Many women hear from their mothers, sisters, or close friends about all the bladder changes that happen to them after having children or simply as they age. You may hear about women going more frequently, or having such a strong urge that they sometimes cannot make it to the toilet in time.
People may say, “I used to be able to work all day and never have to pee, but now I go every couple hours!”
You are probably wondering if these changes are going to happen to you and if there is anything you can do to prevent them from happening.
Cut Out Bladder Irritants
There are simple dietary changes you can make that may help improve these bladder symptoms. There are many foods and drinks that are known to be “bladder irritants.” This just means that they may cause the muscle inside the bladder to spasm, which causes a very strong urge to go. Here is a simple list of things to try to limit in your diet to improve bladder symptoms:
- Soda (both diet and regular, both caffeinated and decaffeinated)
- Alcoholic beverages
- Coffee (both caffeinated and decaffeinated)
- Tea (both caffeinated and decaffeinated)
- Citrus fruits and juices (ie: lemonade, orange juice, grapefruit juice, etc.)
- Carbonated beverages
- Artificial sweeteners (found in diet sodas and many low calories juices and flavored waters)
- Tomato based foods (ie: spaghetti sauce, marinara sauce, pizza sauce, etc.)
- Food preservatives (found in canned foods – If the food can sit on the shelf longer than 6 months without going bad, it is probably a bladder irritant.)
You can try to increase your ability to hold urine when you get the urge to go by working on Kegel exercises. Kegel exercises are strengthening exercises of the muscles that help you hold your urine, bowels or gas. To strengthen these muscles, try to squeeze up on the muscles like you are going to stop your stream of urine. Hold this contraction up to a count of ten. You may not be able to hold it this long when you start these exercises. That’s OK! Just keep working up to 10 seconds. Do this 10 times. Try to do this three times per day. The stronger these muscles get, you can try to contract these muscles when you get the urge to urinate and it may allow you a few more seconds to make it to the bathroom. Kegel exercises also help to prevent leakage when you laugh, cough, sneeze, exercise or lift weights.
Don’t Hold It!
It is not healthy to hold your urine for extended periods of time. This stretches the bladder muscle to the point where it gets harder to empty completely after years of holding urine too long. We recommend patients try to void at least every 3-4 hours to prevent over-stretching of the bladder muscle. Also, if you let your bladder get as full as possible before deciding it’s time to use the bathroom, you are going to have even less time to make it there without leaking on the way!
Another way to keep your bladder healthy is to drink an appropriate amount of fluid daily. We recommend women drink 50-60 oz. of fluid per day. Keep in mind, that this includes all fluid. Some women think they need 60 oz. of water per day, but they also drink two cups of coffee each morning, a soda at noon, and milk with their dinner. Consider all of these beverages in your daily fluid intake. As we talked about earlier, many of these beverages worsen urinary urgency and frequency, so try to limit your fluid intake to mostly water. This will help keep your urine the appropriate concentration to prevent urinary tract infections and keep your bladder healthy. Some women think, “The more water, the better for my bladder!” This is not always true. Some women come to our office and are drinking more than 80 oz. of fluid per day. Anyone who drinks this much fluid in a day may experience urinary frequency or urgency of urination!
Always remember there are other options to treat urinary urgency, frequency, and leakage other than those listed above. Try these options on your own at home, and if they are not effective, always feel free to discuss your urinary concerns with your provider. These bladder symptoms are very common in women, and there are many other options that we can discuss with you if needed.