Talking about your bladder may not be appropriate at a dinner party, and yet it’s an important topic! Many people experience a “leaky bladder” and struggle with a frequent and urgent need to urinate.
There are many possible causes and treatments for urinary incontinence or frequent need to urinate. Anyone who is experiencing incontinence at any level—even minor “bladder leakage”—should discuss it with their doctor. Sadly, only 25% of those with incontinence seek medical assistance. People often feel embarrassed or think that it’s just a part of ageing. If you find yourself, or someone you know, feeling like you suddenly have to go and you don’t have enough warning, talk to your doctor!
In addition to seeking medical attention, there are some tricks that may help you to support your bladder rather than fight it.
Drink more water
This sounds crazy. If you’re having trouble with your bladder, the last thing you want to do is flood your bladder with more liquid. But it can help!
When someone is worried about making it to the bathroom on time, they often start to limit their fluid intake. They drink less because they don’t want to urinate frequently, or they’re afraid they won’t make it to the washroom in time. What they don’t realize, is that they’re actually making the issue worse. They are aggravating their bladder even more.
Concentrated urine irritates the bladder. The more concentrated the urine, the more desperately the bladder wants to dispose of the urine. Since urine is flushing toxins out of your kidneys, concentrated urine is full of toxins and your body is designed to get rid of those toxins quickly. Even a small amount of concentrated urine will irritate the bladder and signal the need to urinate.
Diluted urine, on the other hand, does not irritate the bladder. The more liquid you put in the bladder, the more diluted the toxins from the kidneys. The bladder can hold a surprising amount of diluted urine without feeling the same strong urge to urinate.
If someone is chronically dehydrated, it will take a little while for their bladder to adjust to being suddenly flooded with a lot more liquid. But soon enough, the bladder will accept the increased volume and may not trigger the need for washroom use quite as frequently.
Alcohol, Caffeine & Artificial Sweeteners
The bladder is sensitive to other irritants as well. Alcohol, caffeine and artificial sweeteners are all bladder irritants. You’re probably not surprised that alcohol irritates the bladder; there is typically a long washroom line up at any bar! And caffeine may not be surprising either. Have you ever noticed how badly you need the washroom after your morning coffee or tea? The lingering caffeine may continue to irritate your bladder, even after you’ve been to the washroom already.
The irritant that you may find more surprising is artificial sweeteners. From packets of sweet-n-low to processed foods labelled as ‘diet’ that contain sucralose or other artificial sweeteners, these non-sugar sweeteners can irritate the bladder and cause frequent urination. Drinking so-called-diet soda might be adding lots of fluid, but the artificial sweetener in that soda may cause your bladder to want to release it quickly! Aim to reduce or remove all artificial sweeteners.
To further support bladder health and prevent an overactive bladder, reduce caffeine intake, abstain from alcohol, and check all medications for side effects.
Medication Side Effects
Be sure to check all medications for side effects. Increased urination, or increased urge to urinate is a common medication side effect. If any of your medications list this side effect, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about possibly switching to a different version of medication that may not have the same side effects.
It is always worth having your pharmacist review all your medications. It is possible that the combination of numerous medications has caused a side effect that is not listed on any particular medication but taken in combination, new side effects can occur.
Be sure to review ALL medications, vitamins, supplements, and over-the-counter medications that you are taking. Natural supplements can have side effects too! Natural does not mean ‘no side effects’. Have your pharmacist review everything that you’re taking and have them make recommendations on what you might adjust to limit the impact on your bladder.
If you, or someone you know, is experiencing the frequent need to urinate, start by scheduling a doctor’s appointment. Urinary incontinence can greatly impact the quality of life; it is worth seeking medical assistance to ensure every possible source of incontinence is checked.
In the meantime, go for the low-hanging fruit! Drinking more water and reducing caffeine, alcohol, and artificial sweeteners are relatively easy treatments to implement: they don’t cost anything, and have numerous other health benefits as well. It doesn’t hurt to try increasing water intake as a way to reduce urinary incontinence or frequent washroom use.
Be sure to review your medications, supplements and vitamins with your pharmacist to look for any possible side-effects or medication interactions.
Now go fill a large glass of water and ‘CHEERS!’ to a healthy bladder!