Overactive bladder (OAB), also referred to as urge incontinence, affects nearly 33 million people in the U.S. according to the Urology Care Foundation of the American Urological Association. This estimate may even be low because people are often embarrassed to seek treatment. Although it’s an intimate subject, an OAB doesn’t have to hold you back from enjoying your life to the fullest. This article will cover some important tips to help you manage your overactive bladder like a pro.
What causes an overactive bladder?
Urge incontinence occurs when your bladder contracts and you feel you have to urinate – even though your bladder may not be full. OAB can be the result of nerve damage from illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis or even a stroke. It can also be caused by weakened pelvic muscles resulting from pregnancy and childbirth. In fact, more women than men suffer from OAB. Other factors that contribute to OAB can be obesity, alcohol, caffeine, changes after menopause and some medications.
Overactive bladder symptoms:
- Feeling like you need to urinate immediately: This is often referred to as urinary urgency and it may feel like there is not enough time to get to a bathroom. The urgency can be very stressful if you are at work or attending an event.
- Experiencing light to moderate leaks: Urinary incontinence can make it challenging to reach the bathroom in time, but adult incontinence products like briefs, underpads, liners, and disposable underwear are helpful in avoiding embarrassing situations.
- Frequently needing to urinate: This is typically measured in time intervals relative to how often you urinated in the past. It is another stress factor and can be an inconvenience in many situations.
- Waking up at night more than once to urinate: If you have an overactive bladder at night and awaken more than once to go to the bathroom on a regular basis, you could be experiencing nocturia.
Seeking help from a medical professional is important in gaining relief from your OAB, but there are also diet and lifestyle changes that can lessen your symptoms and make OAB easier to live with.
Managing an overactive bladder with 6 pro tips
Pro Tip 1: Reduce alcohol and caffeine consumption or find substitutes
You can learn to live with an overactive bladder, but it may require some changes in your daily habits. Alcohol and caffeine can impact the nerves in your bladder causing it to overflow resulting in leakage. If you find you can’t live without your morning coffee or evening cocktail, at least try to limit the amount of caffeine and alcohol you consume. Better yet, switch to herbal tea – especially if you drink coffee in the afternoon.
Pro Tip 2: Keep yourself hydrated throughout the day
The best beverage for those with OAB is undoubtedly water and you need it to stay hydrated. However, downing an entire glass quickly can put a strain on your bladder and heighten your overactive bladder symptoms. Most doctors recommend four to eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily but be sure and sip your water throughout the day rather than drinking at lot at once.
Pro Tip 3: Take your diuretic in the morning
Many people take diuretics to treat hypertension, but for those with an overactive bladder, this can be challenging to deal with. However, if you take your medication in the morning, you can lessen the possibility of having to wake up multiple times during the night or having an accident while you sleep.
Pro Tip 4: Don’t drink fluids after 6 p.m.
This is especially important if nocturia is a problem for you. If it’s not reasonable to stop drinking at 6 p.m., for instance you are at an evening work event or a party, stop having liquids at least 2 hours before you go to bed. Remember to always try and empty your bladder completely before bedtime.
Pro Tip 5: Track your meals with a food diary
A diet rich in healthy whole foods such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables is a good choice for anyone, but it is especially important if you have an overactive bladder. Some foods can irritate the bladder, making overactive bladder symptoms worse. Maintaining a healthy diet can also help you lose pounds if you are overweight and are effective in avoiding constipation – two factors that can put added pressure on your bladder. And because food can affect people differently, keeping a food diary and monitoring how particular foods affect your OAB will help you tailor a food plan that fits your needs.
The following are a few of the foods that should be on your menu and a few to avoid.
Eat these foods:
- Fruits and vegetables should be first on your grocery list. They are full of vitamins and minerals that can improve overall health, which includes your bladder and urinary tract. A diet rich in fresh produce is also key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight
- Whole grains are important. One of the consequences of an unhealthy diet can be constipation, because you aren’t getting enough fiber. This in turn creates bloating and pressure on your bladder causing frequent urination. By including fiber-rich foods in your diet such as whole grain breads, cereals and pasta, you can improve bowel function and decrease pressure on your bladder.
Avoid these foods:
- Dairy products may be problematic. Experts warn that certain dairy products can worsen OAB symptoms in some people. This is where a food diary really comes in handy, helping you determine what if any dairy products are having an adverse effect on your OAB so you can avoid them.
- Citrus and pineapple juices are bad but cranberry is good. The acid in citrus fruits and pineapples can irritate the bladder, but research shows that cranberry juice actually promotes urinary system health – including the bladder.
- Sugar and spice are not so nice. It is well known that sugar can cause a range of health problems and for those with an overactive bladder, this means increasing your chances of developing a urinary tract or bladder infection. Unfortunately, artificial sweeteners aren’t the answer because they can have a similar effect. And like dairy, heavily spiced foods can affect some people with OAB and not others. This is another case where keeping a diary will help you maintain a dietary plan that fits your OAB needs.
Pro Tip 6: Practice resisting the urge for a few minutes
Like anything in life that you do on a regular basis, going to the bathroom can become a force of habit that is not always based on need. If you run to bathroom as soon as you get to work or arrive home – try waiting a few minutes each time as it can strengthen the bladder function. Also, if you have frequent urination, try resisting the urge to go to the bathroom for a few minutes and gradually increase this wait time during the coming months. See if over time you can reduce urination to once every three or four hours. Remember to consult with your doctor before making any changes to your lifestyle.
Understanding how you can manage your overactive bladder is key to living more comfortably and HonestMed is here to help. We offer overactive bladder control products that can make your life easier, as well as information and tips to help you get better control of your OAB and avoid accidents.