“If the universe is bigger and stranger than I can imagine, it’s best to meet it with an empty bladder” declared the protagonist of John Scalzi’s 2005 sci-fi epic Old Man’s War.
This quote is profoundly relevant to anyone with a weak bladder. Whether it’s space travel or a simple shopping trip, your bladder can dictate how well you’ll “go.” (1) Knowing what to do about it poses even more hurdles.
Bladder weakness is a common ailment, but with its ubiquity comes an exhaustingly long list of strategies to try.
What works for some may be uncomfortable for others.
With so much of your life affected by this all-too-common problem, we’ve put together a list of tips and tricks to help you get your bladder under control.
What Do We Mean by Having a Weak Bladder?
As sufferers of the condition know, having a weak bladder can change your life for the worse.
People often find that their quality of life is severely diminished and that the symptoms destroy their will to be outdoors, ultimately undermining their self-confidence.
It’s for these reasons, and many more, that you should address your weak bladder.
To better understand weakened bladders, here are a few causes of the condition:
- Overactive bladder: An overactive bladder is characterized by a sudden and frequent urge to urinate that may be difficult and/or painful to control. Sufferers of an overactive bladder report frequently needing to urinate throughout the day and night. Some common causes of an overactive bladder include medication, alcohol, caffeine, nerve damage from radiation, Parkinson’s disease, or a stroke. (2)
- Incontinence: Incontinence varies from an overactive bladder in a few ways. While an overactive bladder usually results in the frequent need to urinate, incontinence relates to the involuntary release of urine, usually resulting in leakages. Causes of incontinence include menopause, weakened pelvic muscles after child birth, and lifestyle factors.
- Urinary tract infection (UTI): A UTI can result in symptoms that are similar to those of an overactive bladder or incontinence, although, it is contracted differently. UTIs are usually the result of bacteria entering the urethra. Sometimes this is the result of sexual activity or bacteria spreading from the anus to the vagina.
In all of these conditions, women are the predominant sufferers. While incontinence is experienced by between 3-11% of men (increasing with age), 30-40% of middle-aged women are thought to suffer from some form of urinary incontinence. You can follow the steps below to help take back control over your weak bladder. (3)
1. Incontinence Underwear
If you’re suffering from a leaky bladder, then it’s a good idea to accessorize with the latest advancements in relief.
Incontinence underwear is one such product, and it can be an absolute game changer.
Incontinence underwear is revolutionary in that it looks and feels just like regular underwear. It’s typically quite thick and designed to be extra absorbent.
If you suffer from incontinence, those involuntary releases of urine will be captured and absorbed into the underwear.
The technology used to create incontinence underwear has evolved alongside advancements aimed at mitigating unexpected periods.
The benefit of incontinence underwear is that it is indistinguishable from regular underwear, a far cry from the diaper-styled solutions you might be imagining.
This destigmatizes the solution, helping you to regain your self-confidence, and returning a sense of normalcy to your life. (4)
2. Do Kegel Exercises
In a large proportion of cases, bladder weakness is cause by a lack of control of the pelvic floor muscles.
These muscles affect the regular function of the bladder, uterus, and bowel, meaning that strengthening them will greatly improve your bladder problems.
The exercises that help strengthen these muscles are called “Kegel” exercises.
In order to do your Kegel exercises, use the following steps:
- Get comfortable: Your Kegel exercises can be done either sitting down or lying down. Many people report lying down is more comfortable at first, but this is a matter of preference.
- Locate your pelvic floor muscles: To find your pelvic floor muscles, the first thing you need to do is to go to the bathroom and stop urinating midstream. The pelvic muscles are what control the release of urine, so you should be able to feel them within your crotch area.
- If you can’t locate your muscles: Insert a finger into your vagina then tighten your muscles, just like you are trying to hold urine. After letting go, you should be able to feel them tighten and move upwards and downwards. For men, do the same, but with a finger inserted into your rectum. The muscles you feel tightened and moving upwards and downwards are your pelvic floor muscles.
- Do the exercises: To do the exercises, first make sure that your bladder is empty, then sit or lie down. Then, imagine you are sitting on a marble and use your pelvic muscles to tighten as if you were to pick it up. Hold them like this for 3-5 seconds, then relax for an equal amount of time.
- Be focused: Kegel exercises require a mind/body/spirit approach, and doing them incorrectly may cause unnecessary damage. Ensure that you breathe regularly and avoid flexing muscles in your buttocks, abdomen, thighs, chest, or stomach.
- Do the exercises regularly: It is recommended that you do the exercises in reps of ten, three times a day. As they can be done sitting down, you can do them at work, on public transport, or in the car. As with any exercise, if you want long-term results, you are going to need to maintain them for as long as you want to retain control over your pelvic muscles. (4)
Kegel exercises are one of the most effective ways to take back control over your weak bladder. You can expect to notice results after about three weeks to three months.
If problems continue, make sure you consult with a doctor and make sure you’ve looked into health insurance, as any problems or discomfort you experience could indicate more serious underlying conditions which might require treatment.
3. Drink Lots of Water
Many people tend to think that consuming water when suffering from bladder weakness is counterintuitive.
While consuming some liquids, like coffee and alcohol, will increase the symptoms of a weakened bladder, water will impede them.
This is because drinking less fluids will reduce the capacity of your bladder, thereby making the symptoms worse.
Additionally, not drinking enough water can lead to other problems, like constipation, which will only compound the problems you already face. (6)
4. Stop smoking
Smoking is associated with a large variety of illnesses. The most commonly cited is cancer, but numerous other health problems stem from tobacco use.
The smoke from cigarettes can change your blood chemistry, contributing to blockage in your veins and arteries which can disrupt organ function.
All of these contribute to a lack of control over your bodily functions, resulting in the weakening of your pelvic muscles, and inducing the symptoms of a weakened bladder. (7)
5. Avoid Unnecessary Lifting
This could be in formal settings like the gym, in situations like moving, or even everyday activities like lifting groceries (or children!).
If you repeatedly engage in heavy lifting, this can create pressure which can push the intestines through weakened muscle walls, causing a hernia and weakening your pelvic muscles.
Remember to only lift things for which your body strength is suited.
6. Lose weight
The presence of excess fatty tissue can weaken your pelvic muscles and place extra pressure on your bladder.
Exercising regularly and improving your diet can rid your body of unnecessary fat, and possibly restore your bodily functions back to normal.
However, vigorous exercise can provoke the symptoms of a weakened bladder, so be cautious as you increase the intensity.
7. Moderate Foods That Aggravate Your Bladder
Your bladder’s activity is not simply dictated by what you drink, but also what you eat.
Some foods that are known to upset your bladder include spicy foods like curries; citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, limes, and mandarins; and also acidic foods like tomatoes and vinegar.
If you notice any symptoms after eating these foods, then it’s best to reduce your intake.
8. Keep an emergency kit with you
Bladder problems can strike at any time and without warning. All the preventative measures in the world can’t guarantee that your symptoms will cease entirely.
One solution is to keep an emergency kit on your person at all times to deal with any public accidents that arise. We recommend a small, bag-sized tin that includes:
- Sanitary products like wet wipes
- A spare change of underwear.
This compact and discreet kit should be equipped to completely fix any accidents that happen when they arise.
A weakened bladder can seriously diminish your quality of life, and it can strike at any time. It can take many forms, and can be treated in even more ways.
By training your muscles, being prepared for any accidents, and making healthier choices, you can mitigate the impacts of a weakened bladder on your day-to-day life, resulting in a sense of normalcy.
- Old Man’s War: Book 1, Source: https://books.google.com.au/books?id=c-arTvex110C&pg
- “Overactive Bladder,” Source: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/14248–overactive-bladder-
- “The Prevalence of Urinary Incontinence,” Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1476070/
- “Depend wants you to ‘Drop Your Pants’ to reduce the stigma of incontinence,” Source: https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/depend-wants-you-to-drop-your-pants-to-reduce-the-stigma-of-incontinence-072914.html
- “Kegel exercises – self-care,” Source: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000141.htm
- “How Smoking Affects Heart Health,” Source: https://www.fda.gov/tobacco-products/health-information/how-smoking-affects-heart-health
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