Your bladder is an often overlooked organ with a very important role. Keeping your bladder healthy can prevent various conditions and diseases from forming while maintaining proper function. Learn the details about your bladder and how you can keep it strong and healthy.
The Purpose of the Bladder
The bladder is a round organ, about the size of a grapefruit, that holds urine. Located below the kidneys, the bladder is connected by tubes called ureters. After the urine is produced in the kidneys, it travels through the ureters into the bladder where it is stored. The bladder stretches when full and can hold up to 16 ounces of urine—that’s half a liter! Once the bladder is emptied, it shrinks back to its normal size. Most people can hold urine comfortably for up to five hours.
At the bottom of the bladder is a small opening connected to the urethra. This is a small, muscular sphincter that pinches the bladder closed to prevent urine from leaking. During urination, the detrusor muscles of the bladder contract and the sphincter relaxes to allow the urine to pass from the bladder into the urethra and out of the body.
Keeping the Bladder Healthy
In order to prevent conditions like overactive bladder, urinary incontinence, and urinary tract infections from forming, it’s important to do your part and keep your bladder healthy. There are several things you can do on a daily basis. Drinking 6-8 cups of water is important for your overall health and limiting your alcohol and caffeine consumption can help prevent urinary incontinence. You may also want to avoid foods that irritate the bladder like chocolate, acidic foods, spicy foods, and citrus fruits if you struggle with incontinence. Doing exercises that strengthen the pelvic floor helps with bladder control. You can do something simple and unnoticeable, called the Kegel exercise, by contracting and releasing the muscles that you would use if you attempted to stop urination midstream. By contracting for 10 seconds and then releasing for 10 seconds in three sets of 10 each day, you will strengthen the muscles of your pelvic floor.
When using the toilet it’s best to sit down, not hover, so if you’re concerned about germs in a public restroom, take advantage of the protective sheet covers. Also, be sure to completely empty your bladder when you urinate. That may seem like the obvious choice, but it is important in order to prevent a bladder infection from forming. Last, but not least, stop smoking. Studies have proven that cigarette smokers are more likely to be diagnosed with bladder cancer than non-smokers.
When to Call a Doctor
If you have strong, sudden urges to urinate or you cannot control when your bladder leaks urine, you may be experiencing overactive bladder or urinary incontinence. If this is you, it’s time to contact us at The Woman’s Clinic so that we can help you feel more “normal” and ensure that your bladder is healthy. But even if you don’t struggle with those issues, take control of your health–including the health of your bladder.