Changing old habits can be hard, but if you put your mind to it, you’ll thank yourself because you’ll feel so good.
Nutrition and lifestyle can have a profoundly positive impact on so many aspects of our health, and the bladder is no exception.
You can improve your bladder strength and ability to empty and fill efficiently by following some simple diet and lifestyle changes.
These suggestions can certainly prevent the problem from becoming worse, especially into menopause and your ‘senior’ years.
Maintain a healthy weight
Small changes to your diet can work wonders for your overall weight. Instead of cutting your favourite foods out completely, just have half! Be conscious of the amount of extra sugar you’re putting in your body and try to cut out the obvious culprits like soft drink, biscuits, cakes and adding sugar to your cooking. Use this online calculator to get a better understanding of your healthy weight range. http://www.calculator.net/ideal-weight-calculator.html
Make exercise a daily routine
Instead of thinking you have to officially ‘exercise’, simply work some movement into your day and have fun while you’re at it. Go for a walk and take a look at the gardens in your neighbourhood or the different bird species in the local trees. Take an aqua aerobics class at your community pool or just do some squats while you’re watching TV. It’s more about moving than slogging it out.
Fibre is your friend and research shows that most of us are not getting nearly enough of it. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and wholegrains everyday and you’ll feel better for it. The Mayo clinic has a great list of high fibre foods, so you know what to pop in your shopping trolley tomorrow: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/high-fiber-foods/art-20050948
Avoid too much tea, coffee and alcohol.
These act as diuretics and may irritate the bladder, so everything in moderation!
There is a common misconception that if you lessen your intake of water, you won’t need to pee of much. Actually it’s the opposite. Reducing your intake of the good kinds of fluid, like fresh filtered water) may actually worsen the problem. Be sure to drink 6-8 glasses of water each day.
Only go to the toilet when necessary
Remember, you are in control of your bladder, not the other way around! Don’t go racing off to the loo every time you feel a little twinge. Make each visit count and try hard to not go to the loo during the night (unless you really, really, have to) otherwise it may become habitual.
Practice pelvic floor exercises known as Kegel
These special exercises strengthen the muscles involved during urination.
To test your bladder strength, next time you’re on the loo, try to stop the flow of urine while peeing. If your muscles are strong you should be able to completely stop the flow mid-stream. If you can’t do this you know you have work to do. However, DO NOT practice your Kegels while peeing as a regular practice. Keep it to a ONCE A MONTH test only.
You can refer to The Continence Foundation website for more detail on how to perform a Kegel exercise (www.continence.org), but here’s a quick lesson.
Take a deep breath in. As you exhale squeeze and lift the muscles around your vagina and anus, like you are trying to stop the flow of urine while peeing, or prevent passing gas. You should feel both tightening and gentle lifting.
Once you become proficient in the technique, to build endurance and speed with your Kegels, try these two exercises:
Take a deep breath in. As you exhale perform a Kegel as tightly as you can and hold it for up to 10 seconds. Repeat up to 10 times. Build up to strongly contracting for 10 reps of 10 seconds. This may take time, but it will come.
Now, with your regular breathing cycle, perform 10 quick Kegel contractions, making sure you fully relax in between – contract-relax-contract-relax – at about 1 second intervals. Build up to performing 3 sets of 10 quick contractions.