leakage and incontinence. If you need help with Kegels and other exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, your doctor and even some local fitness instructors have the knowledge you need. (In New Orleans, check out ascensionfitnessnola.com.)
A Few More Bladder Health Pointers
- Make sure to urinate completely when you sit down to go. If you tighten your muscles and stop complete elimination, the urine that didn’t void can be pulled back up into your bladder bringing bacteria with it.
- If you experience frequent infections, take special care to clean your genitals before and after sexual intercourse. Urinating afterwards can also help flush bacteria from your system.
- Stop drinking fluids earlier in the day if urinating at night is a constant problem. Ditto your commute home from work.