Incontinence can significantly affect your quality of life but it is a reality that a lot of people around the world have had to learn to live with. Although it is not a life-threatening condition, incontinence can create issues for those who are afflicted by it and they usually end up giving up on the things they love the most like travelling, exercising and going out with friends. In many cases, incontinence leads people to avoid their favourite sports or events. Fortunately, there are solutions such as using external catheters that help avoid ‘leakage’ or accidents.
The good news is that approximately 70% of urinary incontinence can be improved by simply changing some behavioural habits.
Here are five behavioural changes you can make today to help make your life better.
Stimulants, like caffeine, play a major role in urinary incontinence. Caffeine acts as a diuretic which stimulates the kidneys to make more urine much faster than normal. Your bladder won’t respond well to being filled so quickly and can react by becoming overactive. An overactive bladder can go into spasm which will make you more prone to experiencing accidents. Try to eliminate your caffeine intake altogether but if you can’t then at least limit it to 8 ounces per day at most.
Reduce your fluid intake
Too much fluid, like water, sodas, hot beverages and fruit juices, can increase your likelihood of suffering from urinary incontinence. Your bladder acts like a balloon, if you’re constantly filling that balloon up with too much liquid, that water is going to squirt out all over when it’s squeezed. Ideally, you should be drinking no more than 8 glasses of fluids in a day and spread out over the course of the day. If possible, don’t drink any fluids for three hours before bedtime but if you must then just have a small sip of water after brushing your teeth at night. This will reduce the likelihood of experiencing incontinence during the night. Reducing your fluid intake before you go out could also help you deal with social anxiety.
Bladder training is an important step in minimising incontinence issues. If you find yourself regularly having episodes or needing to urinate frequently then you should start training your bladder. If you’re urinating every 30 minutes to an hour, make yourself wait an extra half an hour before you go to the toilet again. Ramp up this training every week or so until you have a three-hour gap in between trips. This will take several months to achieve and in the meantime, it is advisable to wear men’s underwear liners.
Pelvic muscle exercises
Pelvic floor exercises, also known as Kegels, work by tightening up and contracting your pelvic floor muscles. This is pretty much the same exercise you do when you need to stop an unwanted fart from escaping – not complicated at all but the end result is super helpful in controlling incontinence. There are a number of easy ways to do Kegels and you’ll see results in just a few short months.
Keep a food diary
Some foods, such as tomatoes, apples, citrus fruits, artificial sweeteners and anything with corn syrup, can prove to be bladder irritants or stimulants. These affect people differently so it is a good idea to start a bladder food diary until you know what foods might trigger urinary incontinence for you. If you limit those foods then it may help to decrease the number of trips you make to the toilet and lower your risk of accidents.
Ellen Diamond did her degree in psychology at the University of Herfordshire. She is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.
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