In the previous blog we looked at some foods that could irritate bladder and exacerbate your problems. Avoiding your bladder control triggers can make life more comfortable and help you stay in control. In this post, let’s look at the things that you can eat – and do — to proactively minimize bladder control issues. Here are the 4 diet and nutritional tips to improve bladder control.
1. Eat more fiber.
You might wonder what fiber has to do with your bladder control, but most of us are fiber-deprived and our bowel movements are not as regular as they should be. When the bowels are full, they press up against the bladder, which can create pressure and cause a feeling that you need to urinate. Research has also shown that constipation can increase occasional incontinence and bladder overactivity, and that relieving constipation can improve both urgency and frequency concerns.
In addition, severe constipation, which is generally defined as having less than one bowel movement a week, may impact the neurological function of the pelvic floor muscles and exacerbate bladder control symptoms even further. Whether you’re at that extreme or just not at your bowel best, to optimize the body’s elimination process, we need a fiber-rich diet. New research indicates we need as much as 35 grams of fiber a day yet most of us only consumer about 15 grams.
For ideal bowel function, we need a combination of both soluble and insoluble fiber; soluble fiber absorbs water and slows down digestion while insoluble fiber helps food pass more quickly through the stomach and intestines. Soluble fiber can be found in oat bran, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils and psyllium (which is the main ingredient in most fiber supplements). Insoluble fiber can be found in vegetables, whole grain and wheat bran.
Magnesium plays an important role in many functions in our bodies including proper muscle and nerve functions. Doctors also believe it also plays a more direct role in improving occasional incontinence by reducing bladder muscle spasms and enabling the bladder to fully empty upon urination.
In one study of 40 women with occasional incontinence, those who took magnesium hydroxide twice a day did not wake up as often at night to use the bathroom and showed improvements in their daytime bladder control issues. If you want to take supplements, you should discuss it with your doctor in case there are contraindications with medicine that you take, Most people can take over the counter magnesium supplements with no concerns (and many find their sleep is improved as magnesium deficiency can interrupt sleep and make it hard to fall back to sleep again or can delay falling asleep.) You can also improve your magnesium intake naturally by eating more bananas, avocados, dark leafy greens and nuts and seeds.
3. Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps with bone health as it facilitates calcium absorption, but it also helps to protect the immune system, heart health, normal blood sugar levels and mood, and yes, even reduces the health of bladder. A recent study showed that women over age 20 whose vitamin D levels were in the normal range were less likely to have pelvic floor disorders including bladder control issues. Americans, however, are woefully deficient with Vitamin D levels.
The best way to get vitamin D is 20-30 minutes a day of unblocked sun exposure. If that is not possible, you can supplement with vitamin D3, as it has been shown to be more absorbable than Vitamin D2; also try add more Vitamin D containing foods to your diet, such as eggs, dairy, fortified milk, and fish. Your physician can test your vitamin D levels with a simple blood test to see if you need to supplement.
4. Manage Your Water/Fluid Intake
Yes, drinking a lot of any liquid can increase urinary urgency and frequency and that is a concern, especially if you’ll be away from home. But as we just learned, occasional constipation can cause bladder problems and not drinking enough fluids can be another cause of constipation. In addition, when you are dehydrated, your urine becomes more concentrated, which increases the risk of bladder irritation, and can also lead to occasional incontinence.
So the truth is we still need to drink liquids, especially water, but how much and how often we drink is usually where we go astray and hurt our bladders instead of helping them.
The old 8 glasses of water a day adage is actually a myth. All liquids, including other beverages along with soups and fruits and vegetables, count toward your daily fluid consumption. While some still say that liquid intake should be correlated to weight, the Institute of Medicine and The American Urogynecologic Society both recently verified that healthy people should allow thirst to be the primary driver of their water consumption. In other words, drink more when you are thirsty.
That said, many of us drink sodas, caffeinated beverages or acidic beverages like juices, all of which can irritate the bladder; if you are struggling with bladder control concerns, water is the best choice. But it is best to spread out your water throughout the day; we often tend to drink large amounts all at once (think big gulp, venti size drinks) rather than consuming smaller amounts slowly during the course of the day, which is better for our hydration. Bring a small glass with you or fill a larger one only half way and sip your beverage slowly.
And just like everything in life, timing matters too. If you are getting up at night to urinate, especially if you go more than twice a night, you should limit liquid consumption after dinner and try to drink earlier in the day instead.
If you are currently managing bladder control issues try to reduce liquids. Keep in mind that doing so may increase the risk of occasional constipation, urinary tract infections, and other bladder irritations, all of which can increase occasional urge and frequency incontinence. So drink up! But consider the amount, the time of day, and the beverage you choose as they all play a role in managing your bladder health.
To your health.