Bladder health is something often taken for granted – until you encounter a problem. The National Association for Continence (NAFC) reports that over 25 million Americans experience urinary incontinence.
If this is you, it’s time to take control of your bladder health. Make sure you discuss your specific concerns with your healthcare provider. But in the meantime, take a moment to sort bladder health myth from fact.
Myth #1: You should drink less if you have bladder control issues.
Fact: It’s still important to stay hydrated.
If you struggle with bladder control, your first instinct may be to restrict your fluid intake to prevent any unexpected accidents. But that may lead to more problems.
Hydration is crucial for several reasons. It plays a huge role in regulating body temperature, lubricating joints, and transporting essential nutrients throughout your body. But let’s skip to the bladder. Your body also uses water to help get rid of waste, so your urine may become more concentrated if you don’t get enough. This can irritate your bladder and increase your urinary frequency and urgency.
Although the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends about 13 cups of fluid for men and 9 cups for women daily, everyone has different fluid requirements. Meet your hydration needs and your bladder concerns somewhere in the middle. Make sure you drink when you’re thirsty to stay well-hydrated, and consider trying to spread your fluid intake throughout the day rather than drinking large amounts at once to put less strain on your bladder.
It’s also important to consider what you drink. Caffeine, alcohol, and carbonated drinks may irritate the bladder. If you notice that your symptoms worsen when you drink these beverages, you may try cutting back.
Myth #2: Leaking or frequent urination? You probably just have a small bladder.
Fact: The capacity of your bladder is rarely the issue.
Most healthy bladders can hold about 1.5-2 cups of urine, and most people urinate around 6-8 times per day. If you find yourself urinating more often or experiencing bladder control issues, you may blame it on a small bladder.
Anatomically, it’s very unlikely that you have a small bladder. But it is possible that you have a smaller bladder capacity or a “functionally small” bladder. This means that while your bladder is still a normal size, you may have trouble storing a typical amount of urine and feel the urge to urinate well before your bladder has reached its physical capacity.
Myth #3: Exercise won’t help your bladder.
Fact: Some exercises can help strengthen your pelvic floor and support bladder health.
Your pelvic floor muscles support your bladder, intestines, and uterus (in women). Circumstances like childbirth, surgery, aging, and extra weight can weaken your pelvic floor muscles, making it more difficult to control your bladder.
The good news: you can strengthen your pelvic floor muscles just like any other muscle. And you don’t even need to go to the gym to do it! Kegel exercises are designed to target your pelvic floor muscles, and you can do them right at home – sitting, standing, or even lying down. Kegels aren’t a difficult exercise, but it can be a little tricky to make sure you’re working the right muscles at first. Check out this step-by-step guide to get you started.
The key to Kegels is consistency. This exercise doesn’t have to take up your entire day, but try to fit in a few reps three times per day for the best results. Most people notice an improvement in their bladder control after a few weeks.
Myth #4: Bladder problems are just a normal part of aging.
Fact: While bladder control issues are more prevalent in older adults, they’re not inevitable.
Urinary incontinence is a common complaint, but many don’t address it with their physician simply because they believe it’s an unavoidable part of aging. According to the NAFC, of the 25 million Americans that experience urinary incontinence, less than 10% of these individuals seek help from their healthcare team.
Normalize discussing your bladder concerns with your healthcare provider. Your doctor can help you figure out the best course of treatment for you.
Bladder control problems can range from a minor inconvenience to major life disruption – you deserve to enjoy life without worrying about leaking, limiting your activities, or planning around proximity to the restroom. Free from the grips of bladder health myths, you’re well on your way to a more empowered, confident you.