Even though you use it every day, you rarely think about it. You notice when something isn’t right, but most likely, you don’t take care of it properly. It’s standard to evaluate your eating habits, your weight, your energy level, your mental health. But evaluating your bladder health is probably not on your radar. Despite staggering numbers that over 30 million adults in the United States suffer from bladder issues, we don’t talk about it or think about it enough. But this month, it’s time to evaluate the health of your bladder. Find out what symptoms alert you to bladder problems and how you can secure a healthy bladder.
Urinary incontinence is an issue that affects 25 million adults in America. Urinary incontinence is identified by a sudden, intense urge to urinate. You may also be diagnosed with urinary incontinence if you leak urine whenever you cough or sneeze. The other most common bladder issue is overactive bladder (OAB). More than 33 million Americans are recorded as suffering from OAB. Overactive bladder is described by an urge to urinate that is so unpredictable and overwhelming, that urine leaks before you’ve had time to get to a bathroom. While neither OAB or urinary incontinence are diseases, they are problems that affect your bladder health. The good news is that, in most cases, these problems can be remedied by lifestyle changes.
In order to stop your body from continuing to experience bladder problems, or to prevent these problems from occurring, it’s important to take control of your bathroom habits and diet. When using the bathroom, you need to fully empty your bladder. If you feel rushed and do not empty your bladder, you are at risk for an infection. Women should sit on the toilet rather than hover over it. For those of you traveling over the holidays and are concerned about sanitary stops on your trip, it is safer to put a protective covering over the toilet seat rather than squat above it. Understand that it is normal to use the bathroom 4-8 times during the day and potentially twice during the night. Use the bathroom when you first feel a need, rather than attempting to hold it for too long.
They say “you are what you eat” but what about “you are what you drink”? The beverages you consume will play a major role in your bladder health. We recommend drinking 6-8 cups of water a day. In fact, the more water you drink, the healthier your bladder will be. Limit your consumption of coffee, tea, and sodas since the caffeine can increase your bladder activity and is more apt to cause leakage. Alcohol may upset your bladder and should be consumed in limited amounts. Chocolate, citric foods, and acidic foods contribute to incontinence. Removing these items from your diet may help you avoid unwanted leaking. Regularly practice pelvic floor exercises to strengthen your muscles and increase your bladder health. Your bladder will also benefit if you stop smoking because tobacco is a leading cause of bladder cancer.
Symptoms of Bladder Cancer
Cancer forms in the bladder when cells multiply too quickly and cause a tumor. The first sign of bladder cancer is blood in the urine. In the early stages of cancer, blood is not consistently found in the urine and there is typically no pain associated with urination. Blood in the urine does not always indicate cancer—it can often identify an infection or the presence of kidney stones. However, if you discover blood in your urine, contact your doctor immediately. Other symptoms of bladder cancer include an increased need to urinate, pain while urinating, having difficulty urinating, or having a weak stream. If cancer has spread, you may experience other symptoms such as an inability to urinate, loss of appetite, back pain on one side, bone pain, swelling in your feet, and weakness or fatigue. Because the symptoms associated with bladder cancer are also symptoms of several other health problems, it is important to contact your physician when you first notice changes in your bladder or urination. Take your bladder health seriously, and schedule an appointment at The Woman’s Clinic if you struggle with OAB or urinary incontinence.