According the World Health Organisation, more than 200 million people worldwide have bladder control problems. In the UK, the NHS estimates that between three and six million of us have some degree of urinary incontinence. However, incontinence is both easily treatable and preventable. Embrace some healthy habits to keep your bladder function in check.
Keep the fluids flowing
Drink six to eight glasses of liquid per day to flush out bacteria from your bladder. At least half should be pure water. Adding a splash of cranberry juice into the mix is a sensible choice – this gem of a berry stops harmful bacteria sticking to your urinary tract and minimises your risk of infections.
Curb your boozy units and caffeine
Moderate your consumption of alcohol, coffee, tea and most sodas. While alcohol can increase the acidity of your urine and irritate the bladder, caffeine drinks have a relaxing effect on the muscles of the pelvis and urethra, making those trips to the toilet more urgent and frequent.
This universal health warning also applies to bladder health – smoking increases your risk of bladder cancer. Nicotine can also irritate the bladder, causing it to become overactive. Furthermore, a smoker’s cough can cause embarrassing leakages.
Pressure on the bladder from a full rectum makes you urinate more often. So avoid constipation with a high-fibre diet packed with whole grains, fruit and vegetables. It will keep your bowels running smoothly and neighbouring bladder happy.
Keep in step
Inactivity can lead to the build up of fluid in the legs during the day, causing your bladder to become overactive at night. Taking short walks during the day will help prevent this. If you have problems walking, armchair exercises like leg curls will work just as well. While seated, simply raise your legs up gently to waist level and tense your calves. Repeat five to ten times, twice a day.
Flex yourself fit
Your pelvic floor muscles play a key role in holding urine in your bladder – so give it a regular workout. Your local health centre can advise and help you master simple clench-and-flex exercises to keep these vital muscles strong, and help avert any leakages when you sneeze, cough, lift or laugh.
Time it right
Get the balance right between urinating too often when you only have a small amount of urine in your bladder, and holding on too long. Forcing yourself to pee too frequently can trigger an overactive bladder, while holding urine too long can weaken your bladder muscles.
Go for empty
Urinating is not a race – make sure you take the time to fully empty your bladder. If urine stays in too long, you will be more prone to infections. And ladies, don’t be tempted to hover over the toilet when you are out and about – you need to be in a relaxed sitting position to urinate properly.