Hi there – it’s me, your bladder speaking.
Just joking. We won’t make you read a whole article written in your bladder’s perspective. (Or will we?) Most of us don’t think about our bladders too often, unless they’re demanding our attention or causing problems.
As we focus on self-care in 2022, we want to give our bladders a little more love and attention for everything they do for us. So, in honor of our bladders, here are the 7 healthy self-care habits to consider.
1. I will be filled with enough water
Drinking water is key for keeping your bladder happy. When you are dehydrated, urine becomes concentrated and can irritate the bladder’s inner lining. This can worsen incontinence or urgency. Staying hydrated is also important for bowel motility. Constipation worsen incontinence because it can disrupt the normal sensation of urgency and frequency to the bladder when the rectum is full. Everyone needs a different amount of water intake. A good rule of thumb is to aim for an average of eight, eight-ounce glasses per day or 50 percent of your body weight in ounces.
2. I will rely on my support system to help keep me lifted
The pelvic floor muscles help support the bladder, along with other vital organs, ligaments, and fascia in the pelvic region. These pelvic muscles act like a “sling” or a “hammock” to keep these organs lifted and supported. If these muscles don’t work together well with your other core muscles or if they are weak, the bladder may begin to drop. This leads to sensations such as pelvic pressure, heaviness, and/or bulging (aka a pelvic organ prolapse). Keeping your pelvic floor muscles strong, along with learning how to coordinate your deep inner core with proper intra-abdominal pressure management, you can help to lessen these symptoms.
3. I will listen to you when you ask me to empty
In order to empty the bladder, we need to actually allow our pelvic floor muscles to relax. This why it’s recommended to fully sit down on a toilet seat to urinate, instead of hovering above the seat (line the toilet seat with toilet paper if you prefer). When hovering, your pelvic floor and surrounding muscles turn on. This is teaching your body the opposite of what needs to happen, which is for the pelvic floor muscles to relax so your bladder can empty properly. So be sure to sit on the toilet, breathe relax your pelvic floor muscles, and let the urine flow naturally without pushing it out.
4. I will plan to go every 3-4 hours
Regular time between urination is considered to be every three to four hours. On average, it’s considered normal to urinate five to eight times per day. The average number of times considered normal for overnight is 0-1x. If you find you have difficulty reaching these norms, bladder re-training using a bladder diary and timed voiding techniques can be very helpful tools in reaching these goals.
5. I will not ask you to go “just in case”
Going to the bathroom “just in case” is a way to train your bladder to go to the bathroom when it doesn’t actually need to. By teaching your bladder to empty before it has reached its filling threshold, it will learn that it needs to start alerting you earlier than it did before. The more this happens, the earlier and earlier it will start alerting you until you feel like you’re running to the bathroom all the time! An “urge” signal is simply that – just a signal that your bladder has started to stretch to fill with urine, which is one of the jobs of the bladder. The bladder only has 3 jobs: fill, store, and empty urine. Urges can be felt before the bladder is full – these are not meant to be direct commands to run to the bathroom with each and every urge sensation, these are simply signals we can learn to control to regain the ability to store urine before emptying.
6. I will work with my team to make sure I don’t leak during exercise or coughing, sneezing or laughing
The bladder’s “team” is made up of a lot of different players: your brain, pelvic floor muscles, diaphragm (the muscle that helps you breathe), trunk muscles, connective tissue, and more. These all coordinate together to properly distribute the force of impact throughout your body so it all doesn’t funnel to one place, causing bladder leaks or even a lower back injury. For example, if your pelvic floor muscles are weak, that can lead to the poor ability of the urinary sphincter to close well enough to prevent leaking. Making sure your pelvic floor muscles stay strong and coordinated is an important task for the team. Consider Flyte, an intravaginal device that uses biofeedback and a new technology called mechanotherapy, to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and treat bladder leaks. Flyte is designed to treat stress urinary incontinence in 5 minutes per day during a six-week standard treatment time. Use Flyte with Kegel exercise to increase the load to your pelvic floor muscles, 39x more than Kegels on their own! This makes Flyte very time efficient for women who lead busy lives.
7. I will enjoy the fluids that irritate my bladder lining in moderation
The start of a new year can often mean lofty goals that are challenging to maintain. Going to the gym six times a week? Pretty tough when working a full-time job. Maybe start with three times a week. Starting a diet that allows zero carbs? In a month, you will want more carbs than ever. Maybe start with introducing more plants into your meals. Similarly, begin to think about how to moderate fluids that may irritate your bladder and cause increased leaking, urgency, and frequency. Common bladder irritants include enjoyable drinks such as caffeine, cocktails, citrusy drinks, and carbonated beverages. For example, if you associate caffeine with increased leaking or urgency, see if you can enjoy sipping on one cup throughout the day instead of reaching for a second or third cup by mid-morning.
With a little attention and care, you can keep your bladder healthy, happy, and functioning well every day!