Our bladder in the lower part of the abdomen (tummy) is a temporary store for urine, the waste fluid produced by our kidneys. Urine travels from our kidneys into the bladder which expands (bit like balloon) and when it’s full we get the urge to “go”. Urine leaves the bladder travelling through the urethra and on outside, and in an ideal world we should empty our bladder four to six times over 24 hours. The bladder should be emptied fully to prevent infections and to keep the kidneys working efficiently.
It’s recommended we drink 6 – 8 glasses of fluid day, more in hot weather or when we are very active. Not drinking enough makes the urine concentrated causing irritation to the bladder and risk of a urinary tract infection (UTI). Fluid helps prevent constipation by increasing the bulk of the stool, making it easier to move through the bowel and eating plenty of fibre helps avoid constipation. A full bowel can put extra pressure on the bladder causing urgency and frequency. Also watch your weight because excess weight also puts pressure on the bladder.
Eating a moderate diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables plus getting adequate exercise will help prevent incontinence. Beer, coffee, tea, and most drinks containing alcohol or caffeine can increase bladder activity, and lead to leakage. Some people may find spicy or acidic foods, like tomatoes and citrus fruits – and chocolate (a source of caffeine) – can irritant the urinary tract and worsen incontinence. People who constantly drink a lot liquid will need to “go” more often, so remember all liquids count, including water, soups, and juice drinks. But drinking too little can lead to concentrated urine and constipation, irritation of the bladder causing incontinence.
Several different bladder problems can cause pain, the three most common being interstitial cystitis, urinary tract infection, and bladder cancer. Protect yourself from UTIs by emptying your bladder before and after sex to cut your risk of infection. Cigarette smoke and nicotine are bladder irritants with an increased risk of bladder cancer over the long time, (plus causing smokers cough resulting in accidental leakage!) If you experience bladder pain consult your GP.
Pelvic floor exercises which involve squeezing and relaxing the muscles of the pelvic floor are a good way to improve bladder control, especially if and when you go through childbirth, which can damage the natural support for the bladder and urethra. A healthy controlled bladder is important so don’t suffer in silence.