Bladder health is not something that is usually discussed, but whether you suffer from incontinence or not, it is really important to take care of your bladder health to prevent infection or incontinence. Your bladder is located in your lower abdomen and is a hollow organ that holds urine from your kidneys. “Urine contains waste and extra fluid left over after the body takes what it needs from what we eat and drink.”
As people age, their bladder changes. The elastic tissue can toughen and become less stretchy. A less flexible bladder is not able to hold as much urine as before and might make you need to go to the bathroom more frequently. The bladder wall and pelvic floor muscles may weaken which can make it more difficult to empty your bladder fully causing urine to leak.
Certain problems that affect your bladder can cause painful urination or urine leakage at unwanted times. Although you can’t control everything that affects your bladder, lifestyle changes and exercises can help ensure your bladder keeps doing its job properly.
Women are especially susceptible to UTI’s which can also involve the bladder. One way to reduce the risk of contracting a UTI is to take your time to fully empty your bladder. If you tighten your muscles to stop urinating too soon, the urine that didn’t escape will return back to your bladder. If urine stays in the bladder too long, it can bring bacteria into your system and increase your chance of a bladder infection.
Drinking plenty of water a day is good for you. People normally consume around six to eight glasses a day but the recommended amount varies for each individual, based on factors such as activity level and where you live. Generally, you should be drinking enough water so that you need to urinate every few hours. If you find that you have a constant need to empty your bladder more frequently, consider cutting back your intake if you think it is too much. You could also keep a bladder diary recording how often you visit the restroom and how much you drink throughout the day. If you suffer from urinary incontinence, this diary can help show doctors what factors might be involved in the problem. If you the need to frequently urinate at night, avoid fluids two hours before bedtime. Some people need to drink less water because of certain conditions such as kidney failure or heart disease. Ask your doctor how much fluid is healthy for you.
Some people who stay seated for long periods of time or have heart disease can develop fluid buildup in their legs during the day. At night, this fluid can create the need for them to empty their bladders frequently. If you have fluid buildup that is causing this, try to walk around more throughout the day and if you can’t walk around more, try to flex your calf muscles, and raise your legs to waist level.
Bladder problems are more common amongst people who smoke. Every year more than 50,000 people are diagnosed with bladder cancers. A specialist in bladder issues Badlani, says that “Smokers are at least three times as likely to get bladder cancer as nonsmokers.” If you’re still smoking, consider quitting for not only your bladder health, but your overall health.
Kegel exercises help to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles which hold and support your bladder and other parts of your body. These exercises allow for better bladder control as they work the muscles that contract urine. Kegel exercises can also help prevent urine from leaking when you sneeze, cough, lift, laugh or have the sudden urge to urinate. These exercises can also help avoid infection by strengthening the muscles that help empty the bladder. Read our recent blog about benefits of Kegel Exercises and how to do them HERE
Sexual intercourse can cause bladder infections in women. A woman’s urethra which is the tube leading from the bladder out of the body, is located in a spot where bacteria is naturally found. Cleaning your genital and anal area before and after intercourse may help prevent these infections from occurring.
Both women and men should urinate after sex to help flush out bacteria to avoid a bladder infection.
Many people who suffer with bladder issues find that some food and drinks make their bladder problems worse. There is a condition called interstitial cystitis which is more common in women than men and it causes bladder pain, an urgent and frequent need to urinate, as well as sexual dysfunction. Foods and drinks such as: alcohol, coffee, tea, sodas, artificial sweeteners, spicy foods, tomato-based foods, citrus fruits, and juices may be linked to flareups. If you are experiencing this, you can either cut down on these types of food and drinks or keep a diary of your symptoms to see if you can piece together which foods are causing the flare ups. We advise you speak to your doctor if you believe you have bladder issues.
In 2018, a study was conducted by BJU International which focused on lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) in men. They analysed over 69 thousand healthy middle-aged men over two and a half years, recording the amount of time they spent sitting, their physical activity and whether they had (LUTS). The results of the study found that men who spent over five hours sitting per day and men who had low physical activity levels were more likely to develop LUTS. LUTS include incomplete emptying, the urge to urinate frequently or urgently, a weak urinary stream or getting up at night to urinate. To help prevent this, if you have to sit down at work all day, try and stand up, walk or move around every five minutes in each hour. Alternatively, you could also get a standing desk.
To keep your bladder healthy, try to urinate at least once every three or four hours. If you hold urine in your bladder for too long, it can weaken the muscle and increase your chance of a bladder infection.
When urinating, relaxing the muscles around your bladder make it easier for you to urinate. For women, hovering over a toilet seat can make it difficult to relax, so try to sit on the toilet seat.
Many people know this one but always wipe from front to back (particularly women) to keep gut bacteria from getting into the urethra. This is particularly important after bowel movement.
Cotton is a breathable material and wearing loose cotton clothing and underwear can help keep your urethra dry. Tight fitting pants and nylon underwear is able to trap moisture and help bacteria to grow and spread.
Regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight is important for overall health. However, physical activity can help prevent constipation and bladder problems too. It can also contribute to maintaining a healthy weight. People who are overweight can have a higher risk of a leaky bladder so making healthy food choices and being physically active to maintain a healthy weigh can prevent bladder problems.
If you are experiencing constipation, it puts pressure on your bladder and can prevent it from expanding the way it should. To avoid constipation, consume enough foods that are high in fiber (whole grains, fruits and vegetables), drink enough water and be physically active.
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Medical Disclaimer: Articles are intended for informational purposes only and should not be used as the basis of patient treatment. Ask a medical professional if you have any health-related questions or concerns.
Metcalf, E. (2019). 10 Ways to keep your bladder healthy and happy.https://www.everydayhealth.com/bladder-health-pictures/keep-your-bladder-healthy.aspx
National Institute on ageing. (2022). 15 tips to keep your bladder healthy. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/13-tips-keep-your-bladder-healthy