Bladder and Bowel health and awareness

It’s normal to go to the toilet between four to eight times a day and maybe once a night. For a healthy bladder drink at least 1.5 litres of fluid a day (6 – 8 cups). Not drinking enough results in concentrated urine, irritation of the bladder and increased possibility of urinary tract infection (UTI). Only go to the toilet when you “need” to, going “just in case” can result in a smaller capacity bladder. Go to the loo before bed, empty bladder fully to prevent infections and keep kidneys working properly. Some people experience urinary incontinence (the inability to control when they urinate), others an overactive irritable bladder, when the bladder contracts suddenly without control, or leaks urine before getting to the toilet. Others have a frequent desire to go perhaps 7 times a day. Those waking up a couple of times a night should reduce the amount they drink before bedtime. Suffers of stress incontinence leak small amounts of urine when they cough, laugh or exercise. Incontinence can respond well to bladder re-training but other cases may require medication. Bladder infections are a type of urinary tract infection (UTI) commonly caused by bacteria outside of the body travelling up the urethra and into the bladder. Symptoms are possible cystitis or

dark, cloudy and smelly urine, a burning feeling, or not being able to empty bladder completely. Drinking the recommended daily amount of fluid helps ease cystitis or bladder infections. Pelvic floor exercises can help improve both bowel and bladder control. Fluids keep you “regular” and avoid constipation by increasing stool bulk, making it easier to pass. Persistent straining can weaken pelvic floor muscles.
Certain fluids affect bowel movements, so acid-based drinks, such as orange, pineapple, cranberry and lemon juice are best avoided if you have problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Coffee acts as a laxative so if you’ve diarrhoea or loose stools stop drinking it. Herbal teas can help bowel problems, ginger and peppermint teas may relieve wind and liquorice constipation.

Insufficient fluids, not enough fibre or exercise and not taking time to respond to “the urge” can cause constipation. Regular eating stimulates bowels so skipping meals leads to sluggish or irregular bowel habits. Fibre can cause bloating and discomfort so reduce bloating by eating fruit and vegetables (soluble fibre) rather than cereals (insoluble fibre). Typically the bowel works 30 minutes after eating when the ‘gastro-colic response sets waves of activity in motion. NHS bowel scope screening programme is gradually being introduced to all men and women over the age of 55 to help prevent bowel cancer.

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