A healthy bladder is an essential part of overall health, and there are several ways to promote its proper function. Many of these strategies are considered lifestyle or behavioral modifications, which are safe, effective and can be tried before or in combination with other medical or surgical treatment options.
A number of things can affect your bladder, as well as your overall health, including:
- Diabetes. Diabetes is a condition that can affect the nerves that help with bladder control.
- Low physical activity. Physical activity has been proven to help with a variety of health issues, including bladder health.
- Smoking. Smoking is an overall unhealthy habit that can contribute to urinary symptoms, and it can increase your risk for bladder cancer.
- Diet. Consumption of certain foods (caffeine, alcohol, spicy meals) can irritate your bladder.
- Certain medications. Certain over-the-counter drugs and prescription medications can affect your bladder. Muscle relaxers, for example, could desensitize your bladder nerves, which tell you when it’s time to urinate.
- Weight. If you're overweight, you have a greater chance of experiencing things like stress incontinence, a condition where the bladder experiences pressure, and involuntary urine leakage occurs.
- Constipation. Straining with bowel movements can damage the pelvic floor muscles. Drinking enough water, exercising, and eating a diet rich in fiber (fruits and vegetables) can help ease constipation issues.
Some notable bladder and urinary health conditions include:
- Urinary tract infections. These infections can affect your kidneys, bladder, and urethra. Specifically, women are at greater risk than men for this issue. Some notable urinary tract infection symptoms include a strong urge to urinate, a burning sensation, discolored or cloudy urine, and trouble passing large amounts of urine.
- Urinary incontinence, or involuntary leakage, may occur when laughing, coughing, sneezing, exercise or holding urine in too long, and is sometimes a result of other pre-existing medical conditions.
- Enlarged prostate. Men with an enlarged prostate can experience a frequent need to urinate, trouble emptying their bladder, and frequent urination at night (known as nocturia). Treatments for an enlarged prostate may include alpha-blockers to relax muscles, surgery, and physical therapy.
While you can't prevent all bladder conditions, you can take certain measures to promote better overall bladder health.
- Stay hydrated. Not drinking enough fluids throughout the day can create concentrated urine which can irritate the bladder and increase potential risk for urinary tract infections.
- Do pelvic floor exercises. The pelvic floor muscles surround internal organs like your gallbladder, uterus, prostate, and bladder, and it's important to keep these muscles strong. It is important to do the pelvic floor exercises correctly, so ask your doctor or provider to refer you to a pelvic floor physical therapist.
- Avoid bladder irritants. An excess of caffeine, alcohol, citrus, spicy foods, carbonated beverages, and chocolate may irritate your bladder.
- Consume fruits and vegetables. Eating copious amounts of fruits and vegetables is always a good idea as they contain fiber, water, and other nutrients and minerals that promote optimal health.
The amount of water each person consumes each day depends on many factors, including overall health, size, and level of activity. Talk to your doctor about what is right for you.
Let Us Be Your Partner in Well-Being
At Summit Health, we care about our patients’ overall health. There are many reasons you may come in to visit with us, but we want to be sure you get the most out of every appointment. At your next visit, be sure to talk to your provider about appropriate screenings and necessary evaluations. And, if you are over the age of 65, you may want to discuss fall risk, bladder health, physical activity expectation, and mental health. Additionally, if you are having trouble affording your medications, let your provider know. It’s important to have these conversations to stay on top of your health and minimize your risk of developing certain diseases.