November is Healthy Bladder Month. Not a particularly exciting topic and most people don’t actively talk about their bladder health. The truth is, it’s very important!
Your bladder supports you by moving waste (urine) from your body every day. If something goes wrong with the bladder—which is especially more common as you get older—it can largely impact your life.
The most common bladder-related issues include:
- Urinary tract infection, or UTI (infection of the bladder and urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the body, and the most common infection in humans)
- Overactive or underactive bladder
- Interstitial cystitis, or IC (chronic condition causing bladder pain and pressure)
- Nocturia (getting up one or more times during the night to urinate)
- Bladder cancer
7 Ways to Support Your Bladder Health
To reduce your risk of bladder issues now or down the road, here are some healthy tips.
1. Use the Bathroom Often
Holding urine in your bladder for too long, especially by ignoring natural urges, can increase your chances of infection. Try to urinate at least every 3-4 hours and use the bathroom when you feel the urge.
2. Give Your Bladder Time to Fully Empty
Rushing urination can lead to your bladder not emptying all the way. This can leave urine in the bladder, contributing to a bladder infection, which is the most common type of UTI.
3. Drink Plenty of Water
Staying hydrated helps ensure you urinate on a healthy, regular basis. Water can assist in flushing bacteria from your urinary tract and help prevent bladder infections.
Shoot for 6-8 glasses (about eight ounces each) of hydrating fluid per day, with at least half of that being water.
4. Eat Plenty of Fiber and Healthy Foods
Constipation can worsen UTI symptoms or bladder pain or discomfort by putting extra pressure on the bladder.
Help prevent constipation by eating plenty of fiber per day (at least 30-38 grams for men; 25 grams for women; and 21 grams for women over 50).
Also, focus on a diet of mostly whole foods (with plenty of fruits and vegetables) and get regular exercise to prevent constipation and support your bladder health.
5. Limit Caffeine, Alcohol and Other Irritants
Caffeine and alcohol can irritate the bladder, even in those without a bladder condition.
If you deal with a bladder infection or other related problem, cutting down on alcohol and caffeine-containing foods and drinks can help. Certain foods have also been known to worsen interstitial cystitis symptoms in some people. Those include:
- Citrus fruits
Another big irritant to the bladder, and your whole body, is smoking. If you currently smoke, take steps towards quitting.
6. Stay Clean of Bacteria
If bacteria enter the urethra of men or women, it can move into the bladder and cause a bladder infection. Help prevent this by always wiping from front to back after a bowel movement and urinating shortly after sexual activity.
7. Retrain Your Bladder and Strengthen the Muscles
For people who struggle with urinary incontinence or the frequent urge to urinate from overactive bladder, doctors may recommend “training your bladder.” This involves gradually increasing the time between going to the bathroom and usually setting up a urination schedule.
Pelvic exercises can also help with bladder leaking from things like coughing, sneezing, or laughing, which is especially common in women as they get older. These are known as Kegel exercises, and they strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
To perform Kegels, repeatedly squeeze, hold, then release the muscles you use to urinate to give them a “workout.”
The Bottom Line
These steps can help support your bladder health, whether you deal with bladder-related conditions or not. Think about the importance of your bladder next time you “go,” and remember that this organ needs to stay healthy just like the rest of them!