Top Ten Lifestyle Solutions
For some people, urinary incontinence is unavoidable as a result of issues like nerve damage, but for millions more, the symptoms can be significantly reduced, or even cured, by making a few small, but significant, changes to your diet and lifestyle. By taking onboard some or all of the suggestions listed below, you can not only improve your level of continence, but also reduce your anxiety about leaks, which can often play a large part in the problem.
Here are our top ten lifestyle solutions for incontinence:
- Lose weight – excess weight, especially around the midriff, will put strain on the pelvic floor muscles that are used to control the flow of urine from your bladder. Fatty tissue can also put direct pressure on your bladder, reducing the available volume and creating a frequent urge to urinate.
- Drink less caffeine – caffeine is known to irritate the bladder and will make any underlying incontinence worse. Cut down on coffee, cola and other caffeinated drinks such as energy drinks, and remember that there is caffeine in tea as well. Choose herbal teas or fruit teas as an alternative.
- Drink less alcohol – like caffeine, alcohol affects the bladder. It is known as a diuretic, which means it makes you produce urine in larger volumes than you have consumed. Reducing alcohol intake can have many other health benefits too, such as weight loss, which will help to improve your incontinence issues.
- Drink more water – it may sound counter-intuitive, but if you have incontinence problems, the last thing you should do is cut down on your fluid intake. As urine becomes more concentrated, it will irritate the bladder and make your problems worse. Low fluid intake can also lead to constipation and reduced bladder capacity.
- Stay regular – straining with constipation, or resisting the urge to pass faeces, will not help your pelvic floor. A regular bowel habit is essential for a strong pelvic floor, so make sure your diet includes plenty of fruit, vegetables and other fibre.
- Avoid spicy foods – speaking of diet, you may not realise that spicy food, such as curries and chillies, will irritate your bladder as well as your bowels. Acidic foods like citrus fruit can also have a similar effect.
- Quit smoking – smoking may not directly affect the bladder, but it can often cause a persistent cough, which in turn puts strain on your pelvic floor. As with alcohol reduction, stopping smoking will also improve your health in general, which can often improve incontinence issues.
- Exercise your pelvic floor – pelvic floor exercises, sometimes called Kegels, are a quick and easy way to strengthen and maintain your pelvic floor. You can do them anywhere at any time, so try to incorporate them into your routine several times a day.
- Avoid strain – choosing the right exercises, and avoiding doing things that strain your pelvic floor, can make a big difference. Replace jogging and impact exercises with things like yoga and Pilates that build strength, and try to avoid heavy lifting. If you need to lift something, be aware of your pelvic floor and tighten the muscles before you lift.
- Train your bladder – set yourself regular, fixed times to go to the toilet and try to extend the time in between by a little each week. Your bladder will learn to hold more before it needs emptying and you will build confidence in your ability to wait.
For many people, the tips and techniques above can vastly improve, if not cure, their incontinence problems. But remember, you should always seek help and support from your GP to ensure that there are no underlying health issues causing your problems.