How (and why) to keep your bladder healthy

November 07, 2018 | by Amit Patel, MD

Your bladder is one of those body parts that you don’t think about until you notice something is wrong.

Maybe you noticed you have pain while urinating, you leak urine during certain activities, or you’ve been taking more frequent trips to the bathroom. You rush to schedule an appointment with your doctor.

Instead of waiting for issues like urinary incontinence or a urinary tract infection (UTI) to creep up on you, take these steps daily to help prevent bladder problems before they start:

  1. Drink plenty of water. Try to drink at least 1.5-2 liters (6-8 glasses) of water each day. When you don’t drink enough water, your bladder gets used to holding smaller amounts of urine and becomes more sensitive.
  2. Reduce the amount of caffeine you’re drinking daily. Caffeinated drinks, like tea and coffee, can result in higher urgency, frequent urination and incontinence. Alcohol can be a trigger for bladder problems too. Reducing or eliminating alcohol or caffeine intake, or switching to decaffeinated drinks, can help reduce bladder issues.
  3. Use the bathroom when needed. A healthy adult bladder can hold up to two cups of urine. If your bladder is healthy, holding your urine isn’t a problem. If your bladder is overactive or weak, bladder training can help you regain some control. Also, you should go if you have to go, and fully empty your bladder each time. Holding your urine for lengths of time can result in additional bacteria in your urinary tract.
  4. Exercise your pelvic floor muscles. Some people have weak pelvic floor muscles. As a result, they may leak urine or have difficulty controlling their urine. Pelvic floor exercises can help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and your bladder.
  5. Urinate before and after sex. Sexual intercourse is a common cause of UTIs in women. Clean yourself and urinate before and after sex to help flush any bacteria out of the body and prevent infection.
  6. Avoid constipation by eating foods that are high in fiber. Relieving constipation can help decrease any pressure on your bladder and reduce bladder issues. Foods that are high in fiber include whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
  7. Maintain a healthy weight. Your chances of developing a UTI or a disease like diabetes are higher if you are overweight. Studies also show that as your body mass index (BMI) increases, you are more likely to leak urine. Losing excess weight can help you avoid these issues.
  8. Quit smoking. Tobacco is not only harmful for your lungs, it’s harmful for your bladder too. A recent study shows that incontinence is three times more common among women who smoke cigarettes than among those who have never smoked at all. Smokers who are chronic coughers may also notice they have more bladder control issues due to the extra pressure coughing places on a bladder. E-cigarettes aren’t any better, and have hidden dangers too. Tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of cancer.

You can also reduce your risk for bladder cancer by keeping your bladder healthy. Although some risk factors such as age, gender, race or family history can’t be controlled, you can keep your bladder in tip-top shape by making smart lifestyle choices. Follow good work safety practices if you work in an industry that makes rubber, leather, printing materials, textiles and paint products, where you’re exposed to chemicals that may be associated with a higher risk of bladder cancer.

Bladder cancer symptoms are almost identical to those of a bladder infection. Because they share many related symptoms, the most important thing for you to do is keep track of how you are feeling.

If you continue to have bladder control problems, especially if you notice blood in your urine, talk to your doctor. Your doctor can discuss ways to improve bladder control and prevent problems.

Learn more about pelvic medicine at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

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