It’s been said that everyone enjoys a good laugh, but for a large percentage of people, those chuckles are accompanied by urine leakage. Yes, we’re talking about urinary incontinence, a health taboo that really needs to be erased for good because-guess what? It’s common! According to the Urology Care Foundation, up to one third of adults in the United States, young and old, experience urinary incontinence. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help prevent, improve, and live with urinary incontinence.
What causes urinary incontinence?
Urinary incontinence (leakage) occurs for several reasons, one of which is because the muscles of the pelvic floor become weakened due to pregnancy, childbirth (especially multiple births), use of certain medications, being postmenopausal, or obesity. This type of urinary incontinence is known as stress incontinence, and it typically occurs when there is pressure placed on the bladder, as when you cough, sneeze, laugh, lift, or exercise.
Urge incontinence (aka, overactive bladder) is associated with damage to muscles, nerves of the bladder, or other parts of the nervous system, as well as infections or the presence of bladder stones. Individuals with multiple sclerosis, diabetes, stroke, or Parkinson’s disease may experience urge incontinence, as can men who have undergone prostate surgery or who have a prostate condition such as enlarged prostate or prostatitis.
Yet another type is overflow incontinence, which is when you can’t empty your bladder and dribble urine. This type can be caused by weak bladder muscles, constipation, nerve damage, enlarged prostate, and certain medications.
Treating urinary incontinence naturally using pads
If you are experiencing any type of urinary incontinence, there are numerous options available to help manage and control leakage. The most common and immediate answer is to use incontinence products; namely, pads or liners. The good news is that you can try other management techniques while you depend on the pads, with the hope you will be able to reduce or eliminate your need for them as you employ other methods of control.
The vast majority of incontinence pads on the market are not natural. In fact, most conventional pads consist of up to 90 percent plastic, which can be irritating and uncomfortable. The sensitive skin in the genital area cannot breathe through layers of plastic and the chemicals they contain. These products than also end up in landfills, where they continue their contamination of the environment.
Since incontinence pads are often a necessary part of managing this health challenge, it is strongly suggested you use organic, plastic-free, chlorine-free products that are also biodegradable (and compostable) to protect your health as well as that of the planet such as those made by our sponsor Natracare.
Treating urinary incontinence: using other methods
In addition to using pads, there are other approaches to managing urine leakage. For both stress and urge incontinence, one of the most popular methods is daily practice of Kegel exercises. Kegels can be done just about anytime, anywhere, because they require no movement except for contracting your PC (pubococcygeus) muscles. The PC muscles are the ones you use to stop urine flow when urinating. Practice squeezing your PC muscles and holding them for about 2 to 3 seconds (eventually increase to 5 seconds), then release. Wait about 10 seconds, then squeeze again. Repeat this cycle about 10 times and do a session two to three times daily.
Develop a routine so you remember to do your Kegels; perhaps before you get out of bed in the morning, at lunch, and then before you retire at night. Practice daily and after several months, you should notice a significant difference in urinary control and leakage.
- Another treatment for stress incontinence is a pessary for women. A pessary is a device that is inserted into the vagina to reposition the urethra to help reduce urine leakage.
- Also consider reducing or eliminating your use of caffeinated beverages and foods, such as coffee, tea (but most herbal teas are caffeine-free), energy drinks, and chocolate (horrors!). Caffeine can contribute to urinary incontinence, especially among women. A study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham Medical School’s Division of Women’s Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery found that women who consume high amounts of caffeine (about 329 milligrams, or 3 cups of coffee) daily were 70 percent more likely to experience urinary incontinence than women who don’t.
- Check the medications you are taking. Some drugs have been linked to urinary incontinence and can make it worse. These include alpha-blockers, antidepressants, antipsychotics, ACE inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, oral estrogen, and sedative-hypnotics. Talk to your doctor about possible alternatives.
- Losing weight can be a significant help in managing urine leakage if you are overweight or obese because you relieve pressure being placed on the bladder.
- Another treatment option for urge incontinence is timed voiding and bladder training. This involves keeping track of when you urinate and when you leak. Once you see a pattern, you can plan to go to the bathroom before an accident can happen. You also train your bladder by gradually increasing the time between visits to the bathroom. Combining this approach with Kegels can be effective.
Millions of people live with urinary incontinence, and there are some safe, effective things you can do to help make it less challenging and help you live a more fulfilling, active life.
Doheny K. Caffeine and bladder problems linked. WebMD 2010 Sep 30.
Panesar K et al. Drug-induced urinary incontinence. US Pharmacy 2014; 39(8): 24-29
Urology Care Foundation. What is urinary incontinence?