Many women suffer from an overactive bladder or incontinence. It can be embarrassing to talk about this problem, leaving many with few ideas for how to manage their condition and find relief. The average woman waits 6 years before consulting a healthcare professional about her incontinence!
Stop waiting and take steps today to get some relief. The following are ten lifestyle strategies that can offer relief, reduce symptoms, and help you feel more in control of your incontinence:
- Strengthen your pelvic floor. While there are a number of types of incontinence, many women suffer from stress incontinence. This is when the muscles that hold the bladder and control the urethra are weakened or damaged, and so stress or pressure, such as laughing, sneezing, and coughing cause leakage. Fortunately you can do exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. The most common exercise is called a Kegel. A Kegel is where you contract the pelvic floor muscles and hold for 3 seconds. Imagine you are trying to stop the flow of urine mid-stream. If you are not sure how to do this, consider biofeedback. It is a method that allows you to see instant feedback when you tense a muscle, and can help you to learn to do Kegels correctly, and target specific muscles. Another option for strengthening the pelvic floor muscles is vaginal weights. These are weights you insert in the vagina and hold, gradually moving up to heavier weights as you strengthen the muscles.
- Treat chronic cough. Many women suffer from stress incontinence due to damage to the pelvic floor muscles during pregnancy and birth. Thus, any kind of laugh, sneeze, or cough can cause leaking. If you have a chronic cough, get it treated and reduce leakage.
- Maintain a healthy weight. If you are incontinent, being overweight can worsen symptoms, as the pressure on the bladder caused by excess weight can result in greater leakage. Losing weight can improve symptoms.
- Stop smoking. Smoking can negatively impact bladder control, especially if the smoker develops a chronic cough.
- Stay hydrated. It is important to stay properly hydrated if you want to reduce your incontinence symptoms. Many believe that by limiting their fluid intake they will have fewer accidents. This can cause the urine to become too concentrated, irritating the bladder, and causing greater urgency. Stay hydrated, just cut yourself off a few hours before bed.
- Train your bladder. One of the first lines of defense is bladder training. Here’s how to do it:
- Keep a voiding diary for a few days so you can see when you usually urinate, giving you a rough schedule for bladder training.
- Stick to the schedule. Only voiding at the set times, then gradually extend those times by 15 minutes.
- Do your best to stick to the schedule. There will be times when you just can’t wait, if that happens, get back on the schedule as quickly as possible.
- Relax. Practice techniques to reduce urgency by deep breathing, sitting, and relaxing, allowing you to wait until the scheduled times.
- Increase intervals. As you get comfortable, lengthen the timing so you only go to the toilet every 2-4 hours. Increase in 15 minute intervals.
- Cut caffeine and acidic foods. Certain things are food triggers – which means they are foods that can trigger bladder irritation, or increase frequency and urgency for urination. Avoid these foods. Caffeine is a diuretic, and foods including citrus fruits, pineapple, refined sugars, or alcohol should be avoided.
- Manage your medications. There are medicines, such as blood pressure medication, that can contribute to bladder control problems. If you are on a medication and see your symptoms worsen, talk to your doctor.
- Start exercising. Exercising improves overall health, which can help with bladder control, but there are also studies that show it is directly related. Getting 30 minutes of exercise daily can improve symptoms.
- Minimize constipation. Get your fiber and drink your water, as constipation can cause urinary incontinence. Straining can weaken the muscles and cause damage, and full bowels can put pressure on the bladder and increase leakage.
If you suffer from bladder control problems, consider pads, disposable underwear, or other absorbent products. Many are designed specifically for women, and can help prevent leaking, and provide coverage. You can find these products locally or online. If you need help finding the right products for your needs, you can call the CareGiver Partnership at 1-800-985-1353 or visit them online at www.caregiverpartnership.com.
About R.O.S Therapy Systems: R.O.S. Therapy Systems began as a backyard project in 2010. Scott Silknitter was searching for tools to help his mother care for his father, Roger Owen Silknitter, during a 25-year fight with Parkinson’s disease and dementia. That project became a personal mission to help all family caregivers. From family caregiver training and activity books to mobile apps to activity systems, R.O.S. has grown to become a single-source provider of informational “how to’s” and a growing provider of adaptive tools for the millions of husbands, wives, children, and family members that become caregivers.
Common sense advice and instruction based on proven principles of communication, engagement, and daily living are the heart of everything R.O.S. offers for family caregivers. Improving quality of life for caregivers is our mission, and designing everything for a family caregiver struggling with a loved one is the starting point. Whether it is dementia, diabetes, Parkinson’s, ALS, stroke, visual impairment, developmental disabilities, or any other issue that forces someone to care for a loved one, R.O.S. and its Caregiving 101 program are here to help.